Monday, 3 September 2012

You think you've got what it takes?!

Careers, Careers, Careers. What to do? How to choose one?

Let me bring you up to speed by giving you a short update on my thought progression over the last year.

October 2011 - I wanna be a historian!
December 2011 - After this much exposure and real life experience to the life of historians, do I still want to be a historian? Yes I think so.
March 2012 - I've been living apart from Ben for a major part of the last year. I am in Berlin for a month improving my German and checking out archives and sources. I realize just how lonely I am and how much lonelier this is going to get with another month in Berlin scheduled in the summer and anticipating 9-12 month long research plans in Germany for the coming year. Then still another year or two of the PhD. Do I still want to be a historian?
May 2012 - It has been a long, solitary, expensive 8 months. 3 years and 4 months left. I'll be 31 when I graduate and this degree IS NOT fully funded. Then I would slave away and try to get an academic job, no guarantees. If I weren't a historian, what would I be? What would my life look like? I could actually get work/career experience in something and make money, a totally foreign concept to me.
June 2012 - Don't think, just do. You have the most important and only requirement for this year due at the end of the month.
July 2012 - PUBLISHING! If I could get a job in academic publishing then I could keep up the connection to my love of education and intellectual thought. END of July 2012 - Publishing doesn't appear to be the best industry to get into.
What kind of jobs do the people I know do? What kind of jobs do the people I know, who have similar educational backgrounds and personalities to me do? Teachers, Journalists, Business Administrators, Public Relations Execs, Financial Analysts, Human Resources.
August 2012 - Who am I? What am I good at? What do I enjoy? How can these things be best employed in a work environment? What do I believe I need from a job?

How I came up with Public Relations/Communications as a good fit. Let's keep in mind that I'm no expert in Public Relations, obviously, but I have been doing my research and it is ongoing. Here is a condensed list of what I have discovered so far.

What is PR?
Public Relations involves media relations as well as other mediums for exposing a product, person, brand etc to broader audiences. This can include setting up events, educational programs, meetings, speaking engagements and other forms of communication. 

Daily PR
- looking for opportunities to deliver appropriate messages to clients audiences.
- organizing events and or speaking engagements
- pitching ideas to reporters to garner media coverage
- developing strategic communications plans
- connecting with various media outlets

Who does well in PR? People like me! 

-     -strong communication skills
- articulate both written and spoken
- able to understand a variety of people (THIS...SO MUCH)
- confident
- quick studies as it pertains to the client and understanding them
- quick thinking
- persuasive


-     -proven ability to communicate both by speaking and in written form
- understanding of mass media and communications
- understanding of marketing and marketing

      From what I think I know/understand about PR is that it allows for a lot of creative thinking, it is dynamic, can be fast paced and is relatively social. It also offers exposure to various forms of business such as marketing, branding, business plans etc. These are the attributes in a potential career that I am looking for. While it might be difficult to break in, once in there is a lot of room for growth and various directions one can go in. If you're really good, it has the potential to be rather lucrative. 

     I have spent my entire academic career trying to understand people. Examining different societies, societal trends and asking why ? It was then important to use sociological, psychological theories as well as my own intuition and understanding to explain my findings. I can think critically, analytically and creatively. From a young age I've enjoyed public speaking and I've spent years writing hundreds and hundreds of pages. While I don't think my writing skills are anything special they are probably above average. Articulation? Word, I'm down with that. Har har har. There is always room for growth in all areas and I'm always looking to push forward.
     What I learned from my year as a PhD student is that I am an incredibly social person, I work best in a busy atmosphere surrounded by people and I love to make connections and learn who people are.  
     My PhD supervisor and I were speaking one day and he said that the reason he wanted to work with me was because I have "raw talent, guts and extremely good instincts" which would aid me in working in social history. I absolutely agree, but now those qualities can be directed towards something more "present" (if you will) and interactive. 
      Based on what I understand about Public Relations/Communications field and my own skills and personality, I think that Yours Truly and Public Relations have the potential to develop a mutually beneficial relationship. 

      Now can someone turn this into a stellar CV and help me get a foot in the door? Ha! That is a different blog post entirely! 

      So there you have it. Comments, insights and advice all welcome! 

      Happy Careering! 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Change, Growing up and Intuition

What a year. I have been doing a Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford for the last year and it has been a ride. Where to start?

It was one of the most amazing, stressful and life changing years of my, thus far, short life. In the beginning it was an adventure that I jumped into with wide eyes and anticipation. I tried to hit the ground running but slowly began to realize that a PhD is a marathon, certainly not a sprint. There were plenty of adjustments to be made. Through it all the only thing that remained constant and ended up being a strange place for me to ground myself was in my thesis idea. That is saying a lot but also not saying much at all. It says that my dedication to the idea of the project is/was immense, but not saying a lot because the first year of the thesis project is highly unstable and uncertain.

Throughout the year there were other developments and realizations that accompanied the academic process. It was academic, intellectual, personal as well as spiritual growth. As the year carried on I began to discover that my goals were shifting. I no longer wanted to become a history lecturer, I no longer wanted to write history. The academic and intellectual challenges were fantastic! Entering into the D.Phil I felt highly unprepared, so the learning curve was steep but I think I rose to the challenge. As the year went on I developed more critical, analytic and creative thinking. My understanding of details and theories changed and I began to understand the importance of WHAT ACTUALLY WAS important. That isn't to say that I didn't possess or employ these qualities previously, but they were refined significantly.

As the year went on and the stress began to mount it was difficult to maintain the level of motivation that is necessary to achieve the task at hand. It slowly became clear to me that the reason for this was that my end goal had shifted dramatically. If I didn't want to write history and I didn't want to become a professor, then why was I continuing on? A PhD is a massive undertaking. It will be your number 1 priority and focus for 3, probably 4 years. It will take all your money, exhaust your creative intelligence and destroy your liver. But the struggle makes you feel alive. Us D.Phils often joked that we must have some sort of dormant self-loathing in order to punish ourselves so severely. So where am I going with this? The point is, if you don't have an end goal that drives is difficult to keep going in this endeavor. So I began thinking about leaving. A HUGE HUGE decision that would change the course of my life and career. In the end I have chosen to leave. I love academia and I love intellectual development, but my life's priorities have shifted dramatically and I can no longer (nor do I want to) continue this pursuit. It is time to shelf my mortarboard and box up my graduate gown and tie until my life can afford me to pursue the PhD as a hobby of sorts that focuses on my own development. The time has come for me move on to the next chapter of my life, because frankly, I am ready.

Throughout the process of this year, I learned to listen to myself, trust myself implicitly and to listen to that inner voice that guides you. I feel incredibly fortunate that my upbringing has encouraged such self-reflection and self-belief. Thanks to my parents, who encouraged such spiritual development, I have the courage to walk away from an opportunity like a PhD at one of the best universities in the world, with arguably the best historian in my field because it truly is not right for me at this time. It wasn't easy and I had to do a lot of soul searching and maintain brutal honesty with myself at my most vulnerable points in order to come to this decision. A truly scary but defining experience, but I had to be sure of what I was doing. Some people will say that I quit, that I couldn't cut it, couldn't hack the intensity and stress. Haters gonna hate y'all. I know that I made the right decision for me. And it took more courage and humility than I had anticipated, having to put aside pride and the ever present stubbornness. What an amazing learning experience.

So what now friends?

A career. I think Public Relations is the way to go for me. Time to gear up that stubbornness and perseverance to head out into the job market. I'm feeling confident and stronger than ever. Let's do this.

p.s. A special shout-out to all my friends and family who encouraged me, challenged me and in so doing, supported me. I needed the critics and skeptics just as much as the advocates.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Aboriginal Post Secondary Education - A debate

I first saw this video from the Agenda with Steve Paikin a couple months ago, it has been on my mind for a while now. It stirred in me something that has been growing for a few years and has resulted in this blog and whatever else comes after this...
It is a bit long, but it is very important. Watch it. 

Teach me to think!

I have long maintained that there is a difference between being smart and being intelligent. I'll preface this blog by saying that this is limited to a university experience in the liberal arts.

Smart = knowledge of facts and information.

Intelligence = creative, analytically thinking.

Many people are smart and can become smart. Intelligence is something different entirely. Intelligence is knowing what to do with the smarts.

People think that I'm smart because I am about to begin a PhD. Let me say this is not so in a general sense. I am smart insofar as I know a lot about ONE very SPECIFIC topic. My smarts don't extend to other areas, for example I know next to nothing about science and technology other than what my daily life forces me to encounter. Also despite being a history student, I do not know tons of facts, dates and figures about world history. This is only the base aspect of history, the details that give a structure to much larger events and ideas.

When I began my first degree at Carleton University, I thought I had to learn a lot of 'things'. It was true, but as time went on and I got closer to finishing my degree I began to understand that those 'things' were just to catch me up. The first couple years of university seems to give you the knowledge and basic tools that set you up to learn about intelligence.

Once you are set up on the knowledge part, in your third and fourth years you begin to learn how to think. It is a difficult concept to grasp sometimes, or it was for me because nobody spelled it out. But making this discovery made my grades jump from Cs to As. The question is "What do we do with this knowledge?" It's all well and great to be smart, but to take it to the next level we have to ask questions about that information. This is where intelligent thinking comes into play.

Let's take the recent London Riots for example. London riots took place in early August over the course of several nights. There was a lot of looting, vandalism, arson and assault violence. The riots spread to other areas of the UK and occurred in predominantly lower-middle class communities. The trigger was the shooting and subsequent death of a man by the Metropolitan police.

That is the information. Now we have the knowledge (basic) of the circumstances. Intelligence comes into play when you start asking questions and developing theories. It doesn't matter if you are wrong, the importance is in the practice of actually employing intelligence. The questions:
Why would they riot?
Why is it based around lower income communities?
What were the motives?
Why was it so wide spread?

There are a lot of theories in the newspapers trying to answer these questions. For me I think more sociologically. Clearly these people are frustrated. In times of economic struggle the most disadvantaged feel the strain most, as well they frequently feel their voice is the quietest among the general population despite how loudly they might yell. Frustration leads to anger and just one spark can set the smoldering coals alight. Now everyone is watching, ready to take their plight seriously but also wondering what policies or situations have caused such frustration.

But the details of this debate are beside the point. What I am really trying to say is that as your academic path continues on, ones ability to question and analyse becomes much more refined and astute. So think intelligently and develop theories. Go with your gut, ask questions and listen to what the information is trying to tell you. To make that jump you need to start asking questions and NEVER ever be afraid to ask questions and develop theories and ideas.

Education isn't just about facts, figures and knowledge it is also about IDEAS.

p.s. stay tuned for vlog entries.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A quote that has guided me recently...

"If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with something original." - Ken Robinson

[Edit: this post has seen a lot of hits, for those interested this quote came from a TEDTalk made by Ken Robinson which you can find here ]

Titles and Introductions

Oh hello there! I see you have found me on the interwebs.

An apt place to begin is with the title. Emancipation is a strong word. I like strong formidable words, they bring out my inner nerd. It is a word that could suggest a lot of different things such as: Why do I need emancipation? What is oppressing me? But allow me to steer you down a more lighthearted path. My use of emancipation is really to suggest liberation and freedom, but not from some oppressive force outside myself. I prefer to suggest that education has facilitated my personal and academic growth, to develop the confidence and courage to break out of my fearful shell. Education has given me the tools to live a life that accesses the world.

A bit about me...
From a small and proud First Nations Tribe in Ontario, I find that I am most at peace near our lake. I was raised by determined, loving and encouraging parents and an older brother. My educational adventure began at 19 when I left our humble home to attend University in Ottawa. By age 24 my aspirations grew bigger and more geographically distant, my adventure continued to Dublin, Ireland where I graduated with distinction with a Masters in History. At the age of 27 the next big step is the D.Phil (It is really a PhD but Oxford being ancient prefers to use the older term D.Phil) at the University of Oxford.

Personal Motto...
Love Many, Trust Few, Hate None  

My purpose...
To Love, To Learn, To Teach and in this process help any other people along their journey. This blog is a place to document my experiences as well as to aid other students. The academic lifestyle is not always easy, but it is nice to know that you're not alone.