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Sarah Ashworth, Research Careers Consultant (Episode 36)

    Sarah Ashworth, Research Careers Consultant (Episode 36) | Sarah is helping researchers reimagine their future

    Research Adjacent Episode 36 Sarah Ashworth

    For this episode of the Research Adjacent podcast Sarah is talking to Sarah Ashworth a researcher developer at University of Manchester and independent research careers consultant.

    Planned happenstance

    Like so many of my guests, Sarah began her career as a researcher. While studying microbial breakdown of plastics Sarah was lucky to have a supervisor who recognised that she had skills which could set her up for a career outside the lab. Initially set on environmental consultancy, Sarah took a role in the careers service at University of Manchester as a stopgap, and is still there 20 years later!

    In a career journey that she calls ‘planned happenstance’ she jumped at all the training and development opportunities on offer. Having tried all kinds of careers-related roles she now specialises in supporting research staff.

    I think my children get sick of listening to me saying, every day is a learning day. It’s a great day if I can learn something new every single day. So that’s one of the reasons why I really enjoy being in a university environment. Doing training and development within a learning organization just means that you’re always learning.

    Providing support for researchers in Manchester and beyond

    Sarah balances her university role with freelance career consultancy work. Whilst in a student-facing role she was still being approached by researchers for support so she set up a separate business. This enables her to share her expertise with researchers at different institutions.

    “I’ve always been very transparent and upfront with the team that I’m working with that this is this is what I’m doing. And even when I’ve moved positions and started new jobs, I’ve explained actually I do have my own consultancy, is that going to cause any conflict of interest or be any problem and it’s usually great.”

    Helping people along their career journey

    Sarah’s proudest moments are both personal and professional. She is proud to be a good role model for her children, showing that you can be a working professional and still be present for your family. She also gets a buzz from finding out that people she has helped have gone on to succeed.

    “Perhaps you’ve helped somebody with their application or done a practice interview and you get an email saying, I’ve got the job or I’ve got an interview. That’s always a really good day for me. That’s really why I do what I do – to support others in their journeys and take a small part in helping them along the way.”

    It took Sarah a while to reconcile the fact that she trained as a biologist, but now has a different career. Having made peace with that dual-identity it helps her support researchers facing similar struglles.

    “So people do become very tied into this particular identity that is linked to their research and find it really hard to understand what it might be like in a different environment. I’m particularly mindful of trying to help people envisage themselves in different environments, I understand when they say ‘how could I possibly be anything but a biologist’.”

    Learn and listen

    Sarah’s advice to anyone interested in a similar researcher development career is to build relevant skills and talk to people who are already doing the job.

    “You could contact your local researcher development or careers team to see if they want any input into training. I imagine they would bite your hand off. And if you talk to people in research or development or careers they’re usually more than happy to try and help people because actually that’s what their job is for anyway.”

    Find out more

    Theme music by Vitaliy Levkin from Pixabay

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