Saturday, January 31, 2009

One door closes... then what?

I was having lunch with a friend recently (great lunch Nadine) and I was talking about how I was feeling confused about some choices that I have recently made in my work, and some choices that I need to make in the future. Over the past year, I have experienced having one door close - a career path that I had worked hard towards was destroyed by a vindictive bully. I won't go through all of the gory details, but it was a difficult time. I found, that soon after another door opened, and I decided to step into the adventure of PhD candidature. This is something that I have always wanted to do. I really love being a PhD student - I love reading, and finding out about other people's research, planning my research and writing and presenting my research. I am glad to be a part time student because it will go for longer and it is a wonderful time.

But back to the door thing - I find myself in a position now where I'm not sure what to do next. I was talking with my friend about this and she commented that it can be hard when there are lots of doors open. It made me stop and think - she is right and there are lots of doors open for me at the moment. It is nice to be in a position where there are lots of good options to consider, but it does make it hard to know what is the right thing, or the best thing to do.

How do you decide which is the best career move next? What kind of jobs should I be looking for or thinking about as a PhD graduate? Has anyone else been in this situation before? What did you do? Does anyone have any tips or suggestions to help me out?


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wordle - a tool for distilling thoughts

I have decided to go back to wordle and see if I can find a clearer way to understand my thinking - it's a bit like sifting sand from a mine to find the gold. Here is the wordle of the past four months of my blog. Cool huh. I think wordle is a great reflection tool or reflection technique - it's a way to see things more clearly. I have also seen Wordle used as a way of distilling poetry and journals, and I am going to see what my journal looks like when its Wordled. Not sure if I will share it - but I will save that for another time.

Confidence in Public Speaking

I have been having a think about my presentation skills and confidence at getting up in front of a group of people and being able to make sure that words actually come out of my mouth. I feel like I do an OK job. I get feedback from other people that I look and sound confident. But I don't feel confident. I feel anxious, nervous and worried. I believe that it is possible to die from embarassment. I feel light headed, dry mouthed and it sounds to me like my voice is a quavery squeak.

But if I want to be a world famous researcher, author and conference presenter, then I am going to have to find a way to improve my confidence in public speaking. And my first presentation, all by myself is planned for Feb 27th 2009.

I was inspired by Jeffrey's ideas about Learning from Impromptus, and his advice that people get better with practice. I also enjoy Kevin's blog and especially his post about the magic of dialogue - Kevin says that it is a skill that can be learned.

So I have decided that I am going to learn and practice how to improve my confidence in public speaking. I found a group called Toastmasters - they advertise in my local area - the Bendigo Club 'Have you ever wanted to speak confidently in front of an audience? Learn and practice your speaking skills in a friendly, supportive environment. And have a lot of fun along the way.' Yep -that's for me. What an appealing advertisement - it actually sounds like fun. And not scary at all.

So I am going to join and I will let you know how it goes. Wish me luck! Do you have any other advice or suggestions for ways to improve my confidence in public speaking? I'd love to hear from you.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Who controls my expression of opinion?

I was inspired by a post all the way on the other side of the world - Buckeyebrit posted a blog called Blogging and the day job. And it got me thinking - who owns the information and who is entitled to say where and when I can express my thoughts and opinions. I work in a Government organisation and they have very strict rules about confidentiality, so I am careful to never name the organisation and always talk about what I think, rather than something that happened at work. And I am always conscious to be careful about what I say about the organisation in the public domain.

Sarah Stewart has written extensively on topics like 'An ethics question', and privacy and confidentiality, and suggests that Health Professionals that blog about their clinical practice should be prepared for scrutiny. This resonates for me and it is something that I agree with.

As a PhD student I always identify with La Trobe University, the place where I am enrolled. But I have never asked anyone there if they are happy for me to blog about my experiences as a student. Imagine if they tried to stop all students from blogging? Is there a line between my thoughts, experiences and reflections as a Social Worker employed in a Government organisation, and a Social Worker who is a PhD student? How could I possibly separate them?

As I build my portfolio and reputation as a Researcher, these lines will continue to blur. If I write a paper or present at a conference and identify myself as belonging to one organisation or the other, it will soon become obvious that I belong to both organisations, and it will become more difficult to separate them. Have other people experienced this situation? What do you do about it?



Saturday, January 17, 2009

2009 Loddon Mallee Allied Health Conference

I applied to present a paper at the 2009 Loddon Mallee Allied Health Conference that will be held in Bendigo in February - the title of the conference is 'Change: Embrace What's New'. I was disappointed not to be accepted to present a paper about my research, but I was invited to present a poster during the lunch break. I haven't presented a poster before, so this is a new experience for me and I am quite looking forward to it.

I have been working on a catchy title and I have come up with, 'Critical Reflection online: can a blog support isolated practitioners?' What do you think?

I think that I need to include my blog address on the poster and have some paper copies of the poster to handout, in case anyone is interested in finding out more. This is challenging because it is the first time that I actually publicising my blog - maybe people will come and look at it!

I have tried to upload a copy of my poster, but I can't get it to work yet. I will keep working on it and I am sure there will be a way. Have you presented a poster at a conference before? I'm interested to hear if you have any suggestions or tips for what I can do to make it an interesting and fun experience.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Mind Maps: an innovative solution

I have been thinking about my PhD research and trying to find a way to create a kind of mind map to chart what I want to do and how the different topics link together. I have used a couple of old-fashioned versions, with bits of paper, a grey-lead pencil and an eraser. They almost work, but are not quite right. I followed a blog from Sarah Stewart where Sarah tells us about 7 things we don't know about her and tags another seven people to do the same. It is an interesting way to find out more about people.

I ended up at Pam Harnden's blog. Pam is a midwife and much of her blog about about midwifery (much of which I don't understand), but there is heaps of fantastic information about tools and other stuff relevant to everyone. Pam has posted a link to - a free web application for brainstorming and mid mapping. It is awesome and is just the thing that I need to be able to get my thoughts and ideas into a map, and be able to move ideas and topics around, and to do it electronically, rather than the old pencil and paper way. Thanks Pam.

I have also decided this year that I will spend more time commenting on the interesting blogs that I read. I tend to read a lot and lurk, but I am committed to spending more time commenting and encouraging comments back to my blog. I haven't found a good way to keep track of them all yet so if anyone has any suggestions I am keen to hear from you. I have worked out how to subscribe to posts, but how can I find out if a blogger replies to a comment that I leave on their blog? Is there a simple way or do I just need to subscribe and go back and check regularly? I hope there is someone out there that can help me with this.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's resolutions

Well we made it to the start of another exciting year. I had an early night last night, and was in bed at 12.01, and I woke up feeling bright and fresh - a great way to start the new year. I normally make a list of resolutions, and then usually forget about them. This year, I have written a letter to myself, which is placed in a sealed envelope and stored in a safe place and delivered back to me, unopened on 1 December 2009. It will be an interesting reminder of the goals that I started out with for 2009.

Do you like New Year celebrations? I tend to agree with Seth Godin who sees NYE as a time of 'faux merriment' (I absolutely agree), yet it is a time of exciting possibilities where there is a chance to start afresh and I think that is a wonderful way to look at the year ahead.

So what are your New Year Resolutions? I'm planning on learning more about e-learning and technology, making time to write in my blog more consistently, and spending more time learning how to ride my bike. I'd love to hear about your resolutions and how they go.