Reflecting on the first year of my postdoc

Today, exactly one year has passed since I defended my PhD thesis. For the past 12 months, almost everything has gone by at blinding speed. Here’s my reflection on the first year of my postdoc life during the pandemic.

 

Twists and turns

Before finishing my studies, I used to update my blog posts weekly. Since starting full-time work in October, I’ve posted only every three months. I got caught up in daily teaching, admin duties, and the numerous tasks of research-related projects and editorial work.

There is a lot to mention about online teaching for the academic year 2020–21. One particular aspect was that virtual teaching highlighted various difficulties some students were experiencing, such as loneliness and anxiety about participating in the virtual classroom and exam settings. While obtaining assistance from professional staff members for those problems, I explored many ways to improve classroom activities to be more open and engaging for those students. Helping students who struggle to grasp a particular concept through my step-by-step guide is definitely one of my most satisfying experiences as a tutor. I had many positive and enjoyable experiences with students, as well as some struggles. As much as I felt grateful for such invaluable time with them, I also felt the need to go further in teaching techniques for a deeper level of learning for my students.

 

Happiest reunion

The happiest day of the year was when I finally met my PhD supervisor face to face for the first time in a year and a half!

Initially, we had planned to meet up outside and take a long walk together around a lake. But it rained that day, so we decided to go to a cafeteria and have a lovely chat over herbal tea. Conversations with her made me remember how much I liked the way she supervised, commended my work, replied to my emails, always listened quietly and carefully, and encouraged me a lot. She is very hands-on. Now I wish to be like her every time I have a tutorial with my students. I was astonished when she told me that she had taken a diploma course to become a counsellor. Recently she has been building her counselling practice. I was inspired to put good effort into anything I am interested in doing.

 

Start writing again

In October last year, I wrote a monograph proposal based on my PhD research. By that point, I had read some articles about how some people sent their whole thesis to publishers immediately after their viva but never got any response.

This clearly indicates that publishers want a book manuscript, not a thesis, for publication. I did not send my proposal immediately. Instead, I first sent an enquiry about whether I could send my proposal at this stage. One of the editors replied within a couple of days, and she said yes. She also gave me a list of useful books on how to convert from thesis to book and their guidelines on how to write a proposal. Again, this was a clear message that they want a book manuscript, not a thesis, and it became useful encouragement to change the organisation and headings quite dramatically.

Writing a proposal and rewriting my thesis did not feel very difficult at this point, because I had worked on an edited volume as an editor since last year. This helped me build some experience in the whole process of producing a commercial book. (The book is now in the final production stage.)

As a result, my monograph proposal passed, and at the end of June – a month ago – I submitted my 330-page manuscript for the review process. I am waiting to hear. This was something I have only ever dreamed of.

 

All’s well that ends well

I never expected that a change would come so quickly during the first year of postdoc. Probably I was just lucky. In February, I started looking at job ads for no special reason. After a month, I decided to go in a new direction. I submitted my application, had an interview, and received a job offer as a research associate in health research. This is a part-time role, and research only. This is the kind of project I have wanted to be involved in for a long time. Excitedly, I took up the new role in June.

My new journey in teaching on a part-time basis starts in September. As my teaching responsibilities have eased, my thoughts have become clearer, and I have restored my energy and been more motivated to invest in and develop new skills.

For me, for now, these are the optimum outcomes, and will also continue to change.