Professional Development in Difficult Times


Ellie Atayee-Bennett is a PhD researcher within the department of Sociology at the University of Southampton. Her research explores the experiences of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim vegans within the context of late modern Great Britain, and seeks to understand how veganism is practiced and experienced within religious contexts.




The ongoing pandemic has brought paramount chaos and confusion to our lives, and showered us in stress, uncertainty, and instability. The world has moved online and opportunities previously available to postgraduate researchers have changed or disappeared. One area which has been troublesome for many is that of professional development.

Prior to 2020, it was commonplace to attend training events, conferences or other face-to-face gatherings to learn new skills, network with others, and expand career prospects. But with the arrival of COVID-19 the world was forced online.

Whilst this has certainly presented many challenges, some opportunities have been adapted, and new ones have arisen. Two excellent resources that I have been using over the past nine months are LinkedIn and LinkedIn Learning. These offer great benefit to doctoral researchers, especially where professional development and networking are concerned.

LinkedIn is an online platform that connects professionals. Many employers now turn to LinkedIn to find prospective candidates and many professionals are using it to look for jobs, network with others and improve their career prospects. It is also gaining popularity among researchers.

What can Doctoral Researchers do on LinkedIn?

  • Showcase qualifications, experiences, and skills to prospective employers or clients
  • Network with others in your field, both in and outside of academia
  • Build reputation and online presence
  • Follow companies and organisations you are interested in to keep abreast of news
  • Find jobs and opportunities
  • Access LinkedIn Learning, a powerful resource for professional development

Do you have a LinkedIn account yet? If not, download my cheat sheet and set yours up now.

What about LinkedIn Learning?

LinkedIn Learning, a subsidiary of LinkedIn previously known as, is an online platform offering a wide range of video courses which are grouped into the categories of Business, Creative, and Technology.

All students at the universities of Southampton, Portsmouth and Brighton have free access to LinkedIn Learning – all you need is a LinkedIn account. On LinkedIn Learning there are over 16,000 courses available in seven different languages and over 50 courses are added every single week.

As you can probably imagine, this resource has a wealth of knowledge! So, how can it help a doctoral researcher?

  • It helps with professional development
  • It helps with personal development – it is especially relevant for the RDF’s Personal Effectiveness domain
  • You can learn new software and skills that will improve your career prospects
  • It fits in well with a busy schedule
  • Training can be done on the go

You can download the LinkedIn Learning app onto your phone and listen to trainings at any time or place (I like to listen while I’m cooking or doing household chores), and since many videos are very short, at only a few minutes each, it is very easy to pick up and put down.

So how do you incorporate learning into your busy schedule? Follow these easy top tips and you’ll be learning in no time:

  1. Start small. Even 10 minutes a day or half an hour a week is hugely beneficial. If you manage an hour a week, that’s 52 hours of learning per year, and just think how much new knowledge you could absorb in that time!
  2. Put aside some time in your weekly schedule. Add this to your diary or your online calendar and set yourself reminders. Perhaps you could commit to 10 minutes of learning over coffee break or you could set aside an hour every Friday afternoon. Do what works for you.
  3. Think about what you want to learn. Perhaps you have some strengths you want to develop, or some weaknesses you want to eradicate. Perhaps you want to learn skills relevant to your field or learn something entirely new. Jot down some notes and begin searching for courses that interest you.
  4. Commit! When the time comes, don’t make excuses. Know that any learning will help you to develop into a better you, so it is time well spent. Prioritise your learning time and do not let anyone or anything interrupt.
  5. Make notes. Making notes not only helps you to retain knowledge, but it is also a useful exercise as it enables you to return to the information at a later date. To make life easier for yourself, keep all of your notes in a central, easily accessible place, such as OneNote or EverNote.


Want to learn more?

Why not try the February LinkedIn Learning Challenge? Complete one short video each weekday in February and begin your LinkedIn Learning journey. Find out more here.

If you don’t yet have a LinkedIn account or you need to update it, check out these cheat sheets on creating your LinkedIn profile, using LinkedIn effectively, and LinkedIn Learning for doctoral researchers.

Also, be sure to check out the LinkedIn Learning pages at the Universities of Southampton, Portsmouth, and Brighton, as these are hugely valuable resources and excellent starting points.

Whether you choose to use LinkedIn and LinkedIn Learning or other networking and learning platforms, try to take advantage of the opportunities available and commit to some activity on a regular basis to support your professional development. Happy learning!

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