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Regular version of the site

Career in the field of Education: student’s experience

Anastasia Makaryeva, a fourth-year student, shared her working experience in the field of Higher Education research at the Laboratory for University Development of the Institute of Education with the Program. What led a student with International Relations background to Education? Read in our interview!

It seems logical to suppose that a student with the background in International Relations and with good command of several foreign languages is not that likely to choose Education area for professional realization. We talk a lot about international companies, politics, but Education looks as something quite exotic. What has led you to the Institute of Education? Was it a plan or a sudden insight? 

In fact, working in Education is far from the most obvious way a person with my degree could choose. Still, it is worth mentioning that nothing hinders such a career path) It is difficult to say whether this was a coincidence or not, because as you know, chance is far from accidental. By and large, I have been working at the Institute of Education for a little more than a year, namely, at the Laboratory for University Development. As a student, like everyone, I had to engage in project activities. I really wanted to terminate all the necessary projects as soon as possible, and in order to realize this zeal, one February evening I visited the site of the Projects Fair, where I began to look through various offers. There were lots of projects, but it turned out that many of the deadlines for accepting applications either had already been completed or ended the next day. So, I decided that maybe I should not try? I was about to close the tab with the projects, when I came across a project on how to study higher education (shoutout to beautiful Ksenia Romanenko who supervised it and later helped me and continues to support me in my work). The project was aimed at analyzing databases of curricula and research centers that study HE (hereinafter, HE - higher education) as a separate area of ​​research. Having read its description, I realized somewhere inside myself that I wanted to take it up and work in this area. Deadline was the next day, and at night I was already editing a resume and writing a motivational note about why I wanted to take part in the project. And after a while after a positive response, I began to work on the first tasks. That was my first step)

And how did you manage to get a job at a laboratory in another department? As practice shows, most often students, following their scientific interests, try their hand at “domestic” laboratories at their native department (well, at least it is usually simpler because everyone knows you). Tell me, please, about your strategy of getting job at the lab (you just sent a resume / was acquainted with someone from the lab / assisted with something, etc.)?

As such, I did not have any super strategy, and indeed, I still do not have it. As the project approached its completion, precisely within the framework of the Projects Fair, I felt that the domain of HE was very interesting for me and that I would really like to try to look at it more deeply and from different perspectives. I wrote to Ksenia that I would like to continue working either within the framework of the already started project on studying HE, or on other tasks, and sent my resume. The work, to my happiness and great joy, was continued. Then I met with the head of the laboratory Daria Platonova, and somewhere in the beginning of September we started discussing the issue of further internship.

What is your term paper topic? Is it somehow related to Education?

The topic of my term paper is «Global university rankings as market devices and geopolitics tools». It is directly related to education, but at the same time it also affects other related areas, which is due to the very “nature” of this sphere: many theoretical and methodological paradigms are somehow borrowed from adjacent fields of research. The topic is interesting to me, and I continue to work on it now without reference to the term paper.

What are your duties? How often should you be present there? Is it part-time?

Yes, I do work part-time since I also study at the same time. If we look at my typical weekday, then in the morning I have lectures at the university, and afterwards, closer to the afternoon, I go to the laboratory. I try to appear in the laboratory every day, despite a fairly flexible schedule: it helps me to distribute work tasks easier and more rationally. Among my ongoing tasks is the support of the division’s website and the laboratory’s Facebook group. Also, every week we issue a digest of higher education news, which contains all the current HE news in Russia and abroad. Simultaneously, there are both short-term and long-term projects. Among the results: in the near future the next issue of Modern Education Analytics should be published where my colleagues and I prepared an article on academic heterogeneity.

How do you combine work and studies? How do you manage to strike a balance between the two areas of life?

 At first, I hardly understood how to combine studies, job and personal life. This is understandable: due to the lack of such experience. But for me the main thing was to start, and then I adapted. I manage to strike a balance when I am very busy: if I have a lot of tasks to complete I get much more productive than when I am not busy with work and deadlines. This is, indeed, a personal trait and I want to emphasize that, perhaps, you should not take this as advice: everyone has their own working capacity and preferences for schedule and workload.

To what extent do foreign languages ​​work for you? In general, what skills have you gained while working in the laboratory? 

Fluency in English is a great help for me. A huge number of publications and resources are published in English. The same is with conferences and thematic schools. Therefore, absence of a language barrier and the possession of specific vocabulary help me a lot. Regarding acquired skills, working in the laboratory helped me a lot to improve communication, information retrieval and literally the ability to quickly respond to tasks and adapt to the proposed circumstances. 

How do you evaluate Russian Higher Education? You are probably familiar with the «5-100 project» which goal is to enter at least 5 Russian universities in the top 100 universities within the three international ratings (QS, ARWU, THE) by 2020. In your opinion, what are the prospects for domestic higher education? 

(Just want to note that what I have said further is my personal opinion, not the opinion of the laboratory)

I have a positive attitude towards many applied initiatives and projects for the development of higher education. It seems to me that with a responsible approach, not only at the administration level, but also among the faculty and even the students themselves, the possibility of positive changes exists and it should not be denied. The question is what resources underlie these changes. In my opinion, a lot has to do with the development of human capital and perception of education as such. Anyway, many of the proposed changes may not be fully effective in implementation, if the attitude towards a certain culture of education is not changed. It is important not only to introduce innovations, but also to consciously prepare students and employees for their implementation. On average, among the students of most universities there are problems such as the fear of making a mistake, showing one’s own position or making a critical comment, as well as the inability to establish feedback with the teacher and the insufficiently developed skill of finding information / working with it independently. Thus, something more is tied up here than just educational reforms.

Tell us about your future plans (if, of course, it is not a secret!): are you going to stay at the laboratory, and, if so, as who? What is the image of your "stairs to heaven"? Or maybe you would like to continue “searching for yourself” and try your hand at other areas (if so, which ones)?

Good question! I often ask myself what my plan for life, both short-term and long-term, is. In the near future I plan to stay in the laboratory because I like what I do, and I also have wonderful colleagues which cannot but motivate)

I would like to continue receiving education further: in the magistracy, and then I plan to get a PhD in the ideal scenario. With the place and the program I will most likely be determined pretty soon. I hope that all our plans will come true. As for finding myself in other areas, I am also interested in Cognitive Science and Political Science; I do not know how much interest will grow into something professional - time will show)

What should be the CV, in your opinion? How many do you have? Given your experience, to your mind, what is the emphasis?

Initially, I had two resumes: separately for educational projects and separately for research projects and applications. The main difference consisted only in the fact that the academic resume focused on volunteering and specialization training courses, while the working one included current employment, information about education, internships and summer schools. Now I practically don’t use the academic resume, increasingly referring to the working format. Of course, while preparing a CV it is worth emphasizing your strengths: useful skills, your grades for courses or participation in contests and grants. It is important to indicate your education: level of education and specialization. If you already had experience in this field, you can also specify. Also pay attention to the requirements of the employer: some of them can be easily reflected in the resume.

What advice would you give to those who are just starting their career path? In modern world, when a person is able to achieve literally everything (if one wants to), how to choose your own door out of a thousand ones? And is there, in your opinion, this very “your own door” ...? 

It is rather difficult to give any clear advice on employment: as was correctly noted, now literally everything is possible for a person and there are plenty of opportunities people have access to, therefore everything is quite individual here, depending on the field of activity and aspirations of the applicant. I also want to emphasize that you should not be overly worried about your employment. I know that people often begin to compare your life with the “success stories” of your peers, making a comparison based on the age, working position and the like, thus simply “winding up” yourself and, if not motivating, then getting upset.

Let the situation go of, do not compare yourself with others: everyone has their own way. If you do not like working in one area - it does not matter, shift to another! Look for yourself and try different possibilities. The only thing I can say with confidence is that one should not be afraid of difficulties and obstacles. If it seems to you that this job / position / project is interesting and, moreover, is right for you - do not hesitate! Send a resume, contact with curators and project managers, go for interviews and just believe in yourself, because, as you know, the road is made by going.

We thank Nastya for her time and willingness to share her own experience!