The Viva – what happens next?

My Viva was a surprisingly joyous experience.  I am fully aware that not everybody is as lucky, even if their thesis is sound in the main.  I’ve had several friends who have had a truly rough ride.  One was nearly broken by their viva experience and it was an act of will for that person to continue to the end result.  I admire those who keep going under those circumstances and they will always have the support of CoomberSewell Enterprises if they want it.  There are other ways for showing collegiality, by the way.  We offer 10% discounts to students and alumnae of our Universities:  Canterbury Christ Church, Liverpool Hope and the University of York.

But I digress.  As I predicted, preparing for the Viva on the day became a much more practical task than any other exam I have sat before.  In addition to thinking about what clothes would not only make a good impression, but would put me in the right mindset, the room I was being examined in (our bedroom/office) had to be tidied to ensure that my Kermit Onesie was not visible and a cat couldn’t gate crash.  In the end, every member of the household was locked out – including the wife!  We probably had better hope the examiners never read this, as I have to admit to being beautifully presented from head to toe, but with a blanket wrapped round everything below camera level – it was cold!

So, when the opening remark of my viva was to the effect that the decision had already been made that I would be passing with minor corrections, did I feel a fool for being so thorough in all my preparations?  Heck, no!  The efforts I made put me in the right frame of mind for what would come next – an invigorating and largely enjoyable interrogation of a variety of issues, which led to my correction list.  I was (inevitably) asked a theory question.  Foucault is not an easy read, and apparently, neither was my interpretation of him.  I was also asked what I might research next and what was original about my work.  Honestly, if you don’t know these two are coming, shoot your supervisor!

I have 3 months to make my corrections.  On paper, there are five of them, and three have already largely been dealt with.  There is, however, another document I have been sent, the internal examiners annotated copy of my thesis.  While I don’t have to take these into account, I’d be daft if I didn’t.  In a way, this process of corrections is a good thing, not only for the standard of my finished and final thesis, but for the transition period I find myself in. This gives me three months to make my corrections, write up a couple of tangential research projects I have bubbling along.  This will help me ease myself out of the student mindset and back into the full time world of work, in whatever academic or alternative-academic form that might take.

What does this mean for CoomberSewell Enterprises?  Increasingly I will be looking at research work, archivism or museum projects, quality assurance of documents.  These all use and increase the skills I’ve gained and grown to love through my studies.  I was going to say that this is a new adventure, but increasingly I am aware that it is simply another chapter of the same adventure, one that I can shape and form, which is a rare thing in these COVID days.  It is a precious gift and I invite you all to kick me should I ever take it for granted.

The Changing Face of Business Networking

 

With the many restrictions, due to COVID-19, across the country, business networking has had to change.

Back in the day when I started my networking journey I physically went to small, local breakfast meetings. As my experience and confidence grew, I tried networking groups that had multiple meeting points across the country. Here I found the format very similar to the more localised groups but, in some cases, the companies were outside my scope. For instance, the IOD (Institute of Directors) is a great group of business people but bigger than my then very small telecoms and IT business could expect to do business with. Likewise, a networking group that specialises in the smaller, arts, crafts, and home based companies may also not be suitable for some businesses and services.

It is extremely important to know your demographics when doing business networking. A great pitch is not enough if you cannot deliver the goods.

In todays market there are still a few socially distanced groups meeting to have breakfast together, but on the whole most groups have gone onto internet platforms like Zoom, sadly without food ☹

So, what do you need to know about attending business networking groups?

Firstly, research the groups available to get one that’s a good fit with your chosen market and yourself (some groups will allow you one or two tasters). So for me, after attending a few other Zoom networking meetings (other virtual platforms are available), I found my home at the business networking group called Twilight https://www.i-nutrition.co.uk/twilight-networking-events/. One of the advantages of this group is the option to turn up 15 minutes early and meet with two other businesses in a small group room. This also helps in getting known and knowing others and judging how inclusive and friendly the networking group might be.

Secondly, check how much it will cost you to join your preferred networking group. Some groups charge a membership fee plus a meeting fee, whilst others only charge you for the meetings you attend, as with Twilight. To join this week’s meeting, click here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/twilight-networking-zoom-meeting-thursday-22nd-oct-2020-from-545pm-tickets-108749354246

Thirdly, prepare your pitch. Sixty seconds is the normal amount of time allowed. The format could be similar to this; your name, the name of your company, and what your company provides. If there’s a specific type of client you’re looking for this would  be a good time to ask. Always be polite, try to avoid acronyms as most people don’t know what they mean, and most importantly avoid the words; just, should and umm! It is also helpful if you can speak without reading from a script. Oh! And smile 😊 Many groups also have a 10 minute slot for one business, at each meeting, to give a longer explanation of what the company does. This can usually be done with or without PowerPoint slides. You will need to let the group leader know that you would like to do one of these slots as there may be a waiting list.

Next think about the 1-2-1s you would like to have. This is the most important part of business networking. Look for companies that you feel you have a mutual two way link with. It is not just about selling your products, it is also about helping others sell theirs. It might not be a product you require but it may be a product one of your clients might benefit from. Though I am relatively new to Twilight, I have already had a couple of 1-2-1 meetings, and have four more booked into my diary. Zoom also has a chat function which Twilight posts into their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/twilightnetworking making it easy to connect on LinkedIn and Twitter as well.

And finally, support your group and their leaders. Invite other businesses along, promote using social media platforms and blogs, and if there are any problems deal with them privately with the relevant people, never, ever in public, as this will reflect badly on you and your company.

It would be great to see you at one of the Twilight meetings I attend fortnightly http://www.twilightnetworking.co.uk/ (the next meeting is on Thursday 22nd October at 5:45 PM) It is easy to book on (see Eventbrite link above). It only costs £5 per meeting, with no additional fees. The group is light and friendly but serious about doing business.

Joyce CoomberSewell

Guest Blog – ‘Let me interrupt your experience with my confidence’ – Yvonne Bennett

I heard the above quote on the podcast Fortunately which is by the wonderful Radio 4 presenters Jane Garvey and Fi Glover. It was from an email a listener had written in and explained her ‘imposter syndrome’ when it came to her job and men. That these men may not have been as qualified as her didn’t matter as they would ‘interrupt her experience with their confidence’. She had been the first female bomb disposal officer during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It was a lightbulb moment for me and could not have come at a more fortuitous time.

I am a final year PhD student, due to submit mid-December, and was tackling the Reflexive section of my thesis. I am researching conservative Presbyterian churches in the Outer Hebrides (very niche, I know) and looking at how women navigate between the patriarchal church and equality driven social spheres of their lives. I have discovered that not only do women comply to the codes of religious practice, they choose to do so and actually uphold the patriarchy. After listening to the podcast, I realised that I too was upholding the patriarchy when I was carrying out my fieldwork.

I am, and here I am appropriating Phillip Pullman’s phrase, a Christian atheist. I love a good sermon, love a church wedding and a baptism but have no faith. I am interested in religion from a sociological perspective and have spent the past 14 years studying it. When I am collecting data, I go to church in the community and take part in weekly Fellowship. On more than one occasion I have had men trying to direct the course of my research. During my MA, one went so far as to ‘hide’ all my questionnaires. He told me that researching the history of the community was better. I ended up writing about fundamentalism on that particular island and his actions formed the basis of the research. To this day he doesn’t know and thinks I gave up my studies. During my PhD, whenever men tried to tell me what to do, who to talk to and what to observe, I actually agreed with them, I agreed to let their confidence interrupt my experience. I then totally ignored their direction and continued on as planned. However, I am upholding the patriarchy in this church. I allow those in positions of authority to take control, albeit for a short period of time. I allow them to believe that they have directed my work.

A previous supervisor said to me ‘you are a product of your age and gender’. Before anyone starts jumping up and down in indignation, he was right, although I would also add class to his list. I was at school in the 1970s (yes, I am that old) and girls were not encouraged to have a voice or to go on to university. I attended a comprehensive school in a large industrial town west of Glasgow and girls of my academic ability became nurses or secretaries or bookkeepers. Of my peer group seven of us went into nursing. Girls did not speak up in class and those who did were seen as troublemakers or tomboys.

This is not a man bashing blog. I also allow women to talk me down. Recently I was in my local pub and was talking (from a distance of 2 metres and sitting down) to a couple I vaguely know. On two occasions the woman contradicted what I had said. On both occasions I was talking about events that had happened to members of my family. On both occasions I had the experience of the events, she, however, had the confidence to tell me I was wrong. One concerned the date my dad was diagnosed as having COVID-19, the second was concerning a university offer my daughter had been given. She continually spoke over me saying I was wrong on both accounts, COVID tests were not available then and the university in question did not offer that course. I assured her that COVID tests were being carried out at the end of March and that LSE did indeed offer Social Anthropology (to be honest I began to doubt myself on that one and googled it on the way home) but she refused to listen.

So, where does that leave me? Can you teach an old dog new tricks? What is this blog about? I am aware of what I do and why. I hate confrontation and know that I will continue to allow those with the confidence to believe they have the authority and power to direct my work. They do not. It has made for an interesting Reflexive section and being self-aware is no bad thing. The object of this blog is to say to all student:, be aware and do not doubt yourself. Stand tall and say, ‘Let me interrupt your confidence with my experience’.

Yvonne Bennett