Using Your Existing Support Networks

By the time most students begin PGR study, they will have a range of support networks upon which they can call. However, we can often dismiss or overlook the networks we already have in place when we move into new environments or roles. 

Sometimes this can occur because we keep different parts of our lives in different mental boxes. We don’t necessarily think about using a network from one part of our life to help us in another. We can also become so used to having some people in our lives that we almost forget the support and interaction that they can bring.

This is particularly the case when we think about ourselves. You are the first person in your support networks. If you have made it to post-graduate research, you will be bringing a lot of skill, knowledge and internal resource with you. As we discuss elsewhere on this site, clearly identifying your skills and strengths and putting them to work to support you, can make a real difference to your time as a PGR student.

If you have moved university, you may also want to think about the network that still exists in your old institution. Some of your old lecturers may be interested to hear about your research and be willing to discuss it with you. Some universities also provide their alumni with access to their library, increasing your available resources.

Think also about the friends you have made and about the diverse range of support that they can provide (even if they are no longer geographically close to you). They may not be able to help you with your research but they may be a good source of fun and stress relief (see “Not Everyone Needs to Understand your PGR Studies“).

Your family may also be a part of your network.

If you are researching while at work, your work colleagues and environment may also provide you with another network. If you are researching the area in which you are working, it may be that discussing your work with colleagues will throw up an interesting thought or question. 

Take some time out to map out your existing networks on paper. Think about all of the needs that you may have while researching and the people who can help you (people to bounce ideas off, people to have fun with, people to encourage you, people who can give you a different focus etc.) Remember also, that helping others is good for you and can help you retain perspective, so think about this in your map.

This exercise can help you to feel more confident that you have good support and resources available to you and to identify any gaps in your networks. Where there are gaps you can plan and take action to fill these in, within your new environment and role. Being active and deliberate in planning your social networks can help you to avoid feeling isolated and provide you with a clear map of the resource you can call on when you need them.

Video Resources

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Prof. Tal Ben-Shahar (Harvard University) Discusses Relationships and Wellbeing

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PGR Students Discuss the Importance of Support Networks in and out of the University