This is a continuation of an interview with Dr. Ritu Mahendru who received her PhD in Sociology from the University of Kent in 2010, and the second in a series of discussions with higher education professionals planned for “Let’s Talk”. The aim of this series is to develop an insight into career building by speaking to people at different stages of their working lives. Please see the previous entry posted 28 February for the first part of Ritu’s interview.
Also – a very happy women’s day to everybody from both Ritu and I.
Priyali: I know you’ve been travelling internationally to complete work contracts. How do you go about finding openings? Do you use an agency or is it down to your own research, and how do you decide who is a good employer?
Ritu: I maintain an extensive professional network through writing, reading and research. I make prospective employers aware of my work and establish a continuing dialogue to contribute significantly towards health, social research and policy. This also helps me to find and select the kinds of projects I am keen to work on.
Priyali: You are someone who grew up in India but now lives in the UK, and has spent some of her most formative years within it. Do you feel you have access to more than one culture, and does this make you attractive to prospective employers?
Ritu: When people ask I often say I was brought up in England. I have certainly established “belongingness” here in Britain. I feel very much part of its society and environment. I think the experience of working in two different nations and understanding how things get done, certainly benefits in maintaining contacts and sustaining networks. I have access to wide networks here and in India. We live in a globalized world and also an extremely competitive one. With people now having access to specific geographical locations they didn’t have before, they are presented with new challenges and dynamics. These present difficulties but can be dealt with successfully.
Priyali: This is your free space – go ahead and send a message out to other researchers, practitioners and readers of this blog as to what most engages you at this point in your life and career.
Ritu: I feel that universities should prepare PhD students, who often live an isolated life, for the outside world. They should encourage them to publish and provide continued support even after they graduate. Most PhD students feel misplaced and choose different career paths, due to little or no guidance or support from their universities. It’s even more difficult for migrants who would like to establish their careers outside their home country.
Also, I would like to add that Britain needs to rethink its position on international development. I feel that Britain’s capacity to make a difference in the developing world is huge. This needs to be planned carefully by considering intersections of race, gender and social inclusion.
People belonging to diverse backgrounds should be given opportunities to contribute to the international development sector through an equitable manner and process. This will help deal with issues of social exclusion within the UK that give rise to inequalities in the work environment.
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