ECR/HDR Mentoring Scheme 2022

Hello ECR friends and welcome to 2022! It’s great to be at the top of a new year, ready to jump into the work and opportunities that await us. And yet, the tough times roll on. 2021 did not, unfortunately, magically solve all the problems that dominated 2020, and our sector feels just as unsettled and uncertain as ever. But we had some great things happen in 2021 as well — after being cancelled in 2020, our history community was able to come together virtually for the Annual AHA Conference, making us all very proficient in Whova and Zoom. The Skills for New Historians Seminar Series was a smashing success; supported in particular by the AHA President Professor Melanie Oppenheimer, ECR and HDR members were able to hear from experts in various aspects of academic life. (Remember that most of those sessions were recorded and are available to rewatch by logging into the AHA website!) And in conjunction with HDR Representative Joshua Black, we ran the first ever ECR/HDR Mentoring Scheme, pairing HDR candidates with ECRs, strengthening ties between these communities. We’re thrilled to announce that the scheme will run again in 2022!

Unsure how this works? It’s pretty simple, really! This is a scheme that matches ECR mentors with HDR mentees, creating space for HDRs to ask questions, address and talk through your concerns with a person who’s recently been through the process, who can offer you advice on navigating academia in this tricky climate, and who can (help you) reflect on contemporary approaches to historical research. And for ECRs, this scheme allows you to develop your own mentoring skills (something that was highlighted in the ECR survey at the end of 2020) and hopefully to take those first steps towards future supervision opportunities.

It will run from February to November 2022, and is for AHA members only. Make sure to head to the AHA website if you’d like to renew your membership, or sign up for the first time!

What you have to do: Complete this Google form, making sure you let us know if you’re signing up to be a mentor (ECRs) or a mentee (HDR). The form also asks what areas you’d like to focus on in the scheme — please do let us know what you’re thinking! Examples could include:

  • career development. How do you make the transition from being a candidate (and perhaps on a scholarship) to working in the field, whether that’s through teaching, research assistance, or something else. When should you start looking at postdoctoral fellowship applications?
  • writing help. Need an extra set of eyes on a paper? Would you like feedback on your writing from an outsider? Do you struggle with how to structure an academic article?
  • publishing. How do you start publishing from the thesis? What is the process of transitioning a completed thesis into a book? When should you start approaching publishers? How do you know which publisher is right for you and your project?

The relationship between mentors and mentees will look different from pair to pair. Each mentor/mentee will find their own balance, depending on what a mentor can help with, and what a mentee would like help with. Be as honest as you are comfortable with, so we can make the best matches between applicants and ensure your respective expectations align as closely as possible!

We (the ECR and HDR reps) will then go through the responses to match mentors with mentees. Now that Zoom is now so widespread we are less concerned with where mentors/mentees are located, but if you would prefer to meet in person, let us know so that we can take that into account when making pairs.

Meeting every six to eight weeks is sufficient: this means that, by applying to this scheme, you should be prepared to meet your mentor/mentee at least six times over the year. However, if you find that you’d like to meet more often, please do! This is a self-directed program where you and your mentor/mentee can take the reins and create a schedule and list of discussion points that work for you both. We will be checking in throughout the year to make sure that things are running smoothly, and we are of course available to take questions or to field concerns should anything pop up. Otherwise, we trust both parties to work and communicate with each other.

Applications for this scheme close Monday 31 January 2022, and respective pairs will be notified in February. Feel free, of course, to contact us or Joshua Black (aha.postgrad@gmail.com) if you have any questions, concerns, or thoughts. We are always here to help!


Still need convincing? Here’s some feedback from last year’s participants…

HDRs (Mentees):

  • “[Mentor] provided specific and expert feedback on my work. [They] met and exceeded my hopes and expectations.”
  • “Joining the scheme was one of the best decisions I made this year, I hope that you continue to run it and other people get the same benefits from it that I continue to receive.”
  • “undoubtedly, as a PhD student, I’ve learned a lot from [mentor] on how to organise my research article for publication better.”
  • “I strongly support the idea of running this programme in the future again and wish more and more scholars from different areas of history can join it. “
  • “[Mentor] is a highly intelligent and generous scholar whose mentorship was a game changer when I started my first academic position after completing my PhD”
  • “I came away from each session with a deeper understanding of, and more clarity around, each of the topics we covered. I know that I’ll be checking my session notes for helpful tips in the future. I absolutely recommend that this scheme is run again in the future.”
  • “Overall, I found these meetings extremely beneficial for understanding the competitive nature and expectations of the academic world.”
  • “I definitely have benefited from being in this program and heartly recommend this mentorship scheme to other HDR/ ECRs.” 

ECRs (Mentors):

  • “These one-on-one mentoring sessions are very important because they enable a safe and honest space to be formed, away from academic performative language or carefully curated/monitored fora. This is where knowledge can be shared with no specific agenda in mind, except but to build one another up with practical tips and advice.”
  • “volunteering is very important. Overall, between emails, zoom, preparation and reading, this may have taken me 15 to 20 hours so it is not onerous but ought to be taken seriously.”
  • “We discussed a range of academic issues, e.g. how to write up book proposals, five-year plans, developing a strong research narrative, and applying for grants. Despite our historical fields being very different, we discussed broader subjects like writing and research methods.”
  • “It was an absolute privilege to mentor [mentee] and an honour to be part of this scheme. I would highly recommend it run again in the future.”
  • “I did not have set expectations about the mentoring program, and this helped to keep the catch ups unstructured and responsive to what [mentee] was working on at the time.”
  • “I think there is benefit to mentoring someone from the same discipline and helping them through the PhD in any way possible. I also learned a lot in the process about how to facilitate working relationships with the mentee, and especially during difficult times.”
  • “I felt I was able to help my mentee with general advice on academia, and as a person with whom they could speak about academia, but who wasn’t directly involved in their PhD.”
  • “I would most certainly recommend this scheme in the future, it’s a fantastic scheme. It gives junior scholars the opportunity to meet ECRs, and builds their network. It’s also an clearly defined opportunity for ECRs to give back to other scholars.”
  • “I did read one of [mentee’s] thesis chapters, and gave [them] feedback on how could rewrite the research as a journal article. Again, [they] planned to speak with [their] supervisor about this, but wanted to use our mentoring sessions to brainstorm ideas in advance. Using this approach, I felt I was able to help [mentee] with specific concerns as they arose during the year, and also provide more informal advice and support from someone who had recently gone through the HDR process.”

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