Image supplied: Dr Xi Wen (Carys) Chan
B Commerce (Hons) (2013) / Griffith University (PhD ‘18)
Xi Wen (Carys) Chan is a Lecturer in Organisational Psychology at the School of Applied Psychology, Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. Her research interests are primarily in the work–life interface, specifically exploring the link between personal resources (e.g., self-efficacy and personal humour) and various work and non-work-related demands, resources, and outcomes. For her PhD dissertation, she explored how supervisors' emotions affect their subordinates' work and non-work outcomes through a social cognitive lens. She won the Overall Best Doctoral Paper and Best Human Resource Management Paper Awards at the 2016 Australia and New Zealand Academy of Management (ANZAM) Conference. Her work has been published in the International Journal of Human Resource Management, Stress & Health, British Journal of Social Work, Personnel Review, and International Journal of Manpower.
Carys’ responses to questions from CBE students
Why did you choose to work in the academia over the industry?
I genuinely enjoy the variety of work it involves -- research, teaching, service to school/university/academia, informal mentoring to students, and administration and coordination of courses. In my previous role at RMIT University, I also had the opportunity to travel to our international campuses regularly to teach; so I have taught different cohorts of students across Melbourne, Singapore and Vietnam. These opportunities have greatly enriched my worldview and understanding of the countries I teach in. Being an academic also means engaging in lifelong learning, especially when I read up on new research topics and ideas, and advance understanding of workplace issues. I think this is something I cherish and is very unique to academia. Lastly, because of my research, I also get to talk to highly experienced, talented and passionate people of various occupations - business leaders, public servants, social workers, accountants, tech workers, and journalists - and the intellectual discussions and knowledge sharing I have with them give me great satisfaction.
What are some surprises when your first started your academic career?
Prior to becoming an academic I was told that, as long you teach well and produce good quality research, you'll succeed in your role. Now that I'm actually an academic, I must say it also requires a high level of empathy and patience, and interpersonal and communication skills. In fact, to hit the ground running in your new institution, you need to quickly pick up some fundamental managerial skills. You need empathy and patience to relate to students and staff from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds, and strong interpersonal and communication skills to manage large cohorts of students, your sessional staff (some of whom may be a lot more experienced than you), and virtual teams of researchers and/or teaching staff who are interstate or overseas.
As a researcher focusing on work-life interface, how do you maintain a work/life balance while working in academia?
To me, work / life balance is an inner sense of balance that is unique to all of us, driven by our values and purpose. Hence, I do not necessarily divide my time and energy equally to my work and non-work life. I work flexibly, sometimes starting late in the morning or working into the evenings and through the weekends. That said, I make sure I "switch off" from my work every evening from around 5pm to 8pm when I exercise, prepare dinner and watch an episode of my favourite drama. Over the weekends, I also slow down my work tempo. Lastly, and most importantly, I clock in 7-8 hours of sleep every day. Hence, despite working from Monday to Sunday, I still feel a sense of balance and control in my life.
What are some things you wish you had known during your PhD that may be helpful in your academic career?
I never quite saw the importance of networking and having multiple research teams as a PhD candidate because I was narrowly focused on getting publications out and completing my PhD research. Now that I am in academia, I would say that it is fairly similar to many other industries where your contacts and connections will pave the way for opportunities. It is something you have to dedicate some time and effort to, and at the same time, pull your weight and contribute to. I think PhD candidates can afford to dedicate a small portion of their time to seek out good collaborators and network as that will open many doors (e.g., jobs, collaborations, grants, etc.) in time to come.