This post highlights a range of career planning resources and support that will enable you to make the most of your skills and experiences when applying for job roles.
There is no doubt that studying for a PhD develops a range and depth of skills with the potential to make you a highly marketable employee.
However, the reality of securing a job in academia in the UK on completion of your PhD according to the data is slim. The majority of PhD holders (70.1%) have left academia 3.5 years after graduating.
Some PhD researchers, therefore, find their way to university careers services seeking help when they discover that the opportunities to forge a career within academia are limited. Many more will find a home for their skills and research outside the academy than within it- although a number will continue to undertake research within their job role. Of the 70.1% who have left academia, just over half reported that they were engaged in research. However, this is significantly higher within the Sciences than for Arts and Social Sciences.
Some of you will secure contract research posts which may eventually lead to jobs within academia. However, many more of you will eventually decide to pursue more financially secure careers. Personal considerations will often play a part in the career decisions that researchers make- such as not being able to secure a mortgage on a temporary contract.
However- there are many options beyond the academy to consider. It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that the skills you’ve gained will transition into different contexts.
Jobs in Universities
You may find a career within a university in professional services rather than academia. There are a wide variety of roles available. You may not require a PhD to do the jobs you apply for, but for career progression, it can give you a competitive edge.
Having a PhD when working alongside academic colleagues will increase your credibility. For those who want to progress into management, a PhD can offer distinct advantages as you will have a better understanding of the challenges both academic departments and professional services colleagues face.
See the range of roles on www.jobs.ac.uk
Other jobs outside academia
jobs.ac.uk has a helpful post which explores the range of options available on completion of your PhD.
How can you access careers support?
Careers support and how it’s provided for PhDs will vary between universities. You may be able to access your university’s careers service and there will be web pages with specific links to careers events and activities. Most will require you to log in to explore the resources and support available. You’ll find a wide range of activities and events on offer.
Your university may provide careers support through a Graduate School.
Many of the events targeted at Undergraduates will be equally relevant to postgraduates. Webinars and skills sessions cover topics such as creating an effective LinkedIn profile, interview skills and making effective applications. While you will undoubtedly have a broader range of skills and experiences compared to Undergraduates, the principles are the same. If you’ve not updated your CV or been for a job interview for some time, these will be useful.
There will be opportunities to meet with graduate recruiters on campus, either virtually or in person, so take the opportunity to network with recruiters of interest to you.
You may be able to book an appointment with a Careers Consultant who can explore options with you, critique your CV, help you decide on your next steps and signpost helpful activities and resources.
There are some excellent online resources specifically focused on the career needs of PhDs.
Vitae provides researchers with a whole host of resources to support your professional career development.
You can become so absorbed in your research that it’s hard to step back and recognise the skills you’re developing. However not being able to recognise, articulate and make your skills relevant to roles you’re applying for will undermine your ability to secure interviews and job offers so it’s worthwhile taking the time to capture them.
Use Vitae’s RDF Planner to identify your strengths, review your achievements and create a portfolio of supporting evidence.
Make sure your CV is fit for purpose.
There are several helpful online resources that will help you decide how best to present your CV. Academic CVs should ideally be three pages; two for your CV and one for publications. A CV for roles outside academia is two pages max. You need to be succinct and your document relevant and tailored to each opportunity you’re applying for. Vitae provides plenty of examples. https://www.vitae.ac.uk/researchers-professional-development
Some Universities have invested in – https://skillsforge.com/ a platform which enables you to analyse and reflect on your skills and explore how to develop them further.
Curated by a PhD Careers Consultant, www.jobsontoast.com contains some great resources, saving you time and energy on your hunt for relevant, bespoke careers information and advice, podcasts and short courses.
https://career-advice.jobs.ac.uk/ Contains careers posts and information relevant for PhD job seekers including academic and professional CVs and interviews and the differences between them as well as a range of career development resources.
Careers in your ears
A series of podcasts curated by King’s College London featuring interviews with PhD graduates in a range of different roles, sharing insights and wisdom.
Taking time to understand what’s important to you, what’s likely to motivate and make best use of your unique strengths is time well spent. There are links to a range of free online questionnaires here.
Take the time to explore what you really want to do. Researching career opportunities with the same rigour you’ve applied to your PhD will ensure you find a good fit for your many skills and qualities.