Using the Careers Service as a PhD researcher, pt. 2

This blog is the second of two exploring how using the Careers Service can benefit you as a PhD researcher, each of which consists of an interview conducted via email.

This second part was conducted with a current PhD in Geology.

Remember that all of our services are available to our PhD researchers, both whilst you are registered here and for up to 3 years after you graduate.

1. How have you used the Careers Service, and what did you gain from this?

I’ve used the Careers Service in a variety of ways over my PhD, attending careers fairs, workshops and Quickfix talks, which I’ve found really useful as my CV is 4 years out of date and I need to get everything in order before I start job-hunting!

I’ve also been using the online tools on mycareer to set up job alerts with companies that I’m interested in, and do some self-assessment exercises, and recently had a guidance session which helped me talk through my thoughts about my future employment and gave me new ideas and avenues to explore.

Having previously worked in industry before starting my PhD, I found the guidance session really helpful for putting my position and employability in perspective, and for thinking about ways to benefit from my work history.

2. What would you recommend current PhD researchers could do now in order to help their future career?

It’s never too early to be thinking about what you might want to do, even if it’s just mulling ideas over gently. As I approach the end of my PhD I’ve done a lot of thinking about the future, especially whether I want to pursue an academic career or go back in to industry, and how it all fits with my family life.

Thinking about this early has given my time to talk to people about my options and what different careers/jobs are really like, and work out what aspects of them appeal (or don’t).

It’s also worth thinking about what your skills and strengths are, and how they might fit in with your plans. I’m in the process of doing a skills audit, matching the work that I’ve done with the skills that it demonstrates, to help me put my CV and job applications together.

3. Do you have any advice on how to explain the value of a PhD to employers outside of academia?

PhDs make us experts in a tiny field which can easily seem irrelevant in the big wide world of work, but along the way we develop a huge range of skills that are really desirable.

I think PhD students often can’t see the wealth of transferable skills they have: problem solving, independent working, time management, project management, writing, presentation, etc., plus all of the technical skills that you pick up depending on your discipline/project.

To people who haven’t done a PhD, it’s hard to understand exactly what’s involved, but if you think of it in terms of developing, managing and delivering a 4-year research project it really is quite a feat. Think about what employers you might apply to are interested in, and use that as a starting point.

4. Do you have any advice on researching / talking to potential employers?

I’m still working on this one! However I think the most important thing is to think about what kind of person you are, how that fits with the kind of work you want to do, and to have faith in your abilities.

Knowing yourself is a good start to finding work that you’ll find interesting and fulfilling.

It’s easy to be blinkered and think you’re only going to be employable in jobs directly related to your field, but be confident in your abilities and if you see something you’re interested in you should apply anyway as you’ve got nothing to lose.

Also, as uncomfortable as it may be for a lot of us, you’ve got to have confidence and promote yourself to employers, because nobody else will do it for you!