Advice from a PhD turned uni hiring manager: Transitioning out of a PhD

Dr Chad McDonald completed his PhD in History at the University of Bristol in 2019. He’s now a Senior Academic and Study Skills Tutor at Manchester Metropolitan University. This role has seen him shortlist hundreds of applications and interview dozens of candidates. In this blog he reflects on his post-PhD career and offers advice for those looking to move into third-space roles in universities.

“As I was preparing to submit my thesis in the summer of 2019, I was also trying to plan for what would come next. This involved balancing my imminent thesis deadline against job hunting. Juggling these demands was tough!

One thing that made it easier, though, was that I’d planned for what I wanted to do next throughout my PhD. Here are some key points to consider during your PhD to support your job search (no matter how imminent it may be!)

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Why Attend the Faculty of Arts Careers Series?

Are you interested in hearing from alumni from all over the world who have built interesting and fulfilling careers after graduating from Bristol?

Graphic which a photo of some cloud overlaid by text reading 'Faculty of Arts Careers Series'

Would you like to hear from Faculty of Arts alumni who now work in diverse roles such as a communications manager for Women’s Aid, a podcast producer for the BBC, and an advisor working in the European Parliament?

If so, attend our Faculty of Arts Careers Series 2024, spanning four weeks from 6 to 29 February.

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Developing career resilience as a graduate – how can you develop this increasingly important attribute?

Resilience is becoming an increasingly crucial attribute in the job market. Whether you’ve just started your career or are navigating the job application process, building career resilience is an essential skill that can set you apart from the competition and contribute to your long-term success.

In this blog post, we will explore the meaning and importance of career resilience, and most importantly, how you can develop and strengthen this valuable trait, both as you apply for jobs, and navigate workplace challenges.

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Developing your graduate capital doesn’t have to stop when you leave uni

As you begin life after university, it’s important to recognise that your development doesn’t stop when you get your degree.

The concept of graduate capital emphasizes the key resources that empower you to successfully navigate the job market. These capitals go beyond academic development to include human, social, cultural, identity, and psychological aspects.

Graduates who can draw on these capitals feel more confident and can better present their value to employers. This blog post will explain each capital and explore practical ways to develop them as a graduate.


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What if your first job didn’t have to be the perfect job?

The graduate market is increasingly competitive, so getting that grad scheme is becoming more difficult. 

However, grad schemes aren’t the only route into graduate employment and it’s OK if your career doesn’t have the most conventional beginning, middle, or end.

At the start of October, five Bristol alumni joined Bristol Connects Live: Squiggly Careers Alumni Panel event, to prove that their ‘squiggly’ career paths have been just as valuable, if not more so, to their personal and professional development than a traditional, linear path.

From starting a career with Teach First to now working for Amazon; an English degree to a Senior Data Scientist at Deliveroo; or even a History degree to Editor for the Financial Times, these alumni shared their career journeys to prove that your first job won’t necessarily be your forever job.

Panellists included:

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Navigating your future: the true value of arts, humanities and social sciences degrees

Students of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) are often keenly aware of the positive characteristics of their degrees. 

Graduates of these disciplines are curious, creative, investigative and impactful, and AHSS degrees help us to understand ourselves, our society and our place in the world.

But what about their value in a career context? This is where unhelpful narratives about them being less ‘valuable’, come into play, such as that they lead to inferior job prospects. But there is so much evidence to challenge this. 

Here are five myths that research by The British Academy has helped to dispel: 

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Bristol Connects: How one click of a button solved all my job hunting and career fears

Hi, I’m Avellina, a recent Biology graduate from Bristol and I’m here to tell you how in my final year all my worries about job hunting, choosing the wrong career and job applications vanished and it’s all thanks to Bristol Connects.

With graduation looming, all the responsibilities and changes that were coming up weighed heavily on my back. For the first time in 17 years, my life wouldn’t be structured by exams, lectures and academic calendars. Instead, my life would diverge into an entirely new, unique path as I pursued my first job.

Amongst the excitement, fear and the uncertainty for what lay ahead, one thought routinely replayed in my head: How am I going to achieve my dream career?

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Welcome to your Careers Service

Welcome (or welcome back!) to the University of Bristol. We are your Careers Service and we are here to support you in preparing for your next steps after you finish your studies – and it’s never too early to start!  

Whether it’s help in getting a part-time job, finding internships and graduate roles, writing CVs and applications, or deciding what you want to do after your degree, we’re here for you.    

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First things first, you are going to hear us talking about mycareer a lot this year. mycareer is your portal to vacancies, events, resources, appointments and more. You can set up a profile in there that will tailor content just for you!

Log in, complete your profile and off you go!

Here are 5 ways you can engage with us during your time at Bristol:  

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Explore your options 

What can you do with your course, and how can you research the opportunities available to you? We are here to support you in researching your options and testing out ideas.

Visit the Exploring your career options pages of our website or attend one of our ‘Get clear on your career’ workshops. 

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7 things to consider before doing a PhD

As with any significant undertaking, there are inherent challenges involved in undertaking a PhD, and some potential problems that can come up during one.

Not all PhD students will face these risks or challenges, but it’s important to be aware of them so that you can be prepared. Indeed, the biggest risk would be stumbling into any of these problems unawares!

The Careers Service are here to help you make the best decision for you. If you would like to speak to us about any of the areas for consideration we’ve listed below, get in touch!

1. Financial Management

Pursuing a PhD can be expensive. Research students need to pay for tuition, fees, and other expenses such as travel or registration fees for conferences, and whilst funding is available for these, this may not cover everything.

So, the risk of debt and financial stress is something to be aware of.

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Is a PhD for me?

Deciding whether to pursue a PhD can be daunting for any student. A PhD is a significant commitment requiring substantial time and effort, but it can also be incredibly rewarding.

Here are some factors to consider when deciding if a PhD is right for you:

Motivation and passion

One of the most important factors to consider when deciding whether to pursue a PhD is your motivation and passion for the subject. A PhD is a research-focused degree based on a significant amount of independent work and dedication.

Without genuine interest and a deep sense of curiosity about the subject, it will be challenging to maintain the motivation required to complete a PhD. 

As you will be dedicating several years of your life to researching and writing your thesis (the argument your research makes), it is crucial that you are passionate about it. Otherwise, you may struggle to see it through.

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