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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Funding a PhD

Finding funding for PhDs is competitive, and can be confusing. You may be unsure of where to start or even overwhelmed by the process. However, help is at hand!

If you are seeking funding for a PhD research proposal, this blog is for you. There are a number of resources available to help you navigate the process and increase your chances of success.

Overview

Funding can potentially cover all or part of your fees, maintenance, accommodation, and research costs (e.g. equipment, travel etc).

You can secure funding from a variety of sources, including government grants, University funding, and other organisations such as charities or private foundations.

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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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Writing a PhD research proposal

If you’re looking to apply for a PhD program, one of the key requirements is writing a research proposal.

This document is essential, as it outlines your plans and will serve as a roadmap for the next few years. 

You won’t be completely bound to the contents of your proposal if you are successful in your application, there are many reasons your project might change and evolve over time.

You will be expected to stick broadly to what you originally proposed though, especially if you secure external funding.

Read on to find our top tips and advice on how to write a successful research proposal for your PhD application.

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Are you considering a PhD?

With most PhDs spanning 3 to 4 years, it is not a decision to take lightly.

For some students, their passion for research and a specific academic discipline is such that a PhD is an obvious choice as part of their career planning, however, for others it is just one possible option, prompting further questions.

Having an insight into what life is like as a post-graduate researcher is a crucial first step. Without any doubt, you will need to love learning, have a hunger for research, and be a self-starter happy to work for long periods independently. Advice from vitae.ac.uk is to be ‘really clear on your motivations for doing a doctorate, and that it [will be] a positive career step.’

Kayleigh Crouch is a Career Peer Support Adviser with the Careers Service, currently a PGR at the University of Bristol, and has shared her insights on what it’s like to be a doctoral researcher here:

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Completing your Masters application? Let us help!

Having explored whether postgraduate study is an option for you, and weighed up the pros and cons, you’re now ready to submit your application… but where do you start?!

We often meet students and graduates that find making a start to this process overwhelming. This blog gives you a checklist to inspire you to make a start and provide you with resources that can help you to complete your application.  (more…)

What’s the fuss with the PLUS for Postgraduate Researchers?

 

The Bristol PLUS Award is the University’s employability Award, open to students across all years of study – including Postgraduate Researchers (PGRs). In fact, PGR achievers speak so highly of the Award process, we thought we’d share highlights from their feedback: (more…)

Actuation Lab – Growth Stage New Enterprise Competition finalists 2018

Basecamp Enterprise Team caught up with Growth Stage, New Enterprise Competition finalist Dr Michael Dicker from start-up Actuation Lab to talk about their progress since winning 12 month SETsquared membership from the competition. Here’s what Michael had to say: 

Actuation Lab is now 4 months into its year long membership of the SETsquared Bristol incubator that it won as runner-up in the New Enterprise Competition. We have developed greatly as a business over that time and continue to refine our technology and market focus. We recently received a place on the Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe) InnovateUK program which is providing us with funding and the ability to further explore market opportunities.  (more…)

How might the Bristol PLUS and Outstanding Awards support your career journey?

Update: The Outstanding Award process closed after the 2020/21 academic year. Current students who have made an outstanding contribution to their PLUS Award activity may consider engaging with the Outstanding PLUS Award, which launched in the 2021/22 academic year.  

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