You read that title right there ladies and gents, a scientist wanting to complete the Cardiff Award. Not just any scientist, I’m a neuroscientist…I like all things brain and nervous system. What on earth are you doing you crazy fool I hear you say…Actually I’m making the best out of a situation which appears to be the ever increasing state in Science.
If you look to a career beyond the undergraduate level in science you are faced with a number of decisions. Research is undoubtedly one of those decisions, but it isn’t for everyone necessarily. If you look to the stats of it all (yes I know I hate stats too), the number of students who go on to get a PhD in whatever discipline in science it is, is not that large. Furthermore, if you go beyond that PhD level, what awaits you then? If like me you are at an age where you want security, you want to know you have a stable job and salary, that isn’t likely to be the case. The number of lectureship or fellowship opportunities does not increase in accordance to the number of PhD positions available. What does that therefore create? It creates a market where you have all these amazing scientists with no jobs!
Enter the Cardiff Award….What I have described is by no means an isolated event. This is happening all over the world and it’s about time that people started paying some attention to it. I was dead set on getting a PhD and admittedly I now have one, but the reality of this when I started back in Feb 2014 was an uncertainty. So what does the Award offer to a science undergraduate?
The Cardiff Award has undoubtedly taken me to a whole new level in terms of the experience and knowledge I now have of the current market. You only have to look to the Guardian or TargetJobs to see what skills are lacking in current graduates (in general). You want to know the number one skill that is lacking? With a resounding 67% of graduates lacking it, it’s commercial awareness. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t know what commercial awareness was when I started and more to the point, I didn’t really think that it would necessarily be applicable to me. I mean come on, I’m going into a university setting, not a business… Back track just one second though, isn’t a university technically a business? They charge you tuition fees and then go and invest in their own means of improving the university. So in essence, yes a university institute is a business and so you need to tune into that fact.
The most recent example of commercial awareness that may be the case to those who face the task of attempting to get onto PhD schemes was my interview. I got offered an interview at the MRC Centre in the Hayden Ellis Building. Commercial awareness is vital in this interview because you need to understand : what has the institute done recently? What are some of their key publications? How does the institute plan to move forward and therefore what am I able to give them that fits in with all of this? So, from a science point of view, suddenly you have to switch to smart business mode.
I don’t doubt that I would have read up the odd paper had I not done the Award, but what I can say is that doing this Award made me a damn site more aware of what I needed to do if I wanted to secure this PhD.
I have just done my final presentation and so am eagerly awaiting to know if I have passed the Award…but the one thing irrespective of that, is that I now have a wider context and idea of what to do if science isn’t my calling. The Award has given me the confidence to say “look here are my skills, they might not be the typical employee skills you would normally be faced with seeing, but they are transferable.” It’s the transferable bit that you should pay attention to. When they ask you “what you can bring?”, you make sure you brag about personal development as a result of the Award and how you are now armed with an arsenal of skills that makes you the ideal candidate for them!
So if you are doing a science related degree, think for one second if after graduation you are aware of what is out there. Do you realise what the market is doing, where research is going, where science is going to take you? Above and beyond that, make sure you take advantage of what the Award can do for you, it isn’t a decision that I regret and I am genuinely a better person now because of it.
Thanks for reading, hope it helped bring an insight to you that isn’t the “I love EY and I want to go and work for them” perspective.