There are many benefits that you can accrue by undertaking a research degree, but one of the most important relates to your employability. Put simply, a research degree can open the door to a variety of fulfilling careers, both within and outside of higher education. As a postgraduate researcher, you’re also likely to have higher earnings and better employment prospects than other graduates. But deciding what you want to do after you finish your studies is not always a straightforward process. It can sometimes feel daunting, given the vast amount of transferable skills that you develop as a researcher and the wide range of career options that are available to you as a result.
It’s also not uncommon for a postgraduate researcher to feel less certain about their career in the latter stages of their programme. A recent study by the Careers & Employability team emphasised this. You may recall being asked a series of careers-related questions as part of your enrolment process. The responses were collated across the University and the results showed a noticeable drop between years 2 and 3 in the number of students who said that they felt ready to go on and succeed in their careers.
Focus on Careers week
Our Focus on Careers week (9-14 March) is designed to help you navigate the career planning process. The programme consists of workshops and other learning opportunities which will enable you to improve your career management skills and to learn about the types of occupations and sectors that postgraduate researchers go into. The workshops are open to all postgraduate researchers, but will be of particular interest to those in their final year. Below is an outline of what is covered:
Monday 9 March
The Third Year: End is in Sight – this one-day programme, designed by Vitae, is aimed at researchers in the final year of their PhD. The programme focuses on completing the PhD and planning how to be successful in your job searching.
Tuesday 10 March
What Next? Career Planning for PhD Students (Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences) – if you are planning to pursue a non-academic career after your PhD, this workshop will help you develop a structured approach to career decisions and a personal action plan to get you started.
Wednesday 11 March
What Next? Career Planning for PhD Students (Sciences) – if you are planning to pursue a non-academic career after your PhD, this workshop will help you develop a structured approach to career decisions and a personal action plan to get you started.
Thursday 12 March
You will receive an email from LinkedIn Learning containing a collection of online courses relating to careers and employability that you can complete in your time.
Friday 13 March
Effective CV Writing – learn how to refocus your current CV to ensure that it best represents your skills, knowledge and experience as a PhD student. Different layouts are considered and examples provided, including academic and non-academic CVs.
Online careers modules
Career Planning in the Arts, Humanities and Social Science – this course aims to encourage you to explore the skills and motivations for a career in academia or beyond. During the course you will see how important it is to assess and continually re-evaluate your skills and interests and recognise that personal factors such as location and family circumstances can influence and affect career planning.
Career Planning in the Sciences – this course aims to encourage postgraduate scientists to actively use career management techniques. Use of these techniques can be valuable whether planning a career in academia or exploring a variety of alternative career options. As you work through the course you will build up a picture of your skills, personal preferences and style, which can help you in your career choice.
Career Management for Early Career Academic Researchers – explore different career options, learn what you want out of a career and understand how to implement good career decisions on this Futurelearn course.
Other useful resources
Careers & Employability – whether you have no idea what you want to do yet or you know where your future lies, the University’s Careers & Employability team can help to guide you through your career journey. Find out more by logging onto the student intranet and clicking ‘Preparing for Your Future’.
Vitae – this website has a whole section dedicated to careers for researchers, containing practical advice on pursuing different career options, statistics, example CVs, and case studies.
Research Professional – an online database of research funding opportunities and a source of international research policy and practice news. It contains information on thousands of open calls for all disciplines, with fast and user-friendly search options, customisable email alerts and helpful tools to help you share information and stay ahead of funding deadlines.
Prospects – the biggest graduate careers website in the UK. They help to guide students and graduates to a bright future with unrivalled information, advice and opportunities.
jobs.ac.uk – the leading international job board for careers in academic, research, science and related professions.
The Wellbeing Thesis – this resource contains a section that considers career planning in the context of wellbeing and provides guidance on how you can open yourself to the concept of planned happenstance.
Dr James Farror, Doctoral Academy Officer