Gown to Town – Considering a career outside of academia for post-graduate researchers


Graduation Day – Okay Yaramanoglu 

 Here, Louise Mustchin (Careers Consultant) and Becky Clark     (Careers Consultant for Post Graduate Researchers) outline some of the options you might consider if you are thinking of alternative careers to academia, once you have completed your PhD.

Whether you have just submitted your thesis, or have just begun your PhD, you will most likely be thinking of what to do once you’ve finished. A career in academia might seem like the obvious route but an increasing number of PhD graduates are considering a career outside of lecturing and research.

In fact, 43.4% of University of Leeds PhD graduates were working in areas outside of academia, upon completing their doctorate. (DHLE 2013/14 – University of Leeds), some of the major growth areas being health and social care, engineering and IT.

Your high level skills will be appreciated in the right job and give you an edge in a very competitive graduate labour market. Therefore, making the most of these in you CV and other applications is essential. Don’t forget to tailor your CV to the job and company or organisation you are applying to – employers can spot a generic CV a mile off! Additionally, research done by the Careers Centre provides an idea of the employers that have recruited post graduate researchers in the past, which is a good place to start looking and getting a feel for the kinds of jobs that are available.  If you have managed to identify any similar organisations, please let us know by commenting below and we will add them!

If you are looking for inspiration, Vitae have an excellent bank of careers stories, written by those who went on to  work outside of academia

If you are deciding on what to do with your doctorate, you will need to plan your career journey by considering your skills, motivation and personal attributes. But, what are these and how do you go about identifying them?

Who am I? What do I want?

Not such an easy question to answer! However, I would suggest that as a post graduate researcher, you will have many transferable skills that are attractive to employers.  For example, you might have found that you love presenting, you thrive on team work or enjoy analysing data. There are useful skills that employers look for and additionally, Vitae has published the Researcher Development Framework, which gives you a feel for the kinds of unique skills and attributes a post-graduate researcher has. As a researcher you will also be curious, perseverant and not afraid to take a risk. When it comes to your job searching strategy and long term success, these are very useful attributes, as research from the  University of Manchester suggests. Exploring your options and thinking laterally is a great way to uncover areas of work you hadn’t previously considered. To get an idea of your skills, and how you can develop more, you can visit the  Careers Centre website, which gives you a good overview of why it is important to identify and work on any skills gaps.

Where can I look for a job?

Many organisations do not advertise specifically for PhDs so you need to find where you fit. This may be through the graduate scheme or equally through direct entry into a professional role-all depending on the industry sector and your individual expertise and previous experience. You need to research the sector, the organisations and the roles in order to find out what would suit you best. But, you can still apply to organisations that do not have advertised vacancies and apply speculatively. Don’t forget that you can apply directly for positions that you think would be a good fit for you, having done some research into the type of organisations that you want to work with. These are known as direct entry positions, as opposed to those aimed specifically at graduates.

Similarly, there is useful information on the  University of Manchester website, which gives you an idea for careers other than academia.

Networking is also an effective way to uncover hidden vacancies. To back up this claim, Vitae concluded that ‘33% of doctoral graduate respondents had found out about their current job through professional, work or educational contacts and networks……….and 16% through personal contacts’). So, do not be afraid to network and let people know that you are looking, whether that be in person or digitally. For example, attending relevant careers event and contacting alumni, through sites like LinkedIn, are a very legitimate way to find work and make contacts. You can find networking sessions on the event page of the Careers Centre website

The Careers Centre can help!

Here at the  Careers Centre we are very good at advising you on your next steps. Come and see us! You can book an appointment with your specialist Careers Consultant, Becky Clark, and also visit the centre for general information and support. Please visit our website and go to the ‘researchers’ section to make an appointment. You can discuss your CV, have a mock interview and get advice on your next steps. For further support, the University of Leeds has a graduate training and support centre,  which holds a range of workshops, aimed at developing your skills. Also, you might like to look at the training hubs below, which offer a range of training and development opportunities for researchers, all across different disciplines:

Finally, have confidence in your abilities and skills – you’ve got a PhD!

That’s it for now – goodbye!









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Filed under Advice, Postgraduate study

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