What’s the use?

I was reading an interesting article in Times Higher Education today by Nigel Tubbs, professor of philosophical and educational thought, University of Winchester.  In it he says:

Is it really the case that employers recruiting for generalist graduate jobs seek subject specialist knowledge above all else? Or is it rather that they seek lively, enquiring minds, able to set out on yet-to-be defined paths, not knowing where they will lead but having faith in the process and having the skills to communicate this to others?

He was talking about the introduction of Liberal Arts degrees at several universities across the UK, seemingly swimming against the tide of the ’employability’ agenda.  However, it got me thinking about the comparisons with employer attitudes to PhD graduates.  Results of several surveys (see links at the end if you are interested in knowing more) and from my own experience of speaking to graduate employers show that there is still a lack of understanding of what a PhD graduate can bring to an organisation outside academia.  Often, this can lead to a knee-jerk reaction with an employer saying that they don’t recruit PhD graduates because they are too ‘specialised’ or lack the ‘commercial awareness’ necessary in their organisation.

My feeling is that this often stems from a lack of understanding of what each has to offer rather than there actually being real incompatibility.  While those of us employed in university Careers Services work hard to get the message out to the employers we have contact with, it is also up to you to learn to ‘sell’ what you have to offer using language that the employer understands. For some tips on how to do this, look at what you have to offer? and marketing yourself effectively on the PhD section of our website.

Recruiting researchers: Survey of employer practice

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