Writing up? What’s next after your PhD?

monopolyFor many final year PhD students who are lucky enough to be funded, the cycle of the typical 3 year full-time PhD is quickly coming to an end.  I was reminded of this last week when many of the students I talked to were in the process of writing their thesis (for some in the very early stages).  So I thought this may be an appropriate time to encourage you to think about what comes after the PhD and remind you of the support available.

If you are not sure what you’d like to do at the end of your PhD start thinking about it now (as some light relief from writing your thesis!).  Explore the Careers Service website which has section on making career decisions and what are your options, and remember you can talk over your options with a careers adviser.

If you want to apply for post-doctoral positions then it’s not too early to start now if your funding runs out at the end of September.  The recruitment process can be quite slow so you are likely to be available for work roughly when an employer would expect to fill a post being advertised now.  Depending on your field of study look on the UK academic jobs website, or specialist sites such as Nature jobs or New Scientist jobs.

Be pro-active if you are looking for a post-doctoral position.  Think about which groups or professors are doing interesting work in your field and contact them directly to say you’d like to work in their group.  Your PhD supervisor may put a good word in for you if they know the people you are contacting.  Some groups may already have funding to offer you a position, others may encourage you to apply for your own funding.

Being pro-active applies even if you are looking for non-academic jobs.  Websites which advertise graduate jobs such as SAGE and Prospects can be useful but research has shown that only 30 – 40% vacancies are ever advertised (this includes all types of jobs, not just professional level ones).  So find out more about your occupational areas of interest, identify relevant employers, and think about making a speculative approach.

Talk to people who work in sectors of employment which interest you to get some information on what different jobs roles involve and the experience and skills required.  If you don’t know anyone yourself look at our careers contacts database to see if you can identify suitable contacts.

Use Edinburgh Research and Innovation (ERI) to identify sources of funding that you may be eligible to apply for.  They have lots of good information on the research development part of their website and link to a searchable database of funding opportunities.  (NB. The link to ERI will only work from an Edinburgh domain computer)

Get your CV in order.  Whether you are applying for academic or non-academic jobs you need to make sure you are selling your experience in the best way possible.  To get some tips about how to do this effectively see the marketing yourself section of our website and then ask a careers adviser to give you some feedback on your CV.

Making the transition from your PhD can be daunting but remember there is lots of help and support available.  Make use of it while you are still a student but remember you can still use the Careers Service for up to two years after graduation.  Good luck!

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