How to build a better PhD

nature_PhD_problems_charts_03.12.15_WEBThere was an interesting article in Nature on how the PhD system could be changed to help alleviate the problem of too many PhD graduates for the number of academic jobs available.  It was focussed mainly on life science PhDs in the North American market but much of the discussion was relevant to the market here in the UK.

How to build a better PhD

While the discussion of different options was interesting (such as, cutting the number of PhD places or creating a split PhD – one academic track and one industry track), and you can read them for yourself at the link above, what I thought was most pertinent for you now was:

  1. the discussion on making the PhD experience more suited for entry into a range of careers, rather than simply for the academic job market
  2. the encouragement to make sure those students doing a PhD know the reality of the job market and so can prepare accordingly.

The Careers Service tries to help PhD students think about both of those things.  You can see destinations of PhD graduates both at 6 months after graduation and then a few years on in the links below.

University of Edinburgh Graduate Destinations

What do researchers do? (Vitae) – only visible to members but you can register for free

But with the winter break approaching for most of you, maybe now is a good time to reflect on your PhD experience so far and consider what you have to offer employers, both academic and non-academic.

  • What do you know? i.e. subject expertise, knowledge of higher education, research and funding,
  • What can you do? i.e.technical skills,
  • How do you do it? i.e. soft skills such as problem solving, communication, team work,
  • What attitudes do you present? i.e. drive, motivation, resilience

And other questions you may want to reflect on include:

  • How can you evidence any of the above to an employer when the time comes?
  • How can you make and take opportunities to develop further experience and skills that will develop your employability, whatever career direction you choose in the future?

So I’d encourage you to think about this over the holidays (I hope you get a break!).  And if you are struggling to answer any of these questions then in the new year please take advantage of some of the Careers Service resources, workshops and individual career consultations which are designed to help you answer these questions.

Careers Service resources for PhD students

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