Making career decisions; lessons from PhD graduates

It was our PhD Horizons Careers Conference last week.  We had 33 speakers talking about their career journey after their PhD and demonstrating how many career areas could be possible once you complete your PhD.  I chaired 5 out of the 10 panels and I was struck by how so many of the speakers, despite working in varied career areas, shared similar messages.  A few of these were:

Your PhD is valued by lots of different types of employers but it’s often the SKILLS you’ve developed that interest them rather than the subject of your PhD.

Even if you go into an organisation at the same level as new graduates, you WILL progress more quickly because of your PhD experience.

TALK to people to understand more about career areas that vaguely interest you; call them up or e-mail them to ask for some of their time.  People are usually very happy to talk about themselves!  And as job titles can be obtuse, talking to someone doing a similar job can help you to understand what it’s actually all about.

It’s ok if you don’t think an academic career is for you.  There are many other jobs out there which PhD graduates find CHALLENGING and fulfilling.

Do have CONFIDENCE that you have developed many of the skills and shown many of the attributes employers value.  Doing a PhD can have low points that can dent your confidence but don’t lose sight of all the great experience you have gained – that can be transferred to many other career areas.

Below is a quote from one of our speakers (now working in the Civil Service), talking about the question she’d asked herself when considering a move from an academic research career.

Wouldn’t it be better if I could be this ambitious, make a real difference, but still get to go home in the evening?

That’s all I wanted to share for now.  Some of my colleagues are currently writing up notes from the sessions which we’ll share when they’re ready so you can learn more about the varied and interesting career paths other PhD graduates have taken.

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