Funding opportunity

See below for details of a very small pot of funding that is available for research through an organisation called Gradconsult.  It’s a new initiative and is aimed at helping researchers start to develop a track record of successful funding bids.

On behalf of the Gradconsult team, I am delighted to announce that our Microgrant scheme is now open for applications!

About our Microgrants:

We want to put our money where our mouth is – we see the great value that quality research adds to our Universities, and as an SME working in early careers, we want to support individuals starting their career in academia or research to get a foot in the door.

Our Microgrants are open to early-career academics who want to kick start their funding record. This can include:

  • PhD students
  • Post-doctoral researchers with less than three years’ experience
  • Academics/lecturers with less than three years’ experience

Applicants can work in any field – we’re as interested in chemists as we are in art historians – and should be looking to develop a funding track record to apply for larger grants in the future. The final criterion for eligibility is that, to date, they should not have received a research grant larger than £1,000.

You can learn more about our Microgrants (and apply for them) by following this link:

The deadline for applications is the 31st March 2017.

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Research careers outside academia (more humanities & social science focussed)

researchI went to an event recently on research careers outside academia.  There were 13 different speakers working in the Civil Service, local government, Think Tanks, parliament, commercial organisations, and the charity sector.  Some points of interest.

  • Only 3 out of the 13 speakers had a PhD (and another speaker was doing one).  So it wasn’t a requirement of many of the jobs but they were all conducting research and using skills that you’ll be developing in your PhD.
  • Many had a background in humanities but were working in social research roles.  Some had a social research element to their degree or Masters, but not all.  None of them had a science or technology background.
  • There seemed to be a lot of ‘impact and evaluation’ roles, in charities and public sector, to demonstrate value for money and show programmes were having the desired outcome.
  • Many stories of unpaid internships – in ThinkTanks, local government and charities – as the way to gain experience.  The Careers Service doesn’t promote unpaid internships (unless they’re in charities) but we are aware it’s a common route to gain experience.
  • Many of the speakers hadn’t started out wanting to work in social research.  Instead they were interested in a cause / doing something socially worthwhile and then saw research as a good way of contributing.
  • Speakers stressed the importance of signing up to the values of a Think Tank or charity as that will be a big element in recruitment.
  • Ability to communicate the impact of research (e.g. on policy) was key in many roles, often to persuade people to fund the research / programme.
  • They talked about the ‘feel’ of doing research in different organisations:
    • fast paced and delivering to tight deadlines (e.g. in NatCen),
    • more academic and often slow pace (e.g. House of Commons library),
    • not as rigorous as academic research due to the tight yearly cycle of doing the research and demonstrating impact for the following year (e.g. CityYear – a charity that works to raise attainment in school kids)
  • Variety of skills needed:
    • quantitative research skills (Stats, SPSS),
    • ability to communicate what data does and doesn’t tell us,
    • designing an effective way of evaluating programme,
    • communicating results / impact of research,
    • persuading people to fund research
    • being inquisitive
    • and more….

Finally, I wanted to share a few job titles and employer names so you can see the range of people who were speaking.

  • Data Insights and Intelligence Manager, West Sussex County Council
  • Senior Research Analyst, House of Commons Library
  • Policy Director, Centre for Social Justice
  • Impact and Evaluation Manager for the National Literacy Trust
  • Research Manager/ Insight Consultant, Employee Research, ORC International
  • Senior Associate Director, Research, Evaluation & Impact, Teach First

If you want to explore these types of opportunities, look at the relevant section on the occupations part of our website.

Public services and policy work

Charity, international development, and aid work

Information, research, and culture

(I’ve got full notes from the event so if you want to view all the speakers biographies and read more about what they said just drop me an e-mail on

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How I broke into the biotechnology sector

Just in case you missed this on our Careers Service blog, here’s a post from a PhD graduate on working in the biotechnology sector.

The Careers Service Blog

Adam Inche works for BioReliance, a firm that provides contract testing and manufacturing services to the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. He recently had this to say on getting into the biotechnology sector.

“Since completing my PhD in Cancer Biology, I have been working for a couple of different companies in the biotechnology field.  I transitioned from a development scientist role into the commercial side during this time.  I have been in my current role in the marketing department at BioReliance for just under 2 years, and I am really enjoying how I am both being challenged as well as being allowed to challenge assumptions within the organisation.

The recruitment process was a little different from normal, as I was approached to apply for the role – however the selection and interview side of things was just like any other job you would see advertised on a job site, or…

View original post 696 more words

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Resilience in career management

Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.   Winston Churchill

I’ve been thinking about resilience lately.  It’s cropped up in things I’ve been reading and in some conversations so I thought I’d share a few reflections.

When asked what personal qualities were needed for success in an academic career, Professor Cathy Abbott, from the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, chose being robust.  It’s something you hear quite commonly, how the flip spersonal-qualities-needed-for-success-cathy-abbottide of your own academic training in critically evaluating the work of others means that your own work is also commonly subject to criticism and rejection.  It can be hard not to take this personally even when you know it isn’t but it’s one of the things you’ll have to adjust to if you want an academic career.  Watch what Cathy says below.

Cathy Abbott – being robust

But resilience is also important if you are thinking of pursuing a non-academic career at the end of your PhD.  Students often tell me that they experience feelings of failure, worry that their PhD was a waste of time, are unsure about what else they can do with their PhD if not an academic job, and worry about how they will be perceived by others in the academic world.

So how do you manage this?  Sometimes acknowledging how you are feeling is a good first step.  Career Coach and author of ‘Secrets of Resilient People’, John Lees, lists a number of questions in his book to help you identify your base-line reliance.  I’ve copied a few below.  Score yourself on the scale 1= low, Uncertain=3, High=5 to identify areas of risk and vulnerability (1 & 2), or areas of strength.

  • How confident are you in your ability to acquire new skills and knowledge?
  • How strong is your self-esteem most of the time?
  • How far are you able to remain calm when under moderate pressure?
  • How strong is your ability to persevere with a task when things aren’t going well?
  • How optimistic are you even when things are difficult?
  • How good are you at getting on with your work after experiencing rejection or personal criticism?
  • How far do you feel valued in your work?

Extract from ‘Secrets of Resilient People’ by John Lees. Hodders and Stoughton 2014*

If you are scoring low on a number of questions above then consider some of the approaches below.

Focus on what you can change.  The competition for research funding, the shortage of academic jobs compared to the number of PhD graduates, the difficulty of getting published in ‘high impact’ journals – these are all things you can’t change (at least not quickly).  But you can focus on how you make yourself as competitive as possible by gaining relevant experience, or on making a positive decision to consider other career options.

Reframe negative experiences.  It’s all too easy to obsess about things that haven’t gone well in work.  But instead, think about what you’ve learned from the experience and use this to move forward.

Spend time looking after yourself.  Take a break from work, do something that calms or recharges you, whether that’s baking a cake, going for a run, watching a film.   Create the space in your head to think about things differently.

Find your supporters.  Who will remind you of your strengths, encourage you, give you honest feedback?

If you’d like to discuss any of this with a careers consultant please book an appointment on MyCareerHub.

Book an appointment

* Available for reference in the Careers Service resource centre in the Main Library Building, George Square and the Weir Building, King’s Buildings.

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Careers beyond academia – good resource

Many PhD students are interested in pursuing a career outside academia but aren’t sure about how to make this move or even of what sort of career options are available that may interest them.  One good way to start exploring non-academic careers is to read stories of what other PhD graduates have done.  We have case studies for some of our own PhD graduates on our website plus links to other sources of case studies.

University of Edinburgh PhD graduate career stories

Broad options – other career stories

I recently came across another useful source, from PhD to Life.  It’s a North American site and when I last looked there was a list of more than 70 stories of PhD graduates in disciplines ranging from biomedical physics to medieval studies working in many different career areas.  Not only will you find out about lots of different jobs, but you’ll find out how PhD graduates are using the skills they developed and experience gained through their PhDs, and get some tips about how to make the transition into the non-academic role.  It’s well worth a look.

From PhD to Life – transition stories

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‘Postdoctoral Careers Beyond Academia’

The Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) recently funded an event for Arts and Humanities PhD students on careers beyond academia. Some of you may have been at it. I thought it worth sharing this blog post describing some of the insights gained from the event.


Since I’m free of D.H. Lawrence (for now!) I’ve got a wee bit more free time on my hands to take part if real life, as well as attending more PhD-related events. So last Thursday I popped up to the University of Stirling to attended the ‘Postdoctoral Careers Beyond Academia’ event, organised by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Stirling and the HaSS Graduate School, University of Strathclyde, funded by the SGSAH. This was a day long conference with a number of talks from successful arts and humanities and social sciences post-docs, all of whom have chosen to follow career paths outside of academia.

Full disclosure: I genuinely hadn’t considered any other career besides academia. Oh, except being a poet/writer, which, as we all know, is where the money money at (I do it for the love of the subject, the thrill of producing art, the emotional…

View original post 887 more words

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Academic interviews

I seem to have spent quite a bit of time recently giving practice interviews for academic jobs.  The interviews were for research staff working at this University who were applying for lecturing roles at universities across the UK.

For many PhD students, the next step after the PhD –  if you want to stay in academia – is probably a research role (research assistant; research fellow) or a teaching role (teaching assistant; teaching fellow) with the lecturing job coming after you’ve built more experience.  But I thought it would still be useful to share with you a few of the questions that were asked at the interviews as something to ponder on for the future.

  • How would you create collaborations with people at this university?
  • How would your teaching fit into our program? What would you bring?
  • In five years, what should we use to evaluate your success? How will you have made a difference?
  • What research accomplishment are you most proud of and why? What impact did it have (academic and other)?
  • Do you have any anecdotes or feedback about how your research has positively impacted students’ lives?
  • If you had unlimited funds, what project would you work on?
  • What would be your first grant?
  • How would you make a contribution to the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF)?

Hopefully this will give you some insight into the experience you should be building for the future (some of it during your PhD but also in positions you’ll hold after your PhD).

Look at the Careers Service website for further information on what to expect at academic interviews and for examples of other types of question that may be asked.

Academic interviews

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