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POST PhD: How to make your first career decision..

  • Publish Date: Posted over 3 years ago
  • Author:by Jordan Duffy

Making a career decision…  

Knowing what route you want to go down after completing your PhD can be a difficult decision to make. Do you continue to go down the academic route, or now do you believe that it is time to enter the labour market and build up your industry experience? If you were, for example, inspired by collecting, critically analysing and interpreting data during your research, then a career in data analytics, operational research or software engineering may appeal to you. Understanding what motivates you, your skills and values, as well as the opportunities that exist in the labour market is a good starting point and that is something that our specialist consultants can do to help and identify the unique skill set and expertise that you could bring to an organisation.

How do I market sell myself to a non-academic employer?

Remember that you could be interviewing with an employer who may have no real understanding of your area of expertise, or how their business might benefit from your subject knowledge so it is important to show them how your skillset will be of value to them. Show them how you articulate the transferability of the project management, analytical, problem-solving, communication and research skills that you have developed and enhanced to a high level during your research. Translating your skills for a non-academic and commercial audience will be key to your success in the private sector job market.

Examples of how your skills can be transferred into the labour market:

  • If you had a difficult relationship with your supervisor or other researchers you may have collaborated with during your research, you can demonstrate effective negotiation skills.

  • Successfully organising an academic conference could highlight the planning, organisational skills and attention to detail an events management company would look for.

  • Completing your PhD is testament to your ability to work on your own initiative with little supervision and to deliver a project on time – a skill set arguably of value to all employers across every sector.

Making the transition from academia to employment – some tips…

  • You may have never experienced a work environment other than academia. Try gaining experience through work shadowing, volunteering, part-time work or extra-curricular activities. This will evidence your skills in a non-academic environment to any future employer as well as informing your thinking about the type of career you want.

  • Highlight your expertise to employers – present yourself as an effective project manager, an analyst, an innovative and creative problem-solver.

  • Change the emphasis of your CV and cover letters – remember that you are not making an application for a post-doc and an employer may not understand the relevance of your research and publications record. Convey the particular skills that the employer requires as described in the person specification.

  • Your intellect alone will not be a sufficient reason for an employer to make you an offer. You have to describe your academic career in a convincing way that demonstrates your potential and suitability.

If you need any career advice on what to do after you complete your PhD, contact one our specialist consultants who have in-depth knowledge of the local recruitment market which is unrivalled in Northern Ireland.

Want to read more articles like this? Be sure to visit VANRATH’s News, which features industry insights and career advice. We post regularly on our LinkedIn page too, follow us to keep up to date. If you’re seeking immediate career advice call 028 9033 0250 or e-mail