#jobsQ Live Q&A: Alternative Career Pathways After Your PhD

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What can I do after my PhD? It is a difficult decision for any PhD student on whether to pursue a career in academia, or consider alternative careers.

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About this video

The academic jobs market is becoming more challenging and competitive post-PhD. With the number of PhD holders increasing, there is enormous pressure on the academic job market and declining academic job prospects for doctoral graduates.

What can I do after my PhD? It is a difficult decision for any PhD student on whether to pursue a career in academia, or consider alternative careers. In our dedicated live Q&A we are bringing forth a panel of experts who have moved outside of academia, to share their top tips and advice on alternate career pathways following PhD studies.

To help all those who are considering options after doctoral studies, jobs.ac.uk is holding a FREE 60-minute live video event via a live Q&A called ‘Alternative Career Pathways After Your PhD’.

By attending this jobs.ac.uk live Q&A you will learn:

  • If a non-academic career path right for you
  • What non-academic job options are available to you
  • How to market yourself to employers outside of academia
  • How to prepare your CV for non-academic opportunities
  • What skills employers are looking for
  • How to develop your skills for opportunities outside academia
  • Making the move: how to prepare for the transition out of academia

Meet the panel:

- Dr Chris Humphrey founder of Jobs on Toast

- Dr Katie Wheat Training and Resources Development Manager at Vitae

- Lee Milligan Senior Talent Attraction Specialist at Novo Nordisk

- Pablo Dominguez Andersen Online Marketing Manager for De Gruyter

- Arathi Kizhedath early stage researcher at Newcastle University


jobs.ac.uk live QA Alternative Career Pathways After Your PhD





Chris Humphrey


Welcome to the jobs.ac.uk’s live question and answer.  And our topic today is Alternative Career Pathways After Your PhD.  It’s an interesting topic.  I think it’s one of those things that when you’re a PhD it’s very easy to have your head down doing your research, you’re focused on that and not necessarily thinking about careers.  Or putting that in to the back of your mind and thinking, oh, I’ll come back to that later.  But actually it does really pay dividends



to think about careers and your career opportunities, even up to, say, two years before you complete your PhD.  And really think about what is the career path I’m gonna follow and what do I need to be doing now to really prepare for that?  So just to introduce myself, my name’s Chris Humphrey and I originally did a PhD in medieval studies back in the day at the University of York.  But then I decided to leave academia,



made a career in business, in consultancy, and I now work as a Project Manager in financial services.  I also run a website called jobsontoast.com.  So the website is a set of free resources for any PhDs who are considering their career options and especially looking to pursue careers outside of academia.  So I’m joined by a panel today, we’ve got a great line up for you.  So I’d just like to ask each of the panel to



take about 30 seconds or so to introduce themselves and their particular specialism.  So shall we kick off with Pablo?


Pablo Dominguez Andersen

Yeah, sure.  Hi everyone, my name’s Pablo Domingo Anderson and I am a trained Historian.  So I received my PhD in 2013 from the Humboldt University in Berlin.  And after my PhD, so in the transition phase, I started working for an ecommerce start up in



Berlin as well and worked in marketing there and ended up working there for two years.  And after that I joined a digital agency where I also worked for one and a half years roughly.  And since last year I now work for an academic publisher called De Gruyter in Berlin as well.  So I kind of made a step back towards academia



and I’m quite happy where I am right now.  And now I’m excited to talk to you guys and exchange ideas and experiences. 


Chris Humphrey

Yeah, cool, and I think that’s an interesting point there that just because you leave academia it doesn’t mean that you can never go back, so there’s actually quite a lot of fluidity and interface between academia…


Pablo Dominguez Andersen



Chris Humphrey

…and business and consultancy and government, so.  Okay, thanks Pablo.  Arathi, do you want to just tell us about yourself?


Arathi Kizhedath

Yeah, hi everyone.  So I’m equally excited to be here because I’m a PhD student myself in the last year and I’m a Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher at Newcastle University.  So probably in one year’s time I’ll be asking the same question to myself, whether I want to stay here or whether I want to leave so, yeah, that’s all from me.


Chris Humphrey

Fantastic, well, thanks for that.  And we’ve got Katie.


Katie Wheat

Hi, I’m Katie Wheat from Vitae.  I’m a Training and Resources Development Manager there, which means I lead and take part in a whole range of projects based around the professional career development of researchers.  And wearing my second hat I’m also a former researcher myself, I have a PhD in psychology.  And before I joined Vitae three years ago I was working as a postdoc in cognitive neuroscience in the Netherlands.


Chris Humphrey

Fantastic, that’s great.  Well, thanks for that, Katie.  And then last, but no means least, Lee.


Lee Milligan

Hi there, my name’s Lee Milligan.  Hello from sunny Copenhagen.  I work for Novo Nordisk, the global pharmaceutical company.  I’m responsible for attracting talent from universities throughout Europe.  I’ve got over 20 years of recruitment and talent attraction experience.  And, I guess, my expert area is CV writing, cover letter writing and preparing for interviews.  So I give presentations around the world so hopefully I’ll be able to help you today.


Chris Humphrey

That’s fantastic, well, thanks very much, Lee, and to everybody.  Just for those of you who are watching today, if you do want to ask us a question then you can use the live chat in the right hand corner of the screen, edge of the screen, to ask us your question.  But actually we’ve got a ton of questions in already from people who’ve sent them in, in advance.  So I’ll just kick off with some of the questions that we’ve already sent.  So let’s start with the number one question, is really which career



path should I take?  So academic or industry?  And how do I decide?  So is that something that one of you can pick to start off?  Perhaps, Katie, you could advise us on that?


Katie Wheat

Yeah, I’m happy to kick off with that one.  I mean, it is such a difficult decision and one that all researchers come across again and again in their career, not just necessarily at one fixed point.  So I think there are a few things that you could do to try to get as much information as you can before you make that decision, for example, you could look in to job shadowing or placements or work experience in areas that interest you.



You could, in particular, review the knowledge and competencies and experience that you’ve already gained though your research.  And also think about your personal strengths, your personal values and your motivations, because different kinds of work settings will match or not match your values so well.  And to be happy at work it really needs to be a personal fit as well as a professional fit, I think.  And it doesn’t necessarily have to be



an either-or decision, there are ways to combine an academic career with non-academic elements, for example, doing consultancy in either direction or building a portfolio career.  So yeah, it’s a difficult decision but put your research hat on really and do your research.


Chris Humphrey

Yeah, that’s a very nice tip.  Well, maybe, Pablo, you could just give us a bit of an insight in to your own thinking and how you kind of decided and made that decision yourself?


Pablo Dominguez Andersen

Sure, yeah.  So I think one important thing to consider is what you kind of already pointed at before, is that it’s not really a decision that you sort of take on one day and then your path is like – you have a short path that you’re gonna follow.  So it’s more like a set of decisions.  And, for me, it was also a lot of try and error. 



So I think it’s hard to say what type of career is right for you in advance, like just on a theoretical level.  So my advice would be really to try things out and see for yourself which types of jobs suit you and which don’t.  And, I mean, also, of course, it’s important to get as many information as you can. 



I mean, for instance, I – so, for me, the transition phase was really, really difficult as well, especially landing that first job in the first two years, because I felt I wasn’t really in a good place, so.  But it was a lot of try and error and one thing I did at one point was seek like counselling or training.  That’s something that a lot of universities offer



now, I guess.  I mean, there’s career centres and sometimes it helps to get like an outsider’s perspective.  And then I’d also just ask a lot of people I know, like people from different backgrounds, you know, friends, talk to them about what they do so you can make an informed decision.  And then, I mean, don’t think that once you’ve started a job



you’re gonna be stuck there forever, right?  Because there’s always like a way back or you can always switch jobs, that’s like – that’s how the job market works nowadays.


Chris Humphrey

Yeah, I think there was some really good advice from a recent conference, online conference, Beyond the Professoriate, where they were saying like your first job after academia is not your last job.  And I thought that’s really great advice, often the first job that you take is a kind of, maybe more of a transition job.  And it doesn’t mean it’s your – you’re gonna



be in that job forever.  So that’s really nice.  Anyone else want to come in on that particular question?


Arathi Kizhedath

Yeah, Chris, if I could just pitch in.  So I had the opportunity to talk to Janet Metcalfe from Vitae last year and it was very surprising to hear that there is a trend now that, okay, you have your standard question that is industry or academia.  But there are a lot of other opportunities, like entrepreneurship or policy making, getting in to a research funding body.  So I think it’s important that you become a little proactive and start talking to people to find out what opportunities or options are out there, rather than the black and white of industry or academia.


Chris Humphrey

Yeah, no that’s a really nice piece of advice actually because it’s a – yeah, so it’s not an either-or choice.


Arathi Kizhedath



Chris Humphrey

And maybe reflecting a little bit back on what people have said, it’s what suits you and what fits your particular circumstances, your aspirations, yeah, and really be clear that, yeah.  Entrepreneurship I think I’m really seeing that amongst PhDs and researchers, more and more people are feeling confident to sort of start their own business and set up on their own.  So, okay.  Lee, yeah, did you want to just come in on that one?


Lee Milligan

Yeah, I think that’s definitely the using your network is definitely an important aspect.  And think about people who studied similar to yourself, what have they gone on to do?  And speak to those alumni.  I think there are plenty of opportunities to meet companies as well, the likes of – most universities will run career fairs.  I’d say go to those career fairs, prepare yourself before, ask relevant questions to different companies you’re interested in, read about those companies.  And then go to company presentations



and really get one on one with the company representatives.  Then you can really get an impression if that’s gonna be you, that’s gonna be your future career.  And there will be people there with a similar background to yourself, ask them as many questions as you can, really get their personal impression as to why they made the move from academia to industry, or obviously vice versa, some of them switch back as well.  So really use the network and use the opportunities available to you.


Chris Humphrey

Right, fantastic, okay.  Well, I think that really sets the scene for people who maybe haven’t thought so much about this so far, but that kind of sets the scene.  So we’ve had another question, which really comes for people perhaps if they’ve spent a lot of time in academia or they’ve really not had much experience outside of academia.  Like how do you really start going about this kind of search and understanding what options are available to you?  So has anyone got any tips for really finding out about actual jobs?



I mean, we’ve talked a little bit about finding out about industries or what suits you, but where would you actually go to find jobs that are gonna be suitable for researchers?  And Katie, maybe you could pick up for us?


Katie Wheat

Yeah, well, one place is – so Vitae’s done a lot of work surveys and research around looking at what careers researchers do pursue.  And I think one of the really nice resources that’s come out of that is a whole series of career stories from former researchers, either former PhDs or former research staff, who’ve gone in to different work settings and then given an account of what it’s like to work there,



what kind of job they do, how they found that move in to a new area.  So that can be a starting point of looking at what other people in your discipline have gone on to do.  Another nice thing, if your institution provides it or perhaps if your professional society provides it, is to get in touch with alumni in your discipline as well. 



Universities often invite their former PhD graduates in to just say what they’re doing now and where they’ve been since they graduated.  So if you have the opportunity to attend an event like that, I definitely would. 


Chris Humphrey

Okay, well, thanks for that.  Anyone else want to come in with some tips about specifically where to look for jobs?


Lee Milligan

Can I add, I think, yeah, in most countries there are job sites and I’d say sign up to those job sites, sign up to the areas that are of interest for you and often on a daily basis you’ll receive emails with the type of positions that are out there.  So take a look at those positions, see what’s available at the moment.  And the majority of job ads there will be a contact person, so don’t be afraid to contact that person if you have specific questions about the relevance of your education,



the relevance of the actual level of education you’ve reached, but those very relevant questions to those contact individuals.


Chris Humphrey

Yeah, nice.  I mean, one bit of advice that I tend to give people is that like, for myself, I had a PhD in medieval studies in history, but when I’m looking for a job outside of academia people aren’t gonna be advertising for people with my degree necessarily.  But what they are looking for is to fill positions in their organisations, like an analyst or a project manager or a researcher.  So really sort of think about and find out about job titles and sort of



think of yourself in terms of job titles that people are hiring rather than thinking of yourself in terms of somebody with a particular academic background or who practices it in a specific discipline.  And so I think that can be really interesting if you start to focus on industry, say health or something like that, and then you’re putting in keywords for the kinds of position that might be available, so researcher, a project manager, analyst, like data analyst, data scientist.  That’s one way that you can really begin to sort of find out what’s on offer and see how you fit.  Okay.


Pablo Dominguez Andersen

Also if I could add one more thing or maybe two things.  One, as I said before, try and ask friends and people you know that are not in academia, just like what do they do?  What, just to find out what types of jobs and what types of industries there are, I mean, that’s – I think that’s always a good starting point.  And another thing I just thought of is look on social media, especially on Twitter, for instance,



if you follow like hashtags like alt-ac or post-ac where a lot of people write about their experiences in trying to find jobs after their PhD, and there’s, luckily now there’s like lots of people who share that type of information online.  So that might be another starting point for your research on that.


Chris Humphrey

Okay.  Anything more on where to find jobs?  Or we could move on to the next question.  I just see that we’ve got a question come in from the chat really, somebody’s asked if we train ourselves to become an academic, not having much experience in the private sector or taking breaks between our studies, how do we transition in to a non academic sector?  It’s a really nice question ‘cause it sort of frames this whole thing really around transferable skills. 



And that’s, I think, to me, one of the key things, certainly in my own transition, is when I really began to understand that I didn’t just have a degree or lots of degrees and publications, but actually I’d gained a whole set of transferable skills that people outside of academia were really interested in and wanted to hire me on the basis of having those skills.  So maybe we can just think for a bit about what are some of the most transferable skills that would help towards a job or career outside of academia.  Would somebody like to come in on that with some suggestions of transferable skills that PhDs have required?


Katie Wheat

Yeah, I can kick us off with that one.  I mean, I think it’s not necessarily just thinking about a list of skills, but maybe thinking about the kinds of responsibilities that you have as a researcher.  So you might submit journal articles, for example.  You’re not going to find many job specifications that ask you to submit journal articles, but you might find jobs looking for technical report writing, synthesising and presenting complex information, responding to critical feedback, leading an international collaboration, for example, they’re all the kinds of



experiences and skills that you would have built up though something that initially looks like quite a narrow experience.  But I think it’s the most important thing is to translate your experiences in to the language that the employer finds familiar and is looking for.


Chris Humphrey

Yeah, very nice. 


Lee Milligan

And if I can add to that from an employer’s perspective, what I’d always advise candidates to do is to look through the job ad and actually write a list of the personal skills and the technical skills the company’s looking for.  Then match examples you have from your experience to that list, and you’ll find you have more and more examples than you think that match the requirements of the company.  But also if and when you get to the interview stage you’re gonna be asked to give examples,



lots of examples, to back up what you’re stating.  So I think it’s an important process to follow and to do it a few times.  And you’ll find you get more and more examples that are relevant and you’ll have more and more transferable skills than you actually think.


Chris Humphrey

Yeah, nice, so actually you’re really analysing the job advert for the kind of way to present yourself back to the employer.  Arathi, perhaps you can just…


Arathi Kizhedath

If I could just, yeah, if I could just add on to what Lee was saying.  When I’ve spoken to colleagues of mine and PhD students, I’ve always found that when they read a job advert they just come to the conclusion that, oh, I do not have the necessarily skills and therefore I’m not going to apply for this job.  But just like Lee mentioned, it’s very important to go back to all your experiences.  For example, if they have asked for a managerial skill, if you have supervised a PhD student or if you’ve demonstrated in a lab, that counts as experience



because you have organisational skills then, you have managed a group of students, you’ve taken care of their responsibilities, so their report writing, and you’ve been responsible for them.  So to find a way to translate that in to something when you apply for a job is very important.  And it’s very good to hear that from you, Lee, that you mention it now in this panel.


Lee Milligan

I’m sorry, just one small point to add to that is many hiring managers are looking for the five legged sheep, they’re looking for the impossible candidates who doesn’t exist.  So don’t worry if you don’t fulfil everything on that job ad.  Of course, if they’re asking for 15 years of work experience then you’re probably not – you don’t have the relevant background.  But don’t think you have to specifically fulfil every single requirement, which is a mistake that many will make. 


Chris Humphrey

Yeah, ‘cause I think that’s – like you say, there isn’t the perfect candidate, so each candidate that goes for a job is gonna have particular strengths and weaknesses.  Some candidates might be already from within the industry, some people might be transitioning from another industry in to that industry.  But employers can look favourably on that and think, well, what new perspective, what creativity, what extra skills does that person bring who are coming in to my industry?  So yeah, don’t rule yourself out.  Pablo, did you want to come in on that one?


Pablo Dominguez Andersen

Yeah, sure.  Maybe, well, for one, I think the aspect of really translating what you’ve learned during your PhD for an employer is super important, and it took me some time to learn that.  Because when I started applying for jobs outside of academia I used to talk about, a lot, about the kind of research I’d done or like the topics I was specialised in.  And then I quickly realised that most employers aren’t really interested in that because



in many cases you’re not gonna be working on those topics in your new job.  And so it’s really important to really give them a list of what you’ve done and explain to them why you’re a good fit for the position, especially considering that most hiring managers don’t have more than like 30 seconds or a minute to look at your résumé because they have like



50 applications or a 100 or whatever.  So you really have to be super focussed and try to be as helpful as you can for the hiring managers in explaining why you are a good fit and why what you’ve done really qualifies you for that position.  And that’s like a lot of translation work, but it’s really the most important thing, especially when you apply for your first job



after your PhD and you feel like you don’t have a lot of experience in that particular job field.


Chris Humphrey

Yeah, so this ability to be able to translate your skills and experience you’ve acquired though your academic career and background, being able to translate that in to a kind of a language that an employer can understand and make sense to them.  And, I guess, like we’ve already said, trying to use the job advert to inform that.  So like a classic one, for me, is always in academia we talk about teaching, ‘cause we teach people, we transfer knowledge to them, they learn, but in business we talk about training. 



Which is the same thing really, we’re trying to transfer knowledge from people about systems or something or in to people’s heads, but we just call it training.  So it’s a little bit of learning that kind of, the language of the sort of sector that you’re applying in to.  Okay, anyone else got anything to say about – anything else to add about transferable skills there?  Just see if there’s anything more on the chat. 



There is one question just asking about if people don’t have a lot of work experience is that something that an employer might think is a barrier?  I mean, I guess if you have spent all your life working in academia, then you’re applying in to a particular, another sector of the economy, finance or health or government.  I guess there’s a sort of a perception that employers may be looking for a background in that.



So how would you suggest that people could overcome that particular challenge?


Katie Wheat

Well, I think one of the most important things to start off with is to make sure on your CV, that you frame your PhD as a professional experience in itself.  I would always put it under the work experience section and in a language that employers can understand, your key responsibilities and achievements in that time, for example.  You can list it as well as an education or qualification, but I would really make sure that you



position yourself as having a significant time of experience as a professional researcher.  Because you’re not a student being told what to do, you’re often getting paid to do this research.


Chris Humphrey

Yeah, that’s a really, really good piece of advice actually, to think of yourself as a professional.  One bit of advice that I give people, I’ve written about this on my blog, is think of yourself as a professional X and try and think of what word would you put in to the X.  So don’t talk about yourself as a researcher or as a PhD, especially not a PhD student, but talk about yourself as a professional X.  So that X could be a professional researcher, professional project manager, a professional scientist,



ecologist, depending on what your particular discipline is.  But make sure that you sort of professionalise yourself.  Okay. 


Pablo Dominguez Andersen

Yeah, I’m just gonna jump in there.  I think – so, for one, that’s really important advice, don’t present yourself as a PhD student but as a professional who has worked in science or in research.  And still, even if you do that, coming from your PhD in to a new industry, it might mean that you’re gonna start maybe in a more junior position,



if you’re transitioning to a new industry.  But I wouldn’t necessarily shy away from that because I think in the industry you can really, from that junior position in a relatively short amount of time, you can come to another position.  Because if you have a high learning curve and you’re really good at what you do,



you can transition from like, say, I don’t know, a junior marketing manager to a marketing manager or a senior marketing manager in a relatively short amount of time.  So especially for the first job, that might be something you should consider, even if you’re 30 or older when you finish your PhD. 


Lee Milligan

And I think, just to add to that, I think I often talk about answering questions before they’re asked.  Now, as a recruiter we’re probably looking for gaps, we’re looking for reasons to ask you questions.  And one o those questions would be why do you want to switch from academia to industry?  You need to have that answer very clear in your application, so you’re already answering the question before it’s asked, and at the interview stage.  Positive reasons.  Many will give negative reasons about academia,



why they want to move away.  But give the positive reasons why you want to move towards industry.  And we’ve talked a lot at the moment about what you can offer the company, but also think about your passion for the company.  Unfortunately very few applicants will actually write about the company itself, why they want to work for the company, projects they’ve read about, company values, etc.  Show your passion for the company as well.  But also give that explanation why you want to move and with solid reasons behind that.


Chris Humphrey

Okay, nice, well thanks for that.  And Arathi, have you sort of – you’re in academia now, but have you tried to build up non-academic work experience as you’ve gone along?


Arathi Kizhedath

Well, to be honest, Chris, I have to say that I’m a Marie Curie fellow, so in our project framework we have a lot of allocation for this, so with respective training and industrial placements and secondments and so on and so forth.  I feel that they should be there for other PhD students as well, at least there’s an opportunity to apply for, let’s say, a two month internship or a placement at the company, just to get a feel of what it’s like.  They have fantastic programmes where there is – where you have an industrial PhD,



so you work for an industry as well as a PhD student in the university.  And all these really count.  Or, for example, if you have some professional training courses or certificates, these can be done during the course of your PhD, and that really helps as well.  And just to add on to what Lee was saying before, it’s very good to do your homework.  So you know that you’re in a certain field and if you want to transition in to an industry in that field, it would be nice to know who the big players are or who the big companies are



and what specific skills are they looking for or what projects do they have or what are the broader expertise fields?  So doing this homework will help you build your CV and portfolio, starting from day one in your PhD and not probably towards the end when you’re done or you’ve already defended your thesis. 


Chris Humphrey

Yeah, that’s really nice advice, I think.  So that’s a good point, that actually some people are in programmes that are actually structured to give them work experience.


Arathi Kizhedath



Chris Humphrey

Which is great, but if you’re in a – so if you’re in a PhD in a programme that doesn’t have that, then really you’ve got to be quite proactive in trying to gain that work experience yourself, perhaps, like you say, taking an internship, for instance.  I mean, if you’ve got three or four years doing your PhD you have got plenty of time.  So maybe you could do an internship over the summer or take a project management qualification, for instance.  So those opportunities are available to you.  I think it comes back to what we were saying before about being proactive.  Not waiting to



the end and you’re handing in your dissertation and only then really thinking about, okay, what should I have done?  Okay.  Well, that’s a nice one.  Just the next –it sort of leads quite well on to the preparation of CVs.  I think this is just like a real – something that people who’ve spent a lot of time in academia are used to a kind of CV being a kind of big document that sort of summarises all their achievements, all their publications,



they’re teaching experience, papers they’ve given, that type of thing.  There can be a bit of a challenge to then make the switch to more like a CV for a job outside of academia in government or in third sector or in business, where people are looking for something much shorter, maybe around one or two pages.  And often, in the States that might be – that’s really called a résumé.  So have you’ve got some tips for how to turn your CV in to an effective résumé?



Perhaps, Lee, you could say a bit about what sort of things you’d be looking for on an application.


Lee Milligan

Yeah, and I think, again, related to what I started with in terms of the job ad, I always advise, make those two lists.  Which technical skills are the company looking for?  Which personal skills?  And make sure you’re clearly matching them in your CV.  So you shouldn’t have a standard CV, it’s alright to have a skeleton, but each CV it should be obvious, for me, as a recruiter, that you have geared that CV specifically to that job ad and to the company.  There should be relevant examples in the CV, it should be easy on the eye.



It should be – as Pablo said before, we often have a few minutes to scan though.  So basically I’ve almost got that skills list in my head and I’m matching it to the CV, can I clearly see you have the skills that we’re looking for in your CV?  And, again, backing things up with examples, not just stating I’m a good team player, anyone can put that.  If you back it up with a solid example it suddenly – it gives meaning.  So really make your CV relevant to job ad,



backing it up with examples and relevant to the company as well.


Chris Humphrey

Right, nice, thank you for that.  Katie, is this something that you advise people on?


Katie Wheat

Yes, I mean, I couldn’t really say it any better than Lee.  I guess the only think I would add is probably to try to seek examples if you can.  If you can try to get hold of CVs of people already doing the kinds of jobs or working in the kind of sector that you’re interested in moving in to, then that will give you a good idea of their expectations.  And there are a lot of CV examples also on the Vitae website of different types of formats. 



So if you’re used to a multipage academic CV, then you might want to look in to things like competency based CVs, which is a bit different to the sort of traditional chorological format that most people are a bit more used to.


Chris Humphrey

Yeah, where could people go to get those examples?


Katie Wheat

There are quite a lot of examples, templates, and real examples, on the Vitae website, so we’ll tweet them and then people can follow that and have a look.


Chris Humphrey

Fantastic, well thanks for that.  Any more tips on CVs?


Lee Milligan

I guess, I would say one thing, the differentiator between a CV and a cover letter, I would say the CV, in your mentality have the CV as the past, the cover letter as your future and what you can do for that company in the future with solid examples.  A very small tip, I’d say, is get somebody else to check your CV before you send it so the small details are correct.  It’s something I do myself when I’m applying for jobs, so definitely get somebody else to have a good check though to make sure



you’re getting the message across that you want to get across.


Chris Humphrey

Yeah, that’s nice, we can easily become just blinded to our own little typos or poor grammar.  And I think it’s interesting, there is a question just on the chat really, just people asking about how to represent the PhD on the CV.  But I think we’ve already answered that from what Katie said, is that – ‘cause I have had this thing before about should I even leave my PhD off the CV?  But as Katie said, you can represent your CV well, your PhD well, on a CV,



if you put that time spent under your work experience and you can call yourself a research project manager.  So really make sure that you do frame that correctly and not just as education, but it actually as – it is actually your work experience.  Okay.  There is a question somebody’s just asked us around – we’re talking a lot about applying for jobs.



Would the panel have any tips about entrepreneurship or starting your own business after your PhD?  Arathi, I think you did mention something about that, is there any other sort of resources or insights that you have around being able to start up on your own?


Arathi Kizhedath

Well, the reason that I mentioned that was when I went to one of the conferences, so there was this person who was talking about his starter company called Dating Scientists, the scientists for dating, and everybody was under the impression that it had something to do with the personal life of scientists.  But apparently it was a forum to bring scientists together with policy makers so that scientists can have an impact in policy making.  So these are small ideas.  And I personally know a lot of people who had spin-offs from university.



So they have an idea and, during their PhD or probably during their postdoc, and they feel that it’s a very lucrative idea.  So ideally what they do is then they spin-off from the university and then have a small start up within the premises and then slowly go on from there.  And it’s – because I also saw a couple of questions about consultancy and independent jobs and when you don’t have to apply to other industries.  So these can be some tips, and you can find plenty of resources online for entrepreneurship, maybe like an event or talking to the right people and so on.


Chris Humphrey

Yeah, I think that’s a really good point actually.  So we might think about entrepreneurship as starring your own company, but it could, you know, and employing people, but it could be that you just set yourself up as an independent consultant and you’re kind of working for yourself, either on a sort of fixed term basis or with a range of clients. 


Arathi Kizhedath



Chris Humphrey

So, yeah, it’s really important not to rule those things out.  And really interesting what you’ve said, that actually the university context itself may provide resources and facilities for start you, for incubation, so it’s not like you’re just thrown out in to the cold.  But actually if you take the time that could really help you get your own business off the ground.  What…


Arathi Kizhedath



Chris Humphrey

Sorry, yeah.


Arathi Kizhedath

Yeah, no sorry.  Just a small example of that is that Newcastle University now we have something called the Science Central.  So that’s where most of the spin-offs from Newcastle University are going to head in to, and a couple of them are working on our projects.  So you have a spin-off company, which is a consultant partner, on a Marie Curie Horizon 2020 programme.  So you have different options to collaborate and set off with your idea.


Chris Humphrey

Okay, nice.  Anyone else like to come in on that?  Okay, we can move on.  We’ve got another question here, which is an interesting one, is why would an employer hire a PhD or a postdoc over a recent undergraduate?  Sometimes people can feel that I’ve spent this time after my undergraduate degree accumulating this other experience and doing this research.



But really what – is the employer really going to value that?  Perhaps, Lee, you might be able to say what you would really be thinking that a PhD or a postdoc would bring to the organisation compared with like a recent undergraduate.


Lee Milligan

And I think – I often hear this.  The question’s quite negatively phrased and I think in a way you need to be more positive in what can you actually contribute in a positive way from the experiences you’ve been through.  And, again, that’s about relating it to the job ad, as we talked about earlier, given – you’ve got far more examples of situations you’ve been in as a PhD than you have – the recent graduates have.  Utilise those examples in a very positive way,



in the application process but also at the interview process.  So I’d say put it in a positive light, put a real positive spin on what you’ve done.  You have those examples, that’s what we’re looking for as recruiters.


Chris Humphrey

Fantastic, I really like that, it’s great to hear that sort of positive message.


Pablo Dominguez Andersen

Yeah, absolutely, I totally agree with what Lee said.  And I think – I mean, in the end the answer to that question is really you have to explain to the employer why he should hire you with a PhD instead of a recent undergraduate student.  Because that’s like – it’s up to you to explain to them the type of experiences you have that are valuable to whatever job you’re applying for.



And I think if you start thinking about it, all the experiences that you have, you will surely come up with a list of why you are valuable for that position. 


Chris Humphrey

Yeah, I mean, just to give one example of my own, when I went for my first job outside academia, was with a sort of start up company who were trying to secure investment in the company.  They were quite impressed by the fact that I’d secured funding for – to fund my research.  So the fact that I’d got funding for my Master’s degree, the fact that I’d got funding for my PhD research project, the fact that I got funding for my postdoc for a fellowship.  So they sort of saw that actually here’s somebody who



has got experience of writing proposals, writing convincing, persuasive applications to gain grants, to gain funding.  So that’s just one example that, for instance, an undergraduate wouldn’t have, but whereas, as a postgraduate would have.  Okay, well, thanks for that, Pablo.  Anyone else want to come in on that question?  Katie, yeah? 


Katie Wheat

Yeah, I think – if I could just add that – so three and a half years after graduating with a PhD less than 20% are working in higher education research.  And so this is from a series of research called What Do Researchers Do?  Which looks at the HESA data and following graduates when they move on.  And it shows a cluster of occupations that



typically do employ doctorate holders, which are things – I mean, some of them are fairly obvious, like pharmaceuticals, but also like public administration, finance, business, IT, charities, health and education.  So I just, I think it just highlights the value that employers do see and how needed those high level PhD skills are for the society and economy more broadly outside



of what you might think of PhD graduates as doing just research, actually they’re really valuable.  And, as others have said, it’s just about making sure that you communicate well to the employer the value that you have and the fit that you have with that company and with that position. 


Chris Humphrey

Yeah, that’s nice, I really like what you said there, Katie, about the high level skill set.  ‘Cause it can be easy to think that the main thing they’ve acquired is the actual PhD itself, like the dissertation and then the qualification.  But actually, like you say, you’ve acquired a set of very high level skills that employers are really gonna be looking for.  And especially in today’s sort of knowledge information, sort of economy.  Okay, nice.  Any more contributions on that one? 



I did – there is a question, and this is, I see this quite often, somebody just asked about is it worth sort of maintaining a blog while you’re doing your research?  And I think people have sometimes mixed feelings about should they be sort of public, on Twitter or writing a blog?  Or should they kind of sort of more stay anonymous?  So what are some of your thoughts on that about blogging or tweeting during your research?  Arathi, have you got any thoughts on that?


Arathi Kizhedath

Yeah, I think it’s a brilliant idea to be active on social media or, for example, on Twitter or LinkedIn or to have your own blog.  Because I also read a couple of articles that if you’re blogging during your PhD period, that actually makes you pretty good at writing scientific articles.  ‘Cause sometimes it’s nice to take a break from all the technical writing.  But it’s important because you are putting an image of yourself out there even before you reach a stage where you actually



physically apply for the job.  So there was a question on when is the right time to apply for the job?  But there is also a big element on how you prepare yourself and how you make that image of yourself.  That you go to a conference, then you meet someone, you add that person on LinkedIn, you maintain that relationship, you maintain that network that you have by tweeting something that you think is relevant or you post articles on linked in.  It’s a very good way to get noticed, not only for yourself but also for the work that you’re doing.  It’s a very good way of promoting yourself.


Chris Humphrey

Yeah, I think it’s – one thing I always think is that while you’re a PhD or a postdoc maybe you might have a profile on the univers – on your department’s website or webpage.  But, of course, when you come to leave academia [unclear 0:45:21] down.  So actually you need some way of putting yourself in to the public domain so, for instance, having your own blog is good and having a LinkedIn profile as well is also key for sort of maintaining that sort of visible presence. 



Yeah, is that something you’ve done, Pablo?  Did you do that?


Pablo Dominguez Andersen

Yeah, absolutely.  I mean, since I moved to online marketing, I started, in the transition phase, to become more active on social media.  And I don’t have a personal blog but I think especially being on Twitter, for me, was very helpful to network and also to find out about job opportunities that are out there. 



So I definitely recommend it, I think – and, I mean, you have to be aware of the fact that if you apply for a job at some point the employer is going to Google you.


Chris Humphrey

Are they?


Pablo Dominguez Andersen

It’s important, I mean, it’s kind of – it kind of depends on what type you are.  If you don’t feel comfortable being on social media I don’t think you have to be.  But I think it’s important to sort of – you know, everyone kind of Googles themselves once in a while, so it’s important to try and be in control of what shows up there when – and be aware of the fact that employers are gonna Google you and they’re gonna try to find out stuff about you. 



So I try to be proactive about that and try to be in control of the image that you have online, so. 


Chris Humphrey

Yeah, yeah.


Lee Milligan

And just, sorry, just to add to that, I think most employers will definitely look on LinkedIn.  So I would advise you, strongly advise you, to get a LinkedIn profile to keep it up to date, to get recommendations on the LinkedIn profile.  And also before you go for an interview, for example, look at the interviewer’s profiles, it gives you information on their background that can be important.  But LinkedIn is the resource that a lot of recruiters will use, so make sure you’ve got a very strong profile on there.


Chris Humphrey

Fantastic, well, thanks for that.  I just see, there’s another question now, which is a little bit more of a personal question, but really asking members of the panel, did they know what they wanted to do before their PhD, while they were doing it, they wanted to do, what they wanted to do after?  Or did they change their mind during their PhD?  I think if I just give my own perspective.  I was very settled becoming an academic and I actually had five



interviews at different UK universities for electorship positions, but I was unsuccessful each time.  And, from my point of view, I just wanted to ensure that I had continuity of employment towards the end of my postdoctoral fellowship.  So that’s why I put together, what I call, like my plan B, because if I wasn’t successful in gaining a job in higher education I was planning to transition in to industry instead.  And so that’s actually what happened to me.  So I kind of –



even though I had my plan A I also had a plan B, which became my plan A.  And actually, when I look back I’m really pleased and happy how things have panned out.  So what about you guys, did you change your mind through necessity or though chance?  Katie, yeah.


Katie Wheat

Yeah, I hundred percent definitely changed my mind.  I think if you look back at my career going backwards you can trace what looks like a really logical and well planned outset of circumstances.  As we were just talking about, I was really active on Twitter, I had a blog, during my postdoc I cofounded the ecrchat hashtag, through that raised my profile a lot.



Took part in various online activities.  I was invited to speak as a researcher at the Vitae conference, did a lot of networking there, and eventually that led through to a job at Vitae, which all looks either I couldn’t have planned it better.  But actually if you look at it sort of chronologically there were so many different branches that were going on, you know, things I was pursuing and trying out that didn’t go anywhere.  So I think when people look at other people’s career stories it can look like they just to



from A to B to C and tie it all up really nicely.  But actually there are lots of little dead ends and things going on there and trying things out that don’t always go.  So you might be working your way towards your academic career, because that’s your goal, but keep lots of other little things, other interests, alive, because you don’t know for sure what your path is gonna be until you’ve gone down it.


Chris Humphrey

So there’s a little bit of – a case of kind of keeping your options open.  And I think sometimes it’s quite funny how you can look back and tell a story of your career, but actually you didn’t necessarily have that plan.  But often it does work out and you can kind of make sense of it.  Nice, okay, thanks, Katie.  Lee, did you want to come in on that one?


Lee Milligan

I mean, I think obviously I meet and see hundreds, thousands of PhDs a year and those that have transferred in to industry.  But I think the word serendipity comes in to play a lot.  It’s a lot of chance, it’s a lot of chance meetings.  And obviously you can – they’re doing a lot of the things we talked about today, you can help your career path.  But don’t be worried and don’t think that everybody has this perfect career path planned out, it’s often, more often than not, not the case.



So don’t think you should have a perfect plan ahead of you.  Help your plan, that’s for sure, but it shouldn’t be perfect, not many people’s are.

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