Using Your Research Skills to Succeed in the Job Market

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If you are taking steps to secure your first job after completing your PhD, this article will provide you with tips for using your research skills to develop an effective job search strategy and find opportunities suited to your strengths and skills as a researcher.

Step one – Scoping out and planning

Approach your job search in the same structured way you would any project. Establish your starting point and consider your objectives.

Ask yourself:

  • What am I looking to achieve? By when?
  • What are the milestones of my plan? 
  • What are the benefits of investing time and resources in this project?

Step two – Identifying and analysing options

This step is particularly important if you do not know exactly what type of job you want. It is much like the stage of a PhD, where you explore options before deciding on your focus. Think laterally and consider all the options.

Ask yourself:

  • What types of career paths do I want to know more about?
  • What are my skills, strengths and interests? Which jobs would suit me?
  • What trends and opportunities does the job market offer?

Step three – Developing a focus

Start developing a focus and clarify your thinking.

Note down the questions you want answered. For example:

  • How do most people enter the profession?
  • Is there a dedicated route in for PhD candidates?
  • Is the field growing enough to accommodate someone with my skills?
  • Are there opportunities for self-employment or consultancy in the field?
  • What are the monetary rewards?
  • How can I build my CV to succeed in getting a job in this field?

To help your research in steps two and three:

  • Use websites including employers’ and specialist websites for PhDs
  • Use press, business magazines and other specialist publications
  • Speak to careers guidance professionals and experts in your chosen field
  • Network with prospective employers and alumni
  • Make the most of work experience, including teaching opportunities alongside your research
  • Set up profiles on networking sites like LinkedIn

Step four – Organisation, structure and discipline

Particularly if you are starting your job search whilst still working on your PhD, you need to be efficient. Set up systems to capture information and help you stay on track.  Use an Excel spreadsheet, for example, to record contacts, job application dates and interview notes. In today’s job market, unless you are lucky enough to get a job early on in your search, you need to have a system and build resilience to ensure success.

Step five – Presenting with impact

The final step involves creating opportunities and presenting yourself effectively. Parallels can be drawn with presenting and publishing your research with impact. If you have invested time in steps one to four, this final stage will be easier.

You should now know enough to confidently communicate:

  • your skills, strengths and career goals
  • the value you offer an organisation
  • what interests you about the job in question

You will need to present this information in a number of contexts, including your CV, online application forms, online profiles such as LinkedIn, interviews and less formal networking face-to-face situations. Always remember to tailor to the reader and the situation.

Ensure you explore all routes to getting a job. As well as networking and replying to adverts, sign up to specialist agencies and make speculative applications.

Finally, reflect on your ability to work analytically and effectively and with structure - in itself a skill set employers value.

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