Webinar: Career Options for PhD Grads Beyond Academia

Last week, Lucy gave us a brilliant insight into HE jobs, into teaching and non-teaching roles, into student orientated and research orientated positions. It gave us a lot of food for thought, particularly for opportunities that might not have crossed our minds at first. If you didn’t have the chance to attend the webinar the information is also available on the SAS Careers Group moodle site.

Tomorrow, Lucy will be talking about leaving academia behind for public policy, the cultural sector or the not-for-profit sector. You can still register for it here. The webinar starts at 1pm and is an hour long.

Why not branch out and hear about other opportunities than the ones right in front of us in the HE sector? Why not spend an hour after lunch or over lunch considering the different ways how you enhance and market your PhD experience for different career paths?!

To get to know Lucy and her own career path a bit better, blog editor assistant Monja asked her a few more questions about working for careers services. You can also check out the first part of the interview where we introduce Lucy!

Monja: You have worked in careers services for some time now. What do you like most about your job?

Lucy: I like the individual aspects and the bigger picture elements. Seeing individuals feel great about their CV, realise something important about their job hunt, clarify the decision they’re making and, ultimately, find resolution in their choice or opportunity is deeply fulfilling. 

I enjoy the bigger picture too – learning how the labour market works, finding ways to classify complexity so that it becomes possible to think and navigate it, spotting trends and patterns.  I’m also fascinated by how careers function as a psychological element (such as around identity or self-concept) as well as a socio-economic one (e.g., in terms of social mobility).  It’s an endlessly fascinating field.

Monja: Every student is different but many probably, at least initially, have the same worries and questions. What is the advice you give out most?

Lucy: Great question! 

  1. Tailor your applications to the selection criteria. If there’s a list of criteria, that will often function as a mark scheme to fairly assess applications. Make sure you get the marks! Use the keywords so that they can find what they’re marking. Make sure you’re stating your evidence actively and concretely– nothing should need to be inferred. Don’t just tell them that you did whatever it is, show them that you did it well. You might get more marks if you can add details of results, outcomes, scale, scope or complexity.
  2. You can have a list of selection criteria too when you’re considering your options. On your criteria list could be the skills you’d love to use, the interests you’d like there to be a link with, and the elements that would make a job feel worthwhile, as well as any practical factors (location/hours/salary). You can then assess different ideas to help you decide what might most be worth your time an energy to pursue. A great option might match 60% of your criteria, or 80%, or 40% depending on your list and the labour market, but it can prevent the drift into ‘I guess I could do that…?’ and a scattergun approach.

Monja: Having worked abroad at Berkley, what are the different working environments (UK-US) like and how did you adapt to it?

Lucy: I loved working at Berkeley!  The 15 degrees-all-year-round might have something to do with it, but there was a positivity going around that was pretty addictive (although of course I did enjoy appreciating traditional British irony and cynicism when I came back!)

I found that individualism felt much more pronounced – from the idea that ‘anyone could become President’, to first year undergraduates already with multiple internships, to the high value placed on investment in your own career (e.g., the willingness to pay and study test prep to pass the LSAT course, to do a 3 year JD law degree after a 4 year undergraduate degree, compared to the comparatively cheaper and swifter law qualification routes in the UK). With course fees high, student debt on much less favourable terms, and healthcare quality tied to your employment in many cases, it very much felt that it was all centred on individual effort and reward rather than institutional or socio-political structures.

The working environment in HE professional roles felt pretty similar, but with perhaps slightly lower expectations of the duty of the institution towards students, perhaps related to the lack of league table pressures driven by graduate employability outcomes

The School is dedicated to supporting the career and personal development of its students and graduates. The SAS Careers Service provides support for students and recent graduates across all the SAS institutes.  We offer one to one careers advice and coaching, as well as providing workshops and careers events. 

SAS students can access a 1-2-1 appointment with the SAS Careers Consultant, Liz Wilkinson. Liz has 30 years of HE careers experience in supporting masters and PhD students and graduates to achieve career success. 

1-2-1 guidance will help you plan your next steps and give you support and advice to achieve your career goals, whatever they might be. All careers sessions are currently offered remotely via phone or MS Teams, depending on your preference. Advice and guidance is also available by email. To book a 1-2-1 appointment please email sascareers@careers.lon.ac.uk 

We offer both all student and targeted seminars with topics including ‘Writing a Successful PhD application’, ‘Hone Your Writing Skills for Job Applications & Funding Proposals’, ‘Moving On Your Career in Human Rights’.  Seminars will be advertised via email to your SAS email in the preceding weeks. 

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