postgraduate student

February 28, 2018, by Jackie Thompson

Postgraduate Students: What’s Next?

By Julie Blant, Postgraduate Careers Manager, Business School

Whether you are new to the university or returning to us, you’ll know how time flies during your studies. Hopefully you’ve already given some thought to what your next step might be.

If you haven’t? Don’t panic.

It’s not too late to start thinking about it. As a postgraduate student your next career move will very much depend on your skills, experience and career aspirations. Here are some pointers on how to get started.

Focus on your skills and experience

Skills and experience can come from many different activities, from employment to volunteering, education to sporting activities.

Make a list of all the skills you have gained so far. Think of specific examples of when you have used these skills as these will be useful when you are making applications and going for interviews. Which skills have you particularly enjoyed using and, just as importantly, are there skills that you don’t enjoy using? Are you making the most of your postgraduate experience to develop new, or enhance your existing skills?

Enhancing your skills during your course

As well as subject specific skills, others that you are likely to gain at taught postgraduate level include:

  • dealing with complex issues and solve problems
  • delivering demanding work within tight deadlines
  • applying knowledge in original and creative ways
  • designing and undertaking short research projects

Gaining experience and developing your skill set

In some sectors, employers will expect you to have some relevant experience. For example in teaching, media, digital marketing, publishing, arts and heritage, and laboratory experience for jobs in science. For other sectors having experience will give you opportunities to demonstrate your transferable skills, such as the ability to work under pressure, solve problems, and motivate and lead others.

Many postgraduates are able to gain work experience alongside their studies, but if this doesn’t work for you, consider organising something to start after you have handed in your dissertation. Make the most of the opportunities available to you at Nottingham:

Focus on your career aspirations

You may have a very clear idea of what you would like to do following your postgraduate course. If you’re considering a few options or don’t know what you would like to do, we have resources to support you.

Are you looking for your first professional role?

If you have studied a postgraduate qualification straight after an undergraduate degree then you may be considering a graduate training scheme or similar opportunity to begin your career.

Often employers do not differentiate between postgraduates and undergraduates either in their recruitment processes or in their salary offers so when you apply you will need to ensure that you make the most of your postgraduate experience within your applications and interviews to differentiate yourself from the competition.

To convince an employer you can ‘hit the ground running’ in a role, make the most of your additional confidence, experience and independent research skills gained through your postgraduate degree to help demonstrate your suitability.

Talk to a careers adviser about the routes into the career area that interests you and find out more about graduate training schemes and direct entry roles including where to look for vacancies.

Building on your existing professional experience

If you have more than one or two years of work experience prior to your studies, you will need to consider if you want to continue working in this area or whether you have studied at postgraduate level in order to change direction.

Staying in your existing career or industry area? Leveraging your network of contacts and being able to articulate how your postgraduate studies have enhanced your knowledge and skill-set will be key to your job search.

Looking to change direction? You need to be realistic about where you can position yourself within the new area and the impact on your remuneration. Articulating your transferable skills and new-found knowledge will be essential as well as developing new networks in your chosen area. LinkedIn is a useful tool as is our career-focused eMentoring scheme. This gives you the chance to connect with Nottingham alumni working in sectors or roles of interest to you.

Starting your own business

The University’s Ingenuity Lab is a great place to start if you are thinking of setting up your own business. The annual Ingenuity competition is a great way to test out your business ideas but you don’t have to entered to gain access to the Lab’s expertise and resources. There are lots of organisations offering advice and support and we’ve selected some key websites for you whatever your situation and stage of planning.

Taking your studies to the next level

One of your options to continue with your studies is to study a PhD which is the highest level of academic qualification in the UK. It involves three to four years of original research on a specific topic. Research degrees differ from taught degrees. You’ll be expected to:

  • take responsibility for your own learning – there’s no set course of study, curriculum, lectures or reading lists
  • work independently – there may be other researchers in your department or school, but you’ll have different specialisms, so the ‘camaraderie’ of an undergraduate or masters group will be absent

Visit our PhD webpage for advice on this option, funding streams and how to apply.

Our team are here to help you every step of the way. Book an appointment with a careers adviser if you want to talk through your plans and discuss the issues that matter to you.

Posted in Career advicePostgraduate taught students