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February 15, 2019, by Katy Johnson

Searching for Jobs Beyond Academia?

By Clare Jones, Senior Careers Adviser

PhD researchers often begin a careers discussion with me by asking questions about where they should start looking for jobs. They may then add that they are uncertain about what career paths are open to them other than academia. 

This second statement is crucial, as it’s difficult to effectively job search without having undertaken some exploration of; yourself, your skills, experiences and attributes and how these might relate to different career options.

1. Exploring your skills and career options 

Whether you are in the pressured final stages of your PhD or, at an earlier stage, make time for self-reflection and exploration of your career options. A great starting point is our online course – Thinking Ahead: Exploring Your Career Options. It’s a flexible course so you can go through it at your own pace. 

You can also book a PhD Career Development appointment even if you are still unclear about what you want to do, or you want to discuss different possibilities.  

2. Searching for jobs 

I’ll start with the disappointing news, there isn’t a ‘go-to’ single website or job board, or even a list of them. However, here are some starting points: 

  • General sites such as New Scientist Jobs and The Guardian Jobs    
  • Is there a professional association or industry body connected to the career/employment area that interest you? For example, the Social Research Association, Institution of Civil Engineers, Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries. Visit their websites to look for vacancies and careers information. 
  • Use the occupational pages on our website which provide information on job roles and sector developments as well as links to job boards and other vacancy sources. 

3. Using job boards 

When you are using a job board or website try to remain open-minded and curious, even if you have some constraints, a common one being location. Do still look at jobs that are beyond your location to find out what they involve, the skills looked for and then perhaps look for similar organisations and employers within a reasonable journey to work distance? 

Don’t be put off by job titles 

Would you for instance dismiss something that had the word ‘senior’ in the title before looking at what the employer defines as the requirement for this? 

There is very little consistency even within a sector on the definition of a ‘senior’ level role, for example, some might require three to five years of experience and some might ask for five to 10 years. For the first one you could use your working experience as a doctoral researcher and any placements or internships you have undertaken. 

Look beyond the job titles 

Using job boards and website listings can initially be misleading. In preparation for a careers presentation for a group of epidemiology researchers my search ‘jobs in epidemiology’ included a search result: 100 epidemiology jobs on LinkedIn.  

However, on closer examination not a single job title included the word ‘epidemiologist’. Words such as ‘impact and evaluation’, policy analyst’ and ‘consultant’ were used frequently for roles in commercial research consultancies, public sector, and healthcare organisations. In the initial stages of a job search remain open and curious, be prepared to explore beyond the job title. 

4. In summary 

So, before a focussed job search starts with a career exploration approach: 

  • Understand your skills and strengths 
  • Research your career options 
  • Research the employers operating in the sectors you are interested in 
  • Understand job roles on offer and the skills employers are looking for 

Check out our PGR website and in particular, the pages on careers outside academia and applying for jobs outside academia.  

Posted in Careers AdvicePhD Students