February 26, 2021, by Joseph Walters

PhD Skills and Career Implications

By Joseph George Walters, PhD Engineering Surveying and Space Geodesy

An annual skills audit is a requirement for doctoral students. It is used to identify skills that a student might lack and then record improvement. This blog post highlights the career implications of my skills audits, and how they have contributed to the development of career ideas.

When I started my PhD, I wanted to use the skills audits as an opportunity to develop a rounded set of skills. I found that prioritising skills for academic, personal and professional reasons was useful.

Academic skills

Improving skill areas such as research methods and publications have helped directly with my PhD research.

Improving research method skills can be useful across all aspects of PhD research, including core methodologies, planning experiments, and writing up results or the thesis itself.

Publication skills obviously help in preparing and publishing academic papers, but also in helping to plan and write anything, including emails.

Looking at a career beyond the PhD these notably academic-based skills can still be of use. Pursuing a career in engineering will undoubtedly mean I will have to contribute to or write my own technical reports. These will need to be accessible to a range of readers (publication) but also contain quality content, particularly regarding the methodology (research methods).

Personal skills

Improving my interpersonal and communication skills has built up my confidence in public and professional settings. It has been noted by my friends, family, and colleagues that I am less withdrawn and a better speaker since starting my PhD.

This has been, and will continue to be, a valuable skill throughout my career. It has improved my ability to be successful in job interviews, be a better team member, will aid me in management roles, and make general everyday communication more productive.

Professional skills

There are some skills that I have pursued to improve my employability that were not directly related to my PhD. Improving team working, business context, and computer numeracy have all put me in a better position to face the outside professional world while contributing to CPD (Continuing Professional Development).

To improve my computational numeracy, I completed several online Python coding courses. Despite this, I am less confident in this skill next to many of the others. This is due to a lack of application in my everyday research. I have found that the skills I learn best sink in when I apply them regularly. I hope to pick up Python where I left off in future situations when I can apply it.

Career application

The skill audit process has highlighted the skills that I enjoy the most and those I am good at. Recognising these skills has recently helped me to refine my career direction.

Research management and research design direct me towards a career in planning. Interpersonal and communication and publication skills encourage me to look towards report writing and data visualisation roles.

Next steps

Now in my final year, my highest priority skill area is career management. Being a student blogger has encouraged me to engage with the Careers and Employability Service and I have discovered a range of useful resources to help me plan my future.

I recently found magpie a useful tool to help me focus on the skills I have yet to develop. This will be particularly useful when I start applying to specific job roles with certain required and desirable skills.

If you want to talk to a careers adviser about developing career ideas based on your skills and interests, please book an appointment with our team. Also take a look at our webpage What researchers have to offer to explore the wide range of career skills developed during your studies.

Posted in Choosing Your CareerPhD StudentsStudent Bloggers