May 10, 2023, by pcxha8
What to Expect From Researcher Careers Week
By Hiba Azim, postgraduate researcher
It’s that time of year again! Researcher Careers Week is almost here and it’s packed with activities to help postgraduate researchers explore careers outside of academia. As an attendee of the event last year, I can say that it was a great opportunity for me to be more intentional with my career planning. If you’re considering attending this year but not sure what to expect, read on to find out what I thought.
Why should you attend?
When I was about halfway through my PhD in 2022, I started thinking about what was in store for me after graduation. People kept saying, “a PhD will open so many doors for you,” but I wanted to know exactly what that meant. Attending the Researcher Networking Brunch was a great way to have my eyes opened to the many different career options available. There was a wide range of employers from contract research organisations (CROs) to professional services companies such as KPMG. The informal exhibition style set-up of the event made it easy to browse all the different employers while sipping my coffee and nibbling on the selection of canapes provided.
At the KPMG stand, I stopped to learn more about transitioning from research to professional services. I met their representative, Leila, who had an engineering PhD herself and had made a similar transition. We had a great conversation about her career path and what she enjoyed about her role, which gave me a lot of insight into the life of an innovation manager. We exchanged emails and connected on LinkedIn. I followed up on the connection within a couple of days and we discussed the possibility of arranging a summer placement. This experience highlighted the value of attending in-person events as it’s the best way to have organic conversations with employer representatives. Not only does this give you key insight into the role and company, but you’re also able to ask specific questions and open the door to opportunities you may not have access to otherwise.
Highlight: Porterhouse Medical
Next, I met with Alice from Porterhouse Medical, a science communications company based in Nottingham. Prior to this conversation, I wasn’t sure what a career in science communication entailed. But Alice described the different sorts of communication the company specialised in, ranging from speeches and reports to throwing week-long conferences all around the world. Alice also reassured me that previous writing experience wasn’t essential but a passion for communication and willingness to learn were what they looked for. Moreover, there were roles available that primarily focused on managing accounts and working with a team to deliver the client brief. For these roles, writing itself was less important, but skills such as project management and managing stakeholder relationships were key. They also encouraged secondments between the different job roles if you were interested in developing both skill sets. I came away from the conversation suddenly excited about a whole new career pathway that I hadn’t seriously considered before.
To finish off, I spoke with University of Nottingham’s Careers tea, about MyCareer. I often received emails about postgraduate placements and webinars they offered, so it was nice to put some faces to the emails. I hadn’t realised the wealth of services they had on offer, from CV and application feedback to interview support and online careers development courses! After our conversation I booked in for a careers progression chat with one of the advisers. Speaking to a professional about my desired career path, despite being unsure was incredibly helpful. I mentioned that I wanted to further develop my communication skills and they advised me to look out for paid writing opportunities offered by the University – that’s exactly how I came to writing these blogs!
Overall, attending Researcher Careers Week events, particularly the Networking Brunch, is highly recommended. It’s a great chance to get a feel for the huge range of opportunities available to you, grow your network, and hear about unique opportunities not available to you otherwise. Remember, it’s never too early to start thinking about your career. When I attended last year, I was many years away from graduating, but the advice and conversations I had encouraged me to gain further experience and begin to narrow down my career options.
Researcher Careers Week starts on Monday 15 May. Employers from 27 organisations will be on campus on Tuesday 16 May to discuss potential career openings with you.
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