Pathways: What we learnt

pathways14LTI love Pathways, our annual PhD careers options mega-event – and it turns out I’m not the only one. Here’s a great guest post from Chris Manley, Senior Careers Consultant at Warwick University who visited Pathways this year, gratefully reproduced from The Careers Blog at Warwick.

Life after the PhD – by Chris Manley

The annual ‘PhD Pathways’ event at Manchester University attracts 500 delegates and dozens of speakers, all former PhDs. It covers both academic and non-academic careers across twenty different workshops.  I have recently taken up the reins of PGR lead within our careers team [at Warwick University], and decided to pop along to this year’s event to find out about life beyond the PhD…

There was far too much (engaging!) content to cover in a single blog post, and I don’t think I could possibly do justice to the scale of the event. Instead, I’ve summarised my experience – and thoughts – in the following Q&A:

What distinguishes those who find it easier to find work which satisfies them at the end of their studies?

They:

  • Explore and are curious
  • Connect – with each other, and with potential employers
  • Communicate
  • Reflect
  • Bounce back if things go wrong

What they don’t do is sit back and wait for success to happen.

Aside from their technical skills, do PhDs have skills which they don’t show?

Yes! Resilience (see above). Commitment. Writing to a high standard. Self-starters. Problem solvers. People who are willing to take responsibility. Flexibility and ability to think laterally. PhD students are more than the subject they are studying.

When PhD students go for roles outside academia, what are the potential tripwires?

  • (Perceived) Lack of business acumen
  • (Perceived) Lack of teamwork skills.
  • Failure to appreciate the need to prove yourself before you move on and up.

All is far from lost, however. If you have previous business experience which you can articulate (and re-frame if necessary) then you won’t fall foul of the “commercial or business awareness” requirement. Similarly PhD applicants who can anticipate concerns around team working and collaboration will find evidence to counteract this assumption. Don’t limit your horizons by thinking about your experience in narrow terms. Sometimes, it’s just a case of semantics. Yes, the two worlds may be divided by language, but there’s considerable overlap when it comes to skills and competencies – you just have to divorce yourself from an entrenched mindset.

There are a myriad examples of former PhDs whose rewards came not so much from the initial position they gained directly post-doctorate, but because they utilised their skills and capabilities within the professional workplace to good effect, persuading employers to give them additional projects, promotions and other opportunities for career development. As a PhD graduate you may have to start at a fairly modest level in the non-academic environment (or certainly more modest than you might hope after three years’ hard slog) but once ensconced in the workplace, progression and promotion can happen at a rapid rate.

pathwaysconsultancy

Does the corporate world have a forced positivity which doesn’t exist in academia?

Answer: Yes! In a sense. Managers are not paid to not know, whereas not knowing is the starting point for a PhD and academic research. Shareholders want as close to certainty as possible, not the opposite! But seeing how your skills (and knowledge) can make a clear and demonstrable contribution to the success and profitability of an organisation may make the corporate world an attractive option. And for those seeking a stimulating environment, there’s the chance to use your intellectual agility and resourcefulness to solve new problems and learn new skills. (Although it wasn’t mentioned specifically, the fact that there are far more PhD students than academic positions was an additional reason to be reassured by the many contributors who absolutely loved the roles they found themselves in)

How do I best market my skills?

Story-telling, including telling stories about (and to make sense of) ourselves, is something we all do – so marketing yourself should be about telling your story in a powerful and compelling manner. Tell your story in a way which is interesting to your intended audience, and in a way which reflects the person you want to be. Marketing is about authentic communication, not contrived superficiality.  ‘Making connections’ and ‘Sharing Stories’ are in fact close – arguably more satisfying – synonyms to marketing. As with any story, it’s important to find a clear narrative arc and use this to hook and engage your audience.

So – a question for you – what story are you going to tell?

World Bank – Young Professionals Programme talk

worldbankIn case you missed the reference in the Pathways post, we’re delighted to have Antonieta Podesta Mevius coming to the University this Friday, 6th June, to talk about recruitment into the World Bank Young Professionals Programme.

The talk and this programme are aimed at PhDs, and at Masters with at least 3 years relevant experience.

Here’s what Antonieta has to say:

We would like to invite you to a presentation on the World Bank Group activities followed by an overview of the Young Professionals Program and other employment opportunities.

The Young Professionals Program is a premier global recruitment program and is a unique opportunity for young people who have both a passion and talent  for international development.

The Program is designed for highly qualified and motivated individuals skilled in areas relevant to the World Bank’s Operations such as:  economics, finance, education, public health, social sciences, engineering, urban planning, and natural resource management.

The Bank offers a number of unique programs that provide learning, staffing and capacity building opportunities for junior and mid-career professionals to experience first-hand what working at the World Bank is like. Learn more about the many opportunities offered at the World Bank at this event.

When and where

Her presentation will take place at 11am in Renold Building, Lecture Theatre C9 (no registration required).

She will also be taking part in Pathways (for UoM PhDs, registration required) and will be available during the morning for informal discussions between 9.30-11 and over lunch from 12-2 – though as she’s getting off a plane at 8am, she will need some breaks! If you want to speak to her directly about the YPP programme, please be flexible about timing.

Important Advice

worldbankeventIf you want to talk to Antonieta directly, do make sure you have read the information on the website about the YPP and the World Bank thoroughly.

It really doesn’t impress recruiters if you show you haven’t bothered to read the stuff they’ve already written for you! Plus, it wastes good time when you could be getting real inside info to help your applications.

(This applies to talking to any recruiter at a recruitment event or fair)

Pathways: The Programme is announced …

It’s almost upon us – our annual PhD career options event, Pathways 2014 takes place on Friday 6th June, in the Renold Building (register on C floor concourse).

It’s free, and open to all University of Manchester current PhDs and research staff.

The event gives you the chance to hear from people who’ve already got their PhDs, and in many cases have been post-docs, and find out what happened next.

Late addition: Antonieta Podesta Mevius, a recruiter from the World Bank, is coming to Pathways, and wants to talk to PhDs about their Young Professionals Programme.
Meet her on the concourse or at our employer panel in the afternoon.

renoldpathwaysconcourseWhy attend?

Panellists include academics, people who use their research background outside academia and people who are now doing something slightly – or completely – different.

They’ve all got real life stories to tell about what worked, why they chose their path or what they would do differently if they could go back in time.

Most importantly, they can give you an insight into how PhDs like you negotiate the tricky transition from research student to whatever comes next.

What happens when?

The event runs from 9-4pm but you can attend for as much (or as little) of it as you want. If you haven’t yet registered, please register here (so we know how many lunches to cater for!)

The 9am plenary sets the scene and then you’ve got some time to read the profiles and figure out which sessions to go to, as they start at 10am sharp.

The programme is always fluid until the last minute, as we continue to add panellists and shuffle things around, but it looks like we’re sorted now so here’s the panel timetable to download (pdf)

What will the sessions cover?

We’ve learnt that our PhDs get most out of sessions which address a theme, rather than details about a specific job, so there should be something for everyone, whether or not your preferred job or specific research discipline is represented:

Academic roles for…..
Our panels comprise those who’ve pursued their careers within an academic context including those who have research roles and teaching positions, at all stages of progression.
Sessions for each faculty

Broadening your horizons – working overseas
Panellists will talk about their experiences of pursuing careers in different countries, working cultures/environments and the advantages and disadvantages in comparison with working in the UK.
Relevant to all disciplines

Commercialising research, entrepreneurship or starting a business
If you already have a business idea or simply an entrepreneurial spirit and want to find out more, this panel will discuss the processes and advantages of turning your research into something profitable.
Relevant to Engineering & Physical Sciences; Medical & Human Sciences

I’ve been a postdoc – here’s my story
Our panel will talk about their experiences of working in Postdoctoral roles – the highs and the lows.
Relevant to all disciplines

I’ve done things that aren’t related to my PhD – so can you
Whether they planned to or simply have found themselves taking a ‘scenic’ career path, our panellists will talk about the positions they have held which are not related to their specific discipline of study.  A session for anyone who wants to change direction or simply wishes to find out what’s possible with any PhD.
Relevant to all disciplines

It’s OK to change your mind
Very few people have a job for life these days. Moving between organisations, roles and sectors is increasingly common. It is possible to change your mind no matter where you are on your career journey. If you’re feeling trapped, confused about where to go next or just want to see what’s possible, come and listen to the positive stories our panel has to share about trying new things.
Relevant to all disciplines

Managing a Portfolio Career
Portfolio Careers are becoming increasingly popular –  where a normal working week comprises balancing a variety of part-time roles, sometimes related and sometimes completely different. Our panel will discuss how to forge a Portfolio Career which could enable you to pursue a variety of passions, use a range of skills and gain expertise in multiple areas.  They will also consider how they manage their time and how they switch between roles.
Relevant to all disciplines

Should I stay or should I go? Options for international students who wish to work in the UK after their studies
Our panellists have all chosen to remain in the UK since finishing their PhDs. They will talk about the challenges, the opportunities and compare what working in the UK is really like.
Relevant to all disciplines

What are the opportunities to use my expertise to work as a Consultant?
With enhanced skills and knowledge in a specific field, there will be many opportunities available to you to work as a Consultant in the future.  Our panel will discuss the various Consultancy-related roles they have undertaken.
Relevant to all disciplines

What can I do with a PhD in Humanities/Engineering & Physical, Human, Life or Medical Sciences? More things you can do with a PhD in Engineering & Physical Sciences
We’ve brought together panellists who are connected by discipline area (EPS/Humanities/MHS/LS) but who’ve followed a range of different career pathways to give you just a flavour of the options available to you.

What do recruiters and employers look for in PhD applicants?
From CVs and applications through to job interviews, what are recruiters looking for when they are assessing PhD candidates?  We have invited panellists with lots of collective experience of hiring PhDs who can give honest insights and share their tips and advice on how you can stand out from other applicants.
Relevant to all disciplines

Which is better – industry or academia?
Our panels will compare and contrast their experiences of working inside and outside Universitie. Which have they enjoyed more? What are the benefits that each can offer? How have they moved between the two areas?  Relevant to all disciplines

You don’t have to be an academic to work in a university
Enjoy being part of a University environment but not sure you want to pursue an academic, research or teaching career?  Have you ever thought about the wide range of non-academic jobs within universities?  Come along and find out more.
Relevant to all disciplines

You don’t just have to work in academia to be a researcher
What are the opportunities to continue a research career outside Universities?  How do these roles differ? Where do you find them and how do you get them?
Relevant to all disciplines

Marketing your skills and your PhD
Our final panel event – showing you how to go out and get all those roles which have grabbed your attention throughout the day.
Relevant to all disciplines

Environment, International Development or Media – Events coming up

This semester, our events are targeted at those really “tough to get into” careers – environmental work, international development and broadcasting and journalism.

These careers are so popular that, unfortunately, employers have no need to turn up to careers fairs, trying to tempt you to apply to them – so you won’t see them at our normal recruitment events. They can afford to sit back and wait for you to come to them.

That means you’ve got to be resourceful, to:Journalism event

  • search out the opportunities yourself
  • make sure you’ve got up-to-date information about careers in these areas
  • get great volunteer experience to make you stand out amongst all those other postgrads and undergrads who are desperate to get into these careers.

Luckily, we make it just that bit easier for you by inviting our contacts, alumni, friends, whoever we can get frankly, to give up their time to talk to you about how they made the journey to a full-time career in these sought after sectors.

They won’t be offering jobs, but they will be offering their own personal insights and tips on what they had to do to make it.

Getting into International Development
Wednesday 12th March, 1-5pm, Lecture Theatre B, Roscoe Building – includes talks from international development professionals from Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), Mines Advisory Group (MAG), the British Red Cross, Retrak, CAFOD, Merlin, the British Council and The Gold Foundation, plus the chance for some networking to find out how you can make it in this career.

Careers in the Environmental Sector
Wednesday 19th March, 1-5pm, Lecture Theatre B, Roscoe Building – includes presentations, panels and networking with professionals working in both technical and non-technical disciplines

Insight into Broadcasting and Journalism
Monday, 7th April, 9-5pm, University of Manchester – as well as getting to talk to media professionals (we’ve had all the stars, y’know – even the god-like being that is Gordon Burns, no less), this is a day when you also get the chance to put your skills into practice with some practical news reporting.

Register now through the links above to ensure you get your place.

If you have any interest in these areas, don’t miss out on the chance to attend these events – this is your one chance in the year to get up close and personal with people who’ve made it in your ideal career.

Mentors available for postgraduates

mentoring-altblogpicThere’s just over 24 hours until the application deadline for our careers mentoring programme, Manchester Gold. You’ve got until 5pm tomorrow, Wednesday 26 February to get your application in!

The programme is open to postgraduates as well as undergraduate students so you can apply to be matched with a mentor who is working in your chosen industry or even your dream job. It’s your chance to speak to someone who is currently working in your chosen area and to find out from them how you can succeed.

We have a specialist strand for spring which is especially for doctoral researchers. There are a number of mentors on this strand who are looking to work with doctoral researchers and you can find a list of the mentors on the strand on our website – in the ‘how to apply’ section.

You’ll also find information about how to apply on our website. It’s quite a quick process via your CareersLink account. There’s only one question to answer so if you’re interested, why not have a look and apply today?

UN Virtual Careers Fair

Following on from the info on EU internships, we’ve just been told about a UN Virtual Careers Fair. I don’t normally just reproduce info sent to us, but this one’s too good to miss:

UNcareers

The second Virtual Careers Fair will be held on 10 December 2013. The following international organizations will participate: The United Nations Secretariat (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPs) and the European Personnel Selection Office (EU Careers).

For 24 hours, you will be able to pose questions to knowledgeable staff in these organizations about different careers opportunities. You will also be able to watch videos describing the participating organizations as well as the application process, competitive examinations and competency-based interviews.

To participate no registration is necessary. Please log on to http://careerfair.un.org on 10 December (ICT)/(CET)/(EST).

Please note that no CVs or applications will be accepted as the Fair is for information purposes.

If you want to know when that is, try this link to a time converter (handy website if you have to communicate across time zones).

The link they give is only for the fair, so if you want to know more about careers with the UN, have a look at their very informative website, UN Careers, including info on the Young Professionals Programme, Internship Programme and Volunteer Programme, which are likely to be the ones to check out for any of you without extensive experience.

EU Internships

eucareerspicAs I’ve been looking at internships today, thought some of you might like a summary of internships (they call them Traineeships) offered by various European Union bodies. There are far more EU bodies than I’d ever imagined (34 on this list of internships!), including many which I know would appeal to postgrads from a wide range of disciplines, including science and engineering, as well as social science and language postgrads.

There is an EU Careers site with lots of useful info on different roles and levels. However, I did end up going round in circles looking for details of any current vacancies on the Traineeships page.

Finally I realised that you had to look at the 2 page pdf “Quick Guide to EU Traineeships” to find clickable links to all the different institutions and agencies which had details of Traineeships on their own websites.

The document does have a handy list of who recruits when for the main institutions, ie:

  • European Commission
  • European Parliament
  • European External Action Service
  • European Council
  • Court of Justice
  • Court of Auditors
  • Economic and Social Committee
  • Committee of the Regions
  • European Ombudsman
  • European Central Bank
  • European Data Protection Supervisor

It also gets you to the right pages to find out about traineeships at 23 other EU agencies and bodies, where many of the non-policy/admin/language traineeships are – something for lots of postgrad specialists there.

There do seem to be quite a few with closing dates of 1 December, so don’t put this off or you may have to wait another year for your ideal internship.

  • European Investment Bank
  • European Law Enforcement Agency
  • The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA)
  • Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market
  • European Joint Undertaking for ITER and the Development of Fusion Energy (Fusion for Energy)
  • The European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union
  • EMCDDA, European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction
  • European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training
  • European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC)
  • European Training Foundation
  • The European Institute for Gender Equality
  • European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound)
  • ECHA – European Chemical Agency
  • European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights
  • European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
  • The European Union’s Judicial Cooperation Unit (EUROJUST)
  • European Aviation Safety Agency
  • Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union
  • European Food Safety Authority
  • Joint Research Centre
  • European Medicines Agency
  • European Maritime Safety Agency
  • European Railway Agency

I rather fancy the European Chemical Agency in Helsinki – luckily the working language is English, as my Finnish only stretches to “Moomin”. However, be aware that you will normally need to offer another of the official EU languages in addition to English ie French or German.

eutraineeships1

Click on the image to get a pdf with clickable links

Internships – your rights

moneyIf you read the press, you might assume that you just have to accept being unpaid if you want to do an internship – not so!

Most of the media focus is on topics that really interest journalists – the media, politics and the creative sector. This is where a culture of unpaid interships seems to be rife (and frankly, it’s always been like this – though that’s not to excuse it).

However, for most other types of work, it’s always been the norm to pay for work done, whether you’re a student, recent graduate or experienced professional.

The exceptions are if the internship is an integral part of your university programme (though most industrial placements are paid), or if it’s a short “insight” type of internship, where you get to see what an industry is like, but aren’t expected to be a normal productive worker. Up to a couple of weeks is fine for one of these insight internships, but much longer is pushing it.

Additionally, you wouldn’t normally expect to get paid by many voluntary organisations for short periods of work, though even in the charity sector, if you’re expected to work significant hours, you should expect to be paid or receive expenses as a minimum.

Want to know more?

This excellent short video from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and Channel 4, makes it clear what your rights are and how to find out more if you feel you are being (or have been) exploited.

Thanks to Tristram Hooley, University of Derby, for bringing this video to my attention (through Twitter, of course!)

“I don’t know what I want to do”

It’s probably the most common phrase we hear at the Careers Service, and something we’re more than happy to help you with, but …

The Big Careers Secret
A careers adviser can’t tell you which job you should do

The idea of a careers adviser being able to pick out the right job for you harks back to the days of a limited number of clearly defined “suitable roles” for a graduate – teacher, civil servant, doctor, lawyer, engineer, chemist. It also dates back to a time when students were prepared to follow a conventional career path, with the promise of a pension at the end of a long, predictable career.

Real students in the University of Manchester Students Union ... I couldn't believe it either!!!Now there are thousands of niche or specialist jobs to choose from, but you don’t expect to stay in one job or with one employer for very long. No-one can know about all those jobs, neither a careers adviser, nor you.

So, how do you choose?

lightbulbIf you haven’t had that “lightbulb moment” where your ideal career revealed itself to you, the temptation is to wait for inspiration, or think you can’t do anything to progress your career.

I’d suggest that a better approach is to:

  • Find a job which is a reasonable starting point – it doesn’t have to be perfect, just something you’re going to learn from and you’ve got the basic requirements for.
  • Learn from the experience – what do you enjoy, what do you dislike?
  • Pick up some skills and achievements along the way – get some good material to add to your CV.
  • Then, find another job which is closer to what you now know you want.

The grand experiment

Treat your career like a grand experiment, constantly testing out your theory of what you might want to do or might be good at, observe the outcome of any jobs you have a go at, refine the experiment and try again.

I can’t claim ownership of this “grand experiment” idea – it’s included in a great blog post from Nathaniel Koloc in the Harvard Business Review called Build a Career Worth Having.

However, it really resonated with me, probably because it matches my own meandering approach:

  • Try a career, find out what’s good/bad about it, step sideways into something else, and repeat until the lightbulb does suddenly go on.

(I really did have that sudden revelation that everything was leading me to becoming a careers adviser – but it’s a long story!)

Start with what you know, and build on it

One simple way to make a quick start is to create two lists

What you“Do want” and “Don’t want” in your career

You don’t have to add specific careers to your lists, although straight away, you can probably add lots of careers you don’t fancy to your “Don’t want” list.

You could add ideas about

  • work environment – outdoors, office, lab …
  • skills used – communicating, planning, creativity, teamworking …
  • location
  • working conditions – hours, pay …
  • purpose – helping others, inventing new products or services, organising people, creating wealth …

and whatever else is important to you for your future life.

pathways2012Whenever you hear or read about a type of career (a post/graduate profile on the web, an employer or alumni presentation, talking to a family friend about the work they do), add to your lists, until you start to build up a real picture of what you want from a career.

You still won’t have a job title, but now when you see a job ad or read about a career, you can review your list and see if it matches more of your “Do want” list than your “Don’t want” list. You can also judge whether you’re prepared to compromise on the rest.

This can give you more confidence that a job might be a good match for you.

It can also avoid you getting lured into a career which sounds great or which impresses your friends, but which is frankly unsuited to what you really want out of life.

Further support

There are lots of other ways to sneak up on your ideal career. If you want to explore this in more detail, have a look at our other online resources:

And, of course, you can always come and talk to a careers adviser. We’ll be very happy to help you find the right questions to ask yourself and others, can probably point you in the direction of resources which can help you – but don’t be disappointed if we can’t guess the ideal career for you.

Should I apply now, or wait?

The main recruitment fairs have been and gone (just the Postgrad Study Fair on 20th November and the Law Fair on 19th November still to go), the employer campus events are starting to thin out, and the whole “Get your career together NOW!” frenzy is calming down a bit.

What if you haven’t done anything yet?

  • Should you still try and apply for jobs right now, to have something lined up for next autumn?
  • Should you just wait and start to look next summer, because all the good jobs will surely have gone by now?

Well, I wondered that too, so I had a look at what we’re currently advertising on CareersLink to find out.

Last week, there were 850 ads for full-time jobs on CareersLink. Of those:

  • 396 ads were for jobs starting next summer or autumn
  • 454 ads were for jobs starting now, or soon. This also includes all the jobs where recruitment is “ongoing”.

So, lots of jobs are still being advertised for next autumn start dates.
If you want to get ahead, there is still time to apply for these “graduate schemes”.

But what if you want to wait? Well, there’s one more bit of info you need – who’s recruiting when?

autumnstartgraphThis shows the size of the organisations who are recruiting right now for jobs starting next summer/autumn.

  • “Small” = under 250 employees
  • “Large” = 250+ employees

and there are a few where it’s not clear (as these organisations aren’t big household or industrial names, they’re more likely to be small than large).

As you can see, a large majority of these “start next year” jobs are for large organisations, including a lot of the ones you’ve heard of. Few small organisations are going to recruit so far in advance.

immediatestartgraphThis the picture for ads for an immediate start date, or for jobs which start before next summer. There are still some large well-known recruiters advertising for immediate start jobs, including some, like Shell, who advertise their recruitment as being “ongoing”, all year round.

However, most jobs are working for small organisations (the majority of these are organisations with fewer than 50 people).

Many of these jobs with smaller organisations are fantastic, working with specialist or niche employers, where you’ll get to see more of what goes on in the whole organisation. You’re also less likely to be in some sort of “training scheme” – you’ll be doing a job from day 1.

So, if you’re in your final year and thinking about whether to apply now or leave it until this time next year, you need to ask yourself:

  • Do I want to work for a large well-known employer, possibly on a graduate scheme?
    If so, you’ve a far better chance if you apply now.
    .
  • Am I aiming at starting with a smaller employer, in a specific job?
    If so, you can probably afford to wait until closer to when you want to start work – but don’t miss out on the 50 or so smaller recruiters who are also advertising a year in advance.
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