PhD Careers: Finding a job amidst a global pandemic

Worried about whether it’s possible to find a job for PhDs in these tricky times? We regularly see PhDs for practice interviews so we know that finding a job in a pandemic is possible.

Here’s just one example of a recent PhD job hunting success, from Dr Hannah Thurgur:

Lockdown 1.0 was announced just as the mammoth task of writing my neuroscience PhD thesis was beginning. I spent the next four months writing, reading, writing, editing, reading and more editing before submitting at the end of July.

The need to find a job was fast approaching and I wanted to balance job hunting alongside writing. Although my love for the lab had faded, my passion for neuroscience was still burning strong.

I was fortunate in getting an Executive Officer position at the British Neuroscience Association (BNA), which is a membership organisation representing neuroscientists and neuroscience research in the UK. I work 3.5 days at the BNA and each day is different – it varies from membership and event management, to running a new mentoring programme and keeping on top of social media.

The rest of the week, I volunteer as an Honorary Research Assistant at Drug Science, a UK-based drugs advisory committee.

In both roles, I work with two fantastic teams and absolutely love it! Here are some tips on job searching I’d like to share:

  1. Don’t be too hard on yourself! Getting a job during a global pandemic is not the same playing field as pre-COVID. It may take longer or you might find yourself branching out into new fields. Looking outside of academia doesn’t mean you have to stay out of it forever, although you may find you actually prefer other forms of research or working environments! 
  2. Make the most of the Careers Service for CV and cover letter advice. It’s really helpful to talk through both with an expert and gets you to understand how to portray your skill set better.
  3. Keep an eye out on Twitter. Follow any charities, organisations or businesses you’re interested in working for. This is how I found my current roles!
  4. Explore job share roles or part-time positions. If your personal circumstances facilitate the option to take up part-time positions, then you can fill the other days with another job or volunteering. Alternatively, search for maternity leave positions as these can be a good foot in the door. 
  5. Apply for the job even if you don’t match everything on the list! Don’t let the niggle in your confidence persuade you not to apply, because let’s face it someone has to get the job.

One of Hannah’s current activities is helping to organise the BNA2021 International Festival of Neuroscience taking place online from the 12-15 April. 

Don’t miss your chance to connect, learn, advance your career, share & enjoy research. Over 250 speakers from 20 countries, as well as ten fantastic Festival headliners! Plus interactive posters, AI-powered networking, careers, workshops, special sessions. BNA2021 is the meeting for all neuroscientists everywhere, including undergraduates and postgraduates! 

Dr Hannah Thurgur

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