Guest blog written by Charlotte Criscuolo, PhD Cancer Sciences student
If you are finishing your postgraduate degree and looking for work, this is a blog for you! I am a PhD student studying Cancer Sciences and in the past few months I have been writing my thesis whilst applying for jobs. It’s been stressful but I have secured a role and I hope that my experiences can help you with your own job search.
As the first step, I identified what I wanted to do after I finished my PhD. I thought about what skills and values were important to me in employment, researched my options, and ultimately I decided that I wanted to return to industry as it fulfils many of my personal requirements: being in the lab, working in a team, and helping others.
Once I had decided what I wanted to do, I started looking for jobs. I found jobs through LinkedIn, recruiter pages and my personal network. The job I ultimately secured, I found through a recommendation in my network.
After finding roles that I was interested in, the next step was tailoring my CV. I started with the skills required for each role. During my PhD, I gained a lot of practical lab skills that translated into industry, as well as developing presentation skills from conferences and lab meetings. Working independently was something I had to do throughout my PhD and I developed teamwork skills by being a member of the North West Biotech Committee alongside my degree. Once I had a draft CV, I used the CV checker, CareerSet to get feedback and had CV review appointments with the Careers Service, which were both very helpful.
The application process for each job was similar. I submitted a cover letter and CV and, if successful, the next step was a telephone interview or an “informal discussion about the role”. For these, I prepared using the job description as guidance and wrote down examples of where I had used the required skills or had performed similar tasks.
The second stage were interviews that included a project presentation, technical discussion and HR interview. I prepared a presentation of my PhD work and practiced it in front of a colleague to get feedback. For technical interviews, I researched the company and their area of expertise, and then read papers and university notes on that field. For the HR sections, I used my previous examples and also prepared for general questions. Most of my final stage interviews were on Zoom, so I made sure to have a good computer set up, with a neutral background and a professional outfit. I heard back within a week that I had got my new position! I woke up to the best voicemail I had in a while!
If you are looking for a graduate job, my advice is to use the Careers Service to get feedback. It was so helpful for my CV and thanks to their advice, I got interviews for most of the jobs I applied for. Getting feedback on my presentations was also really helpful to make me stand out in the interview.
Don’t forget to use your personal connections too. If you see a job at a company you like and you know someone who works there, contact them and see if you can discuss the company, even if it is someone that you haven’t seen for a while. It’s a perfect way to grasp the company culture and sometimes, it can accelerate your application if they recommend you!
Finally, remember that you don’t have to continue with an application if you decide that it’s not right for you. I went to an interview for a company but it wasn’t right for me, so I withdrew from the application process. At that point, I had nothing organised for after my PhD, and I wasn’t sure I had made the right decision. However, now I am so glad I didn’t proceed. I feel a lot more optimistic about the job I ultimately secured.
Good luck and happy job hunting!
Remember that the Careers Service is here to help you as a student, including postgraduate students, and for up to two years after you finish your course. This includes access to career guidance appointments, vacancies, events and more on CareerConnect, and all of the on-demand services and resources on the Careers Service website.