‘What jobs can I do with a degree in X?’ is a question many graduates ask. If you hold a vocational degree like law or medicine, then there’s an obvious corresponding profession … but what about other subjects in the arts and humanities? There are no departments of English, French or History in a bank or a cancer research charity for instance. Continue reading “‘What jobs can I do with my degree?’ – a practical exercise”
As a PhD or post-doc you get very used to thinking about yourself as a specialist within a specialism – for instance I studied within the Arts and Humanities Faculty, but focused on the Literature and Drama of Medieval England.
What many doctoral graduates don’t appreciate is that they’ve also acquired valuable transferable skills and knowledge which are highly sought after by today’s employers. In fact by undertaking a broad range of activities during your PhD, you develop over 20 transferable skills, making you a very attractive employee!
Let’s take a look at the four main skill areas that a well-rounded PhD student will have:
Organising meetings and events
Bidding for funding
Web, email, content creation and social media
Knowledge and information skills:
Teaching and training
Managing data and information
IT applications and programming languages
Capturing the transferable skills you have is a different way of thinking about your capabilities compared with say how many academic papers you’ve published. Yet as you start to think about yourself in this way, it can be surprisingly liberating and empowering!
In my experience of working with groups of PhD students, there is often a ‘light-bulb moment’ as they appreciate the fantastic portfolio of transferable skills they possess. It helps them to make a connection with the mainstream world of work and understand how they can market themselves to employers – as a capable generalist or as a professional ‘________’ (fill in the blank), rather than as an academic specialist. Of course, if your subject is relevant to the jobs you’re interested in, so much the better, but for many jobs your subject is less important than your transferable skills.
Further reading – transferable skills
- Transferable skills and storytelling is a fantastic post by Julie Gould on using storytelling examples to identify your transferable PhD skills.
- 20 Transferable Skills For Biotech, Biomed, and Biopharma Industries is a free ebook which you can download from the Cheeky Scientist website.
- What do you want to be when you grow up?! is a post I wrote about how your childhood dreams can inform your future careers plans.
- A PhD is a qualification, not an identity is a post I wrote about framing the PhD as a challenging qualification you attain, rather than as an identity you assume.
Many thanks to Dr Ioanna Iordanou for her helpful feedback on this post! Check out Ioanna’s own blog post on PhD skills for more information and analysis.
This page was updated in January 2017 with improved further reading links.
Are you familiar with the Twitter hashtag #withaPhD? This hashtag originated in a discussion between Jen Polk (of From PhD to Life fame) and me. We noticed that newly minted PhDs often refer to themselves as PhDs, rather than as people who have doctorates – have you done this yourself?
We wanted to get across the point that a PhD is a qualification you hold, rather than completely defining who you are. Hence the qualifier ‘with a PhD’. As I said in one of my tweets:
— Chris Humphrey (@chrishumphrey) March 2, 2015
In fact presenting yourself *as a professional with a PhD*, not solely *as a PhD*, is crucial when talking to employers outside of academia. Very few employers outside academia are looking to hire PhDs; but many employers are looking to hire researchers, analysts, consultants, project managers and product managers, who also happen to have a PhD. That’s you, by the way!
Here are some questions to get you thinking about the new you:
- How do you think others see you? As a grad student, as a PhD or as a researcher or other kind of professional? Ask some of your peers for their opinions.
- How do you see yourself – this person who’s undertaking the project/research job that’s leading to a doctoral qualification?
- Who will you become once you’ve completed your doctoral dissertation? How will you introduce yourself to an employer in the future?
I’d love to hear your answers to these questions … please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below, or else tweet me @chrishumphrey. For further guidance on rethinking your personal identity post-PhD, check out the following posts:
Applying for jobs outside academia – from PhD to fellow professional, by Chris
Preparing for life after the PhD: retrain your brain, by Chris
How to introduce yourself to employers outside academia, by Chris
This post was updated in March 2017, following changes to the ownership of the website withaphd.com (background here).