One day a caterpillar met an inquisitive bug. The bug, who’d never seen a caterpillar before, asked ‘What sort of creature are you? What special powers do you have?’
The caterpillar reflected and said ‘Well, I’m good at crawling and I can eat a lot of leaves.’ This particular caterpillar was only thinking about its recent experience – what do I usually do? What have I done previously?
But we know that a caterpillar is capable of much, much more than just munching leaves.
We know that a caterpillar has the capacity to become a beautiful, gracious butterfly one day. Encoded in its DNA is the ability to metamorphose into something new and wonderful.
So don’t get too hung up on who or what you are today. This is just your most recent incarnation. Do spend time thinking about what can you become in the future. If I can do it – from a PhD in Medieval Studies to a project manager in banking – you can do it!
Since 2009 I’ve had the pleasure of getting out on the road, sharing the story of my own career change with audiences of researchers and academics. I’ve made a successful transition from a PhD in Medieval Studies, into a career in business, project management and consultancy. I love telling my story and helping PhDs with their own career thinking.
Let’s face it, it’s easy to get closeted away just doing your research, and not put parallel effort into your career planning during your PhD. But sometimes you need to get out of the library or the lab and take advantage of ‘hire education’ events on campus. What are some of the benefits of attending? To my mind they’re invaluable for:
Raising your awareness of careers paths outside of higher education
Showing you how it was done – bringing career change to life
Picking up tips on the individual steps of the career change process
Helping you discuss non-academic career options with your peers and supervisors
Remember, once you’ve graduated, you’ll have to pay for any further career support you need. So look out for speakers appearing on campus, and make the time to attend while they’re still accessible to you.
If you haven’t attended a live careers event before, read the 3 case studies below to learn more about what goes on. These examples are all taken from events I’ve spoken at during 2017. Please do drop me a note if you’re interested in booking me to speak to researchers at your university.
1. A careers workshop organised by your graduate school
On 8 February 2017 I was the guest of the Graduate School at Brunel University London, running a morning careers workshop for a mixed audience of PhDs and post-docs. In this workshop on ‘Opportunities and tools for researchers wishing to work outside of academia’, I covered the following topics in depth:
How to communicate your value to employers outside academia
Tools and resources for career changers
I got a lovely email the next day from the organiser, who said that she’d bumped into some of the attendees that morning and they were still talking about the workshop! So look out for careers events organised by your university careers service or graduate school.
2. A careers talk organised by your professional association
On 3 February 2017 I was the guest of the Irish Association of Professional Historians at the National Library in Dublin, speaking to an audience of historians about career paths outside of academia. Afterwards I held a careers clinic where I helped 12 of the attendees improve their CVs. I was so impressed by the calibre of these folks, many of whom were pursuing PhDs as well as having full time jobs elsewhere. If you belong to a professional association, why not ask them to put on a live careers event for members?
3. A careers conference organised by researchers
On 16 March 2017 I was a guest speaker at the Researching our Futures conference, which was organised by a group of researchers at the University of Newcastle. The organisers deserve huge credit for their initiative and the excellent line up of speakers they assembled. My talk was on ‘Promoting your skills as a researcher’, covering identifying the transferable skills you’re acquired as a researcher, and translating these skills into language employers can understand. We did some practical exercises based on these themes during my session.
If you’d like to get hold of the slides for my talk on ‘How to translate your skills into language employers can understand’, you can sign up for my email newsletter and I’ll send you a link to download the slide deck.