How PhD holders can find and secure an IT job – interview

I was recently interviewed about how doctoral graduates can find a good job in the IT and tech sector. Certainly, my first job after leaving academia was with a tech start-up, developing e-learning courses from classroom-based courses. Have you considered IT and tech as a profession after your PhD? 

Here’s a snippet from my interview:

‘For PhD holders who are trying to find work in the IT or tech sector, is their transition typically easier or harder than PhDs who are trying to find work in other industries? 

Doctoral graduates in computer science are certainly highly sought after by companies who explicitly advertise for candidates holding this qualification, so their transition is easier. That said, tech companies know it takes more than just programmers and engineers to make a successful business. They also need to recruit people like:

  • Sales staff – who understand the technical and scientific background to the products they’re selling 
  • Writers and editors – who can create engaging content for a website or app
  • Project managers – who can oversee the development of new products and services

Doctoral graduates are well-qualified for all of these roles, making IT and the tech sector one of the more attractive options for researchers looking for work in other industries.’

You can read the full interview about How PhD Holders Can Find and Secure an IT Job over on GDH Consulting’s blog. Enjoy! If you have a question about working in the IT and tech sector, please leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer.

Boost your job prospects by attending campus careers events for PhDs

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 this year (can you believe it, I’m wearing the same blue shirt in every picture?!). 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 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:

  • Identifying your transferable skills
  • Having a clear focus for your career change
  • 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 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 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.

From PhD to PMP: training and support in Ireland

Training-and-support-in-Ireland-Meadhbh-Hand

In our latest guest post, Meadhbh Hand explains how researchers can get access to training courses, support services and hands-on experience in Ireland – very helpful when making your transition out of academia. Meadhbh runs a Dublin-based meetup group for doctoral graduates seeking non-academic jobs.

After completing my PhD I decided to return to the career I had before I began it, namely project management. I soon discovered that the job market had changed a lot in the intervening four years and employers, in Ireland at least, seem hung up on certifications like PRINCE2 and PMP (Project Management Professional). Fortunately the Irish government has a number of free courses available for jobseekers through skillnets.ie. Funded by the National Training Fund through the Department of Education and Skills they offer a variety of courses to jobseekers and employers. They fund groups of training networks for shared sectors and regions to subsidise training courses for employers and eligible unemployed people.

Through Skillnets over the past two years I have accessed a number of short-term courses including PMP Exam preparation, Digital Marketing Skills, Scrum Master and Train the Trainer. Because the courses are offered to employers as well jobseekers it is an opportunity to network with non-academic employees. This can lead to slightly surreal moments like being in a room full of vets for the Train the Trainer course – I learned almost as much about equine vaccination schedules and how to test cattle for mastitis as I did about training. Occasionally places for courses become available to jobseekers at short notice. I attended a half-day’s training on Creative Problem Solving (for the Aviation and Aerospace Training Network) after finding out about it the day before. I try not to think about the fact that no one from the Aviation industry turned up for the course when I’m on a plane waiting to take off at Dublin Airport.

Most of the Skillnets courses are short, from a half-day to three or four days in total although the Digital Marketing Skills course was longer at two nights a week for 12 weeks. There are a huge variety of courses available throughout Ireland including Presentation Skills, Lean Sigma, Advanced Excel and Animation. In most cases you can book directly onto the course without contacting your social welfare office, but check the website first just in case. If you do decide to go for the PMP exam you should be aware that you will have to pay the exam fee, at $555 for non-members of the Project Management Institute it’s not cheap.

In addition to the Skillnets courses, there are plenty of courses available through Solas (previously known as Fás). Some of these are available online, for example the European Computer Driving Licence course, while others are offered in training centres with other jobseekers. I took the PRINCE2 Practitioner course, one day per week over five weeks, with the foundation level exam in week 3 and practitioner exam on the final day. Both of the exams are multiple choice, the practitioner one is an open book exam. I didn’t find them too tough although some of the people on the course failed the exam. You are given another chance to take the exam if you do fail it first time. The Solas website is not as easy to navigate as the Skillnets one and you need to get referred by your local social welfare office to access the courses.

If you want to use some of your transferable skills in a positive way while job-seeking, then putting a profile on Boardmatchireland.ie is worthwhile. The website is a matchmaking service for non-profits and charities seeking new board members. And while the board roles are unpaid they will give you a chance to network and to contribute your talents to a deserving cause. You can search for an opportunity based on your interests, location and the expertise you have to offer. The time commitment varies depending on the organisation, more established charities tend have board meetings less frequently. Through Boardmatch I joined a non-profit which is in a start up phase with monthly board meetings. I’ve applied my project management training to develop project plans for the organisation and I’m enjoying getting to know the other board members who have very different professional backgrounds to mine.

Finally, if you are considering self-employment as a career option there is plenty of support available. Bank of Ireland Workbench branches (currently located in Trinity College, Grand Canal Dock, Montrose, Limerick and Galway) offer hot desks with free WiFi for start-ups. Depending on the branch they may also host events for your organisation and have a meeting room available for use, free of charge. Other practical support is also available through Local Enterprise Offices which regularly run information sessions and start your own business courses. They arrange mentoring to match newly self-employed people with established business people, there is a nominal charge for this service. If you are based in Ireland and would like to join a group of PhDs who are transitioning to non-academic jobs you can find us on meetup.com.

Meadhbh Hand holds a PhD from Trinity College Dublin and recently qualified as a PMP certified Project Manager.