Why you need to start exploring future career steps during your PhD

Author
Els - AcademicTransfer
Published
21 Oct ’21

Do you think about life after your PhD, in terms of career perspective? Probably not. You live now, the future seems miles away. All your blood, sweat and tears go into writing your thesis. It doesn’t feel like you have any headspace left.

But did you know that 70% of the PhD graduates don’t continue doing research in academia? As a PhD graduate you are a versatile researcher with a transferable skillset that is very valuable in other jobs and sectors too. Your future in academia is an uncertain one, due to high competition. If you can’t or don't want to stay, you will need to explore other options. It is worthwhile to start exploring future career steps at an early stage. In this blog I will show you why.

1. It saves stress, time and money

Knowing what your next career step will be takes time. You can’t start this self-searching process in the final months of your PhD trajectory. That is probably the most stressful period, and you can only think of finishing and defending your thesis. If you start exploring career options after your PhD graduation, the chances are high that you won’t get a job right away. It often takes months to know what you want and how to get there. My advice is to explore career opportunities during the whole PhD trajectory. It not only saves you stress and time, but in the end also some months without income.

2. Networking is easier

During your PhD trajectory you will meet a lot of people. Not only from your research group or university, but also from other research institutes, external partners, maybe even business companies. One of these contacts might lead you to your next career step! Be aware of this and be curious about other people's career steps. Listen to their stories and figure out what appeals to you the most. Try to gather all the information you need to take the next career step. This takes time too. Start attending conferences or seminars for example. Networking is easier when you are in a working setting, during your PhD trajectory, than in an unemployed situation afterwards. Read more on networking for academics here!

3. Become aware & train your soft skills

Do you know what you’re good at, what your strengths are? You probably have an expertise on a very specific subject. Often PhD candidates forget what other, more softer, skills you train during your PhD trajectory. Being aware of your soft skills is beneficial for your future career in or outside academia. Start thinking of your transferable skill set, and how they can be used in other domains. This is also good preparation for job interviews.

And did you know that university career offices often offer training and courses for PhD students? If you feel you need help with training your networking skills for example or if you are working on an innovative idea that you would like to market, your university offers counselling and career services as well.

Discover your future career path on AcademicsConnected

AcademicTransfer can also support you with exploring your career steps. We developed three new tools for PhD students to plan your career and explore possibilities. You can start using these tools on our new career platform AcademicsConnected.

On AcademicsConnected you can orientate yourself on six different career journeys for PhD’s, like academia, universities of applied sciences, industry, not-for-profit, government and startup. You can read personal stories from peers who already took the next step and you get tips on how to get there. You can also take a self-assessment and undertake and administrate actual career steps.

The services are free to use, you only need to have an account. Sign up for free, and take control of your own career planning!

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