Consider your parallel path

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At our career development workshop last week doctoral researchers shared their ideas and hopes for their careers alongside and beyond the doctorate. Some were wanting to pursue an academic career, some keen to explore options beyond academia, and others (no doubt like many of us) weren’t sure of their future career path.

We were encouraged to think about competition for roles in academia, which many are all too familiar with. And to consider the statistics of doctoral researchers going on to be employed in academia (approx. 40-50% in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; 30-40% across biological, biomedical, physical sciences and engineering *Vitae-What do researchers do? ).

The message was to consider your parallel path, to absolutely pursue an academic career if that’s your goal, but to also think about a parallel path beyond academia- as it’s perhaps risky not to. The researchers in the group were encouraged to start a digital career file and begin thinking about career development and a range of career paths from the early stages of your doctorate.

So what do you keep in this career file? Our careers pages for doctoral researchers were recommended as your starting point. There are several resources on this page to help you find career opportunities, optimise your CV, and keep up with the latest developments. Downloads such as the Career Development Toolkit for Researchers can be useful starting points for formulating an ongoing career strategy, or 10 Career Paths for PhDs beyond academia, or blogs such as onthefence for those who are not sure. Spend some time exploring these resources and bookmark/file them to return to later.

Recording those activities which all contribute to building your academic profile and show evidence of your skills development is also an important part of your career file. We talked about your outward facing public profile, starting with setting up your Sussex online profile. This allows people both within the University, and who you meet at conferences and external meetings, to find you online. You can use this online space to present yourself and your research, experience and achievements.

But we also considered your own personal file and keeping a note of all the activities you are involved in as a doctoral researcher, and there are many! This will really help when you come to CV building and applying for jobs, start a list in your career file, as it’s easy to forget when you are looking back over your doctorate. You will have spent much of your time pushing your thesis project forward, but much more besides…think about collecting examples of your everyday work as a doctoral researcher.

Activities might include

  • Teaching activities
  • Mentoring/supervision/tutoring students
  • Publications
  • Conference presentations
  • Grants and awards
  • Collaborations- partnerships, your professional network
  • Participation in committees
  • Organising meetings
  • Organising events, conferences, seminars
  • Participating in campus student life (student associations, student rep activities etc.)
  • Public engagement activities
  • Managing budgets, your project, your time, your resources…

These types of activities are all evidence of the skills valued by employers within and outside academia- examples of developing your interpersonal and leadership skills, project management and organisation skills, research and information management, self-management and professional practice, written and oral communication skills…and the list goes on…

Takeaways from the session- think about your parallel path, start your career file.

*Register on the Vitae site with your Sussex email address to access all resources

Helen Hampson
Researcher Development, Doctoral School