Thinking About Alternatives Outside Academia

If you attended the PhD Horizons conference earlier this week you might be thinking of trying a new direction outside of academia and academic research.

The following Tips provide a suggestion of how to get started identifying a new direction that’s right for you:

  1. Conduct a Skills Audit:Spending time thinking about what you are good at and what you enjoy doing on a daily basis. Ask colleagues and friends for suggestions what they think that you are good at too. Undertake a Skills Audit.
  2. Identify your skills and strengths:and think about those that you most enjoy using. What is important to carry forward into a new role? It may be useful to view the Micro workshop Values and Drivers to help explore what is important in a career and understanding your motivations and values. This will increase your self awareness.
  3. Take inspiration from other researchers:Look at Case Studies to get a sense what other roles researchers have commonly gone into. View the Career Case Studies section on the IAD Website (scroll to the bottom of the page for links to further case study banks).
  4. Make use of online resources:such as to research types of roles and job sectors in more detail. Think about how you might generate some job titles to investigate further. It could be useful to use the Prospects Planner to generate some ideas for you if you don’t have any.
  5. Undertake vacancy research:Look at vacancies in advance of the point in your plan when you will apply for real. Get a sense of what skills and experience is typically sort in different sectors and industries. This gives you time to further develop any skills areas that may be under represented on your CV. Stay open minded about what individual roles require and make use of online platforms such as Linkedin to research further.
  6. Talk to people:If you have a few roles in mind that seem highly appealing aim to develop your network of contacts further. Speak to people already doing the job. Ask questions like “What does a typical day consist of?”, “What do you enjoy most about your job?”, “Do you have any tips on where to look for vacancies in this field?” Read the IAD Researchers blog post on Networking.
  7. Lastly make your applications!Watch the Micro Workshop on Creating CV’s for use beyond Academia for hints and tips. Undertake a 1:1 Career Development Consultation with the Research Staff Careers Consultant in order to check that your applications are on the mark and also to discuss your career strategy. Remember if called for interview you can undertake a practice interview. Good luck with your direction!

This blog was written by Eleanor Hennige.  Eleanor is one the IAD’s Research Staff Careers Consultants, supporting fixed-term research staff at the University with their career planning and options.  In addition to running our 1:1 appointments, she also delivers our suite of career workshops, career discussion groups and works with Schools/Research Staff Societies on career specific events and workshops.  Eleanor works on a part-time basis (5 mornings a week) and can be contacted at

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