One PhD, No Work Experience | Furaha Asani

phd life blog

Something happens to your ego after you not only receive rejection emails for paying posts you have applied for, but from a volunteering post as well. Sigh. This is my current plight, and that of many other PhD students I’m sure.

It had recently occurred to me that while I was busy being a perpetual student (3 years BSc, 1BSc Hons, 2 years MSc, & PhD, 2.5 more years to go), people whom I had graduated from high school with were gathering actual real life work experience. Of course there could potentially be many roles for which I would be chosen over this working posse, however, in many other cases the favour would swing their way. I mean what I am saying, which is basically this: aside from experience as a laboratory demonstrator for less than three years during my previous studies, I have no work experience at all. Zilch. And this scares me.

Let’s get real for a moment. How much time do we PhD students have to work part time jobs? Particularly those working at odd hours, hoping and praying that their cell cultures don’t die so they can perform those infamous time optimisation experiments. At my university, and many others I’d imagine, they do a pretty good job of alerting postgraduates to all opportunities available for a whole range of university jobs we are eligible for. So I am in no way blaming my lack of experience on them. The fact is just that thousands of us are in the same predicament, and applying for the same jobs. Obviously the most suitable candidates are chosen. This leaves the rest of us attending as many workshops and training sessions as we can to improve our CV.

Volunteering is a wonderful opportunity to simultaneously give help where it is truly needed, whilst gaining some form of work experience. Which is why I was so upset to receive the email informing me that ‘on this occasion my application was unsuccessful’.

I’ve spent so much time thinking about all the finances that have been invested in my studies over the years, and even more time building up anxiety over how to increase my employability once I am finally through with my PhD. Not everyone will remain in academia, and these thoughts will most likely become relevant to those people towards the end of their degrees. So what do we do? I am here to categorically tell you that I do not have the answer, unfortunately. What I do have though, is a particular set of skills (wait a minute, did I just steal that line from ‘Taken’?)

Anyway, what I have been advised to do is to keep applying for every job that I am eligible for (and can fit into my current schedule). Simple really. I have been told time and time again that it is all about resilience. I’ve also been advised to use my time wisely, rather than worrying and peeling my collection ‘Raspberry Pink’ off my nails. So I will keep attending seminars and workshops that help me grow professionally and personally. Whilst my lack of work experience is still a huge concern of mine, my PhD remains my current top priority, and I will do it to the best of my abilities. Here’s to hoping that I (and many others) get an affirmative response next time.


Guest Blogger ~ Furaha Asani 

FurahaFuraha is currently a second year PhD student at the department of Infection and Immunity, University of Sheffield. Having received her MSc in Biochemistry, her current research focuses on investigating subtle immune defects in patients at risk of pneumococcal disease. In her spare time she enjoys writing blog articles, going to the cinema by herself, and discovering quaint cafes with her friends. She insists on looking smart at all times (or so she hopes)!



Photo Credit: Quinn Dumbrowski / CreativeCommons & Ryan Hyde/Creative Commons

14 thoughts on “One PhD, No Work Experience | Furaha Asani

  1. “So what do we do? I am here to categorically tell you that I do not have the answer, unfortunately. What I do have though, is a particular set of skills (wait a minute, did I just steal that line from ‘Taken’?)”

    That is what really counts – that you have the skills. When that call comes through, I am convinced, from my interaction with you, you’ll put a real dent into the system.

    Keep going!

    1. Thank you Mose of life! That is my biggest desire, to leave a positive mark on my generation in whatever way I can 🙂

  2. Wow, this is an insightful blog. I didn’t know that PhD students faced such challenges.
    Well, like in every aspect of life, there are challenges.
    Keep the positive spirit,and trust ungodly,and you will overcome.
    Best wishes, Furaha

    1. Many thanks Dorcas 🙂 There are so many challenges we do face throughout our studies and like you said, indeed life in general

  3. Wau, all this time I thought im the only Ph.D candidate going through this challenge. It drained me so much that I paused on my research until my supervisor gave me this same pep talk..keep going, when the time is right, it shall find you keeping on..hmm..thanks for sharing that!

    1. You are welcome Stellah! And no, you are far from the only one. So many feel this way

  4. Having a PhD is a fulfilment that will obliterate the current feeling. The PhD gives you more leverage than those who do not have in the long run. Keep at it and make the best. Everything that will come your way will. Dream it and action it and it will become a reality.!

    1. Many thanks! No doubt a PhD does give you an edge. However work experienced can’t be replaced. Best wishes

  5. Hi Furaha,
    really interesting write up. It reminded me of some of my initial fears. One thing I will say though is that a PhD can never be a waste. There are a lot of opportunities both home and abroad especially in your discipline. It is all about you. Do you want to work in the academia or industry? Once sure of your path, the remaining is strategy and God’s favour when sought in faith with a good CV. As a young Nigerian PhD student myself I understand how it feels to have your friends living the life while you are paying this huge sacrifice.
    I will be happy to share some of my experiences and strategies with you if you don’t mind on how to make up for work experience.

    1. Hi, I am new to this blog and I have to decide whether to pursue my PhD or not, can you please help me with strategies on how to make up for work experience. Thank you

      1. Hi Pununu,

        First of all, welcome to our blog! 🙂
        It is a complex decision that you’ll need to make. Enjoying doing research is important, but there are other things to be considered – think of what professional and personal progress you wish to make and how/if doing a PhD will help you with that.
        Regarding your question about acquiring work experience, Furaha has shared some tips with us, you might want to read her follow-up post 🙂

        Good luck!
        Ana, PhD Life

      1. Just checked the blog tips on how to improve the CV. That was quite a mouth full. nice one. It actually had many of the options I wanted to raise. In summary social networking as a PhD student in your industry of research is very important. Thumbs up Furaha.

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