Transferable skills and your PhD

Your social media feed is probably swamped with employability talks and workshops, career fairs and networking opportunities. You might have already started thinking about what you have to offer to employers outside your research niche. Tony reflects on how he developed transferable skills during his PhD…

I have completed a PhD in Systems Biology at Warwick in 2016, and will share my experience as a recent PhD graduate.

The postgraduate job market is harsh at the moment. I have found some positions where a science PhD is desirable but the salaries they are willing to pay was often too low. My PhD was interdisciplinary but we are all competing for jobs at the highest level of qualification. It’s hard to stand out and employers are looking for a more diverse skill set. There are some interesting articles on this on Vitae and Prospects, and Furuha’s post got me thinking about what I did to improve my CV and how this can help you.

Transferable skills enhance your employability. The biggest challenge is to recognise the skills you already have.  For example, most lab-based scientists are actually good cooks. You should try my Beef Wellington. During the final year of my PhD I held three jobs, prepared a journal article and got married while writing my thesis. There’s project management and time management skills there. But what about the jobs. I was a research technician for an anticancer group, so there’s a few more lab skills. But I also worked for IGGY and provided Maths and Science tuition. So that’s communication, marketing, problem-solving and teaching.

However, these skills developed in the final part of my PhD. Looking back I really wish I’d started earlier. My CV would have been that much stronger and I wouldn’t have had to work three jobs in the first place. The University offers a fantastic range of opportunities to develop your transferable skills. I am particularly grateful for “Preparing for and Surviving your Viva” workshop.

Which transferable skills have you developed during your PhD? Have you got any tips or ideas to share?

Text credits: Anthony Knight.

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