Our recent series began with correspondent Kathy McKay’s post on the portfolio career. Then we heard from a researcher-librarian and guest blogger, Beth Hellen, before our new correspondent Sarah Wayland reflected on how she might have been better prepared for the precarious transitionary period after her PhD. Next, Chris Ferguson shared the three main stages of his career path since finishing his PhD.
Meanwhile, you told us whether or not you were enjoying your post-PhD careers in our latest poll, and just when you thought things could not get any better, I published my own piece emphasising that a PhD is not a fast-streamed way into a specific career – not even academia. Then our latest correspondent recruit, Luana Chiquetto reflected on her own post-PhD career path in Sao Paulo, Brazil. But yes, you guessed it! There’s still more to come, with guest blogposts and reflections on this highly popular theme.
You can also get involved and help improve our understanding of post-PhD career pathways by completing our survey. Your participation in our survey will help us understand the different careers that are taken-up and will enable us, along with our sister organisation jobs.ac.uk, to come up with new ways to better support your job seeking and career options.
There has been so much fascinating content on this theme in recent weeks, and it’s wonderful to see these rich, personal and sometimes moving stories here on the blog – it’s a useful reminder that we’re all human, and that we’re all on our own journey, each with its own peaks and troughs.
Key things we’ve learnt
If you haven’t been able to keep track of all this wonderful content, let me try and sum-up what I think are the three key messages from the blogs so far.
Be open to change
It’s striking how varied and searching the post-PhD career path appears to be. In my own blog I explained how I had very little idea of where my PhD would take me, and this is very evident in others’ blogs too. Chris Ferguson captures the ever-changing nature of post-PhD career path beautifully in his three-part blog. The words “I made a change” ring out like the chorus of a 90’s pop classic and sum up perfectly the need to be open to change. Not all pathways will be like this, but if you are open to the fact they might be, you will be much better placed.
Do what you need to do
Deep down we tend to know what’s important to us at particular moments in our lives, and this clearly shapes our choices – either consciously or subconsciously. Whether it’s about putting food on the table, funding your coffee addiction, or searching for something extraordinary: people tend to do what is important to them.
In her guest blog, Beth Hellen describes: “I began to think that maybe, I wasn’t the special one, maybe I was one of the many, many people with PhDs who don’t find a place in academia. And I was surprised to find that I felt alright.” While, Kathy McKay explains how she ended-up with a portfolio career because she “Chose work, over not working”. Often, making choices and following your own instinct help ensure your own path continues to go somewhere.
Sometimes your career path doesn’t go anywhere, and in my own blog I question whether missed chances are in fact missed at all, or whether subconsciously we know what we are searching for and when that chance comes along, we are more likely to take it: “Opportunities come and go, you will take them if you really want to”.
New correspondent Sarah Wayland captured something very important: the need to be prepared for your post-PhD life: “I’m beginning to wonder how I could have prepared better for post-PhD-life.” If during one of my own post-grad training days (which mainly seemed to be focused on how to write and structure your thesis) someone had emphasised this a bit more I would have been grateful. I’m not sure how universities prepare PhD students these days, but 10 years ago this wasn’t covered at my institution, as far as I recall.
I would be interested to know if training is offered in this area these days and what it covers. If not, then this represents a worrying gap. If you are a current PhD student, then get prepared and start to think about what you really want to do and what steps you need to take to get there. Start by reading Sarah’s blog for some incredibly useful tips.
The post PhD-career path stories on jobs.ac.uk are full of wonderful insights. Not all can be captured here but I hope I have given you a taste. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that everyone has their own path, and most people will find their way if they stay true to themselves and are prepared for both highs and lows. Whichever path you have chosen, good luck and stay wise!
Image credit: fbfoto on Pixabay (CC BY 2.0)