What possible use could a PhD be to someone in a professional support role? The knowledge you gain over the course of doctoral studies is likely to be niche and arcane, and many people would automatically discount someone with a doctoral degree as being overqualified. There is more to a PhD than academic knowledge, however; it offers a whole range of useful skills that can be applied more widely. Here are five great things someone with a PhD could bring to a university support role:
- You know how to find answers
An article on Forbes.com in 2012 identified employers’ three most sought after jobs skills as critical thinking, decision making and complex problem solving. If you have got a PhD, then you have spent several years of your life doing an awful lot of these things.
- You understand the research student experience
Everyone knows what it feels like to be a student on a taught course, but from my own experience very few understand how different it is to be a research student and what their specific needs, expectations and problems are (as I have discussed previously here). If you have a PhD, then you know what it is like first hand and what such students require; that puts you in a great position to help your institution create an excellent experience for these students.
- You can create new information – and communicate it
Anyone can learn information and repeat it; some can repackage it and present in a different way, but someone with a PhD is someone who has proven they are able to create new knowledge and communicate that knowledge to others clearly.
- You know how to time and project manage effectively
An essential skill to be able to turn in your thesis on time is being able to plan out a very large project that lasted 3 years or more, and produce something of the appropriate quality and length at the end of it all. If you can do that, you can certainly plan the much smaller-scale projects that many jobs now require and meet your deadlines.
- You can cope with uncertainty and setbacks
The problem with long-term projects is that they have a habit of getting derailed. Illness may take weeks or months out of your carefully plotted plan; you can’t gain access to that key archive that your methodology rests on; the pilot study shows a significant redesign is required; something new is published that causes you to question or re-interpret your work just as you thought you had finished it. As John Allen Paulos said, “uncertainty is the only certainty there is”, so the ability to adapt, change your mind and deal with failures is a vital skill a PhD teaches you.