The other day I came across an article published on Science Career with the title You have accomplished more than you think! It was written by my friend Karin, scientist and author of the book You Must Be Very Intelligent – The PhD Delusion. The article starts with the story of a postdoc who wants to leave academia but believes that the skills she gained during her academic research won’t grant her any job! Unfortunately, I hear this story over and over again and as I am approaching the end of my PhD, many people ask me “Are you gonna do a postdoc after this? Is there any chemical industry that will hire you after your PhD degree?” When I tell people that I want to work either in science communication or science policy, they stare at me with their mouth open. “I didn’t know that you could do that with a PhD in chemistry!
A PhD in any subject empowers you to do anything!
If there is something I have learnt during my PhD and particularly in this university is that there are limitless career options you can explore with a PhD. The knowledge you gain goes far beyond the small niche of research you carry forward every day! Plus, the idea of becoming a PI, definitely intriguing and rewording, is a bit non-realistic because only 3% of PhD students of all subjects make their way to a lectureship. All the rest of us are those who academia label as dropouts, failure! As if having a PhD degree makes you a failure! Forget about these people, they just talk rubbish!
At the end of my first year, I already knew that I wouldn’t have won the Nobel Prize or any prize really, for my PhD research. Not even a poster prize at a regional meeting. As success in academia is measured by these things, plus # of publications, book chapters etc. I started looking around and see how I could make good use of my PhD. I came across a few websites such as The Cheeky Scientists and Beyond The Professionate which actually provide loads of free resources and more specific training (not for free) to PhD students who want to quid academia after their PhD degree. It was glorious to learn about all the transferrable skills you gain during your PhD.
Every experience is unique but trust me that you really learn a lot during your PhD. Just because you are a scientist, you have qualities such as creative thinking, problem-solving, multitask management, time management, team work, being self-started, solution-driven, working under pressure, writing grant applications, writing a research proposal, writing a technical report, data analysis and much more. Many students are not even aware that they apply these skills to go through their PhD on a daily basis and end up thinking they are rubbish just because their research doesn’t lead to any positive result. Publish or perish anyone?
If like me or many people that I know you decided to step up and bring your PhD up to the next level, then you might have gained countless soft skills that makes you a perfect candidate for any job. For example, science communication allows you to practise skills such as public speaking, communicating science to a non-specific audience and you become better at engaging with a wide audience, not just your mates in the lab. Back in the past, I have volunteered my time to be a representative for my Cohort of students in the Management Board Meeting. An experience that I recommend to any woman if they want to become more assertive and make their voice heard in a boardroom, a bit of leadership training for free!
Many students are not even aware of the skills the apply to go through their PhD on a daily basis and end up thinking they are rubbish!
After a training delivered by the university about evaluating skills and competencies for PhD students, I went back home and restructured my CV completely. First of all, I bought a new agenda and wrote down all the skills I have gained already, those which I am working on and those I would like to gain. This kind of self-assessment might take a few days above all if you are not aware of your skills. Once you have done that, you need to find examples of situations where you put a particular skill into practice. In fact, one of the most frequent questions in job interviews is “Could you please provide me with an example where you showed your time management skills?”
Your values is a lot higher than you think it is!
Hope this helped and made you aware that a PhD empowers you to do anything. Keep your mind open and reach out to your university student service to see wheter your university provides a career and employability centre. They will definetely help you and structure your CV to showcase your true potential. If there is none, I am sure that you can find a few tutorials online or if you have the budget consider hiring a professional for writing your CV! You got this, I believe in you!
Stay tuned for the upcoming article about applying for jobs!