Developing a career plan

Career planning is a distraction from everyday task lists, but it cannot be ignored as the PhD comes to a close…

This week, instead of doing my PhD, I have been thinking about what I want to do after my PhD. Somewhat futile, since the thinking about the after has delayed the after actually coming about… Yet, all PhD researchers that have an end in sight inevitably get distracted with thoughts of the future, and this may be no harm. In fact, it may be a smart move, considering the story in the Guardian newspaper from August that many recent PhD graduates really struggle to find a job, and that doesn’t mean for those of us who may want to stay in academia with its famous lack of opportunities and lack of job security.

But even if a future in academia is not on the cards, it is worth reflecting on the sort of skills that have been developed during the PhD process, and how/whether they can be applied to other sectors. I’ve started asking myself some questions:

– What do I enjoy doing?

– What am I good at?

– What are the skills I’ve developed over the last number of years?

– What are the skills/what is the knowledge I would still like to learn? (How and why?)

– What is my expertise?

– Who/what organisations/companies/institutions are looking for that type of expertise?

– Where would I like to be in ten years’ time (or even five years’ time)? And how will I get there?

I have  a few people on my radar who have the sort of jobs that I would like. My mission over the last week was to figure out what skills do they have that I may be lacking, what experiences have they built up that I may still need to add to my CV, what path did they take to get into their current role and was it the best/most efficient pathway? Can I follow their footsteps?

It’s a very useful way of really identifying a few of the next, short-term steps that I need to take to get to where I want to go. And even better, with the world of “Linkedin”, it’s actually quite easy to spy on other people’s career paths! (Is that a bit cheeky?)

I’ll keep you posted, and in five years will let you know if I’m happy with where I’ve ended up!

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Filed under Academia and research, Getting through the PhD

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