We're seeing quite a few people at the moment who have recently finished their PhD thesis or are close to finishing. If that's you, you're probably exepriencing a range of emotions, which will vary according to the time of day, your caffeine levels and how many times in the last twenty-four hours someone has asked you when you will be finishing. We see people in various states of blearly-eyed exhaustion, relief, and uncertainty about the future. It's vital to manage your stress levels and to seek help from a range of sources (friends, family, supervisors, the University Health and Wellbeing Service). Questions about 'what's next' will almost certainly be in your mind, and people manage these in different ways, perhaps setting aside a little time each day or each week (perhaps not at the most optimimum time for thesis writing) to look for jobs and plan your career next steps. I read a helpful article a few months ago on the benfits of having a 'Career Exit Strategy'; a short term plan to get you through the period immediately following a PhD thesis or research contract which can help pay the rent, build experience and give you some thinking time while you plan your longer-term career strategy.
If you are in the final stages of your PhD and are confused about your career direction, try asking yourself:
What kinds of activities motivate and energise me?
Where/how does work fit with the other aspects of my life?
Which aspects of my PhD (if any) do I want to take in to the future? (Think broadly here; the Researcher Development framework can help you identify the wide range of skills you've gained throughout your PhD). Think of all the people you've interacted with throughout your thesis, and how.
If I want to continue in research, what does 'research' mean to me? (working in a lab, analysing data, literature searching, conducting interviews? Where and how might my research be useful?
Do I want to use my subject? In what ways? Why or why not?
Do I want to live in any particular geographical area? If so, what work opportunities are available in that area? Our jobhunting by UK region webpages will be useful here.
Here's how we can support you as a Careers Service if you are finishing or have just finished your PhD:
- an impartial, confidential listening ear. Sometimes it's enough to articulate the contents of your brain to someone else. Careers advisers are trained listeners who work in a non-judgemental framework.
- talking through your options, whether you have a clear idea of where you want to go next or no idea at all. We can help you clarify what you want from a job and create effective plans for next steps. Book a guidance appointment .
- support with identifying the most appropriate job-seeking strategies for areas that interest you. Our vacancies web page for researchers has some links that will be of interest. Our Finding a Graduate Job guide also has lots of useful advice on job search strategies, networking and speculative applications. Our in-house MyFuture vacancy database includes a section specifically for PhDs.
- support with creating effective CVs, covering letters and applications for jobs inside and outside of academia. Book a Quick Query appointment for one-to-one feedback, and check out our web advice on marketing yourself, and the researcher CV examples on the Vitae website.
- support with interview preparation and practice interviews. Check out the Vitae website and the Manchester Aacademic Careers website for advice and sample questions for academic jobs. If your next step will be a postdoc, check out our guide to How to Find a postdoc.
- a wealth of information resources on career options; our careers web pages for researchers have discipline-specific advice, and information on what previous Bath PhD graduates have gone on to do. The Graduate Prospects Occupational Profiles, Beyong the PhD, and the Vitae researcher career case studies also provide examples and inspiration.
Your access to the Careers Service doesn't end when you submit; you can register with us as a graduate for indefinite access.
Finally, once the sleepless nights have come to an end, go for a walk or take a hot bath and remind yourself of what it was that inspired/motivated you about the thesis - you might need to communicate that enthusiasim to an employer sometime soon...