Careers Perspectives – from the Bath careers service

Focus on your future with expert advice from your careers advisers

Monthly Archives: February 2016

Am I wasting my PhD?

📥  Advice, Career Development, For PhDs

One of the things my colleagues and I hear most often in 1:1 conversations with research postgraduates is 'I don't want to waste my PhD'. Usually this is said in the context of someone not wanting to consider what they feel is a move away from academia or research; it can be easier to see how a PhD is 'needed' or applicable when it's an essential requirement of the job you would be using the research knowledge or technical skills you have acquired day-to-day. Nevertheless, my usual response to 'I don't want to waste my PhD' is to inwardly yell 'You wouldn't be!'. The broad range of skills and attributes you develop through conducting doctoral research will be highly sought after by employers - more on this later.

However, a conversation with someone yesterday and reading this excellent career story on the Nature Jobs Blog reminded me that this can be a complex and emotionally-charged question, so I wanted to unpick it a little, based on my own knowledge, personal experience and the experiences of others I've come across, with a healthy dose of career development theory thrown in.

- you've invested huge amounts of time, energy, intellect and possibly cash into doing a PhD, and it's perfectly understandable that you don't want to feel that that is wasted. It can, however, be helpful to unpick a little (on your own, with a friend or one of our friendly, impartial careers advisers), what you mean by wasting the PhD and why that matters to you. What motivated you to do a PhD in the first place and have your motivations/feelings about it changed over time? Are you assuming you'd be wasting your PhD in particular career paths or contexts without having checked this out? What is important to you in a career? What light does this shed on how much it matters whether the PhD is 'wasted'?
-there are different ways to think about your PhD. Most people I talk to underestimate the broad range of skills they develop through completing a PhD. The Researcher Development Framework is a useful tool for mapping out all the skills and attributes you acquire - take a good look at this, and also map out everything you do as part of your PhD and research-related activities, and then think about the skills, behaviours and attributes you are using. Almost certainly you would be using some of these in any future career moves.
- not all jobs require a PhD. This doesn't mean that the skills you have developed won't be sought after by employers, but employers may vary considerably in how much they know about what a research degree involves, and it's important that you can market your PhD effectively for the context and organisation you are targeting. The previous point should help you convince yourself of the value of your PhD so you can convince others. Also, whilst the PhD may have taken up most of your time and energy over the past three or four years, don't discount non-research interests and activities - they may be your most important selling points for particular roles.

- for some roles, organisations or sectors, you may find yourself starting at the same entry point as other graduates or new entrants. Whilst that can be galling, it would also be true of other people wanting to take a change of career direction. It may be the case that having a higher degree can enable you to progress more quickly, even if you start in a 'lower-grade' or entry-level position. As Virginia did, setting yourself some short and long-term goals can help you to see future career moves in a positive light and generate some control in the midst of uncertainty.

- we are influenced by other people, and people will inevitably have different views on what you should do next, so develop effective strategies for dealing with and processing these. For me it was a mixture of nodding and smiling, avoiding the subject at times, trying to listen to and understand others' points of view, and (over time) developing a positive answer as to why I wasn't staying in academia. Think proactively about who it might be helpful to connect with and how. Who could give you useful advice, access to opportunities or help you to check out some of your assumptions? Who needs to know you exist? Find yourself a cheerleader - someone who can encourage you to recognise your value, keep going in the face of setbacks and give you a nudge to book on that training course or learn that new programming language.

- don't under-estimate the emotional and psychological side of career transitions, be open to working through change (and change often involves loss), and to developing resilience, optimism and flexibility in your approach to future career moves.

Just a few thoughts on a big topic for a Thursday morning - we would welcome feedback and personal examples.



Get ready for International Careers Week!

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📥  Career Development, Event, International Students, Networking, Uncategorized

Next week sees the return of our annual internationally-themed week of events. We have tried to have a little bit of something for everyone so do have a look at our events for that week to see what takes your fancy!

The week kicks off with Mars China coming in to talk about their management leadership opportunities for Chinese students wanting to return home after their studies.

We then focus on Japan, with DISCO International talking about opportunities for Japanese bilinguals - as well as PwC talking specifically about their opportunities for international students. With UK recruitment currently tightening up for international students, this is a great opportunity to meet a company who embraces internationalism. Also that day we host Withers & Rogers talking about the future of global organisations and how IP Offerings and protection are a key way to enhance that.

Thursday brings the Fulbright Commission here, offering their annual tips session on Postgraduate Study in the USA. We know that many of you are interested in this, so do come in and speak to the experts!

Added to all these external presentations, our Careers Service experts are offering a programme of workshops to help students both home and international prepare themselves for an international career. There are two assessment centre group exercise sessions - it's peak season for assessment days just now so book your slot soon. We also have repeat sessions of our popular workshops for international students looking at covering letters and also interview skills. If you are finding these hard to master then come along and learn how to demystify them and feel more in control of your approach.

You may have heard us talk about networking and advise you to develop and make best use of your LinkedIn profile. If you know you should but aren't sure how, book onto our workshop on Wednesday afternoon which will give you tips and strategies to boost your profile and show you how to extend your reach by leveraging the Bath Connection.

Finally, we are delighted to say that this year we are working with Alumni Relations who are offering one of their highly successful Get Connected sessions right here on campus on Thursday evening. It also has an international focus and the experts are all either international alumni or alumni who have worked overseas during their careers. Added to this they are launching a Get Connected webinar on Friday, for those of you who'd like the chance to ask your questions remotely.

Hopefully this will have whetted your appetite but do remember, if you'd rather just come in and ask one of our Advisers your questions, we are available every day for 1:1 appointments - we're looking forward to seeing you!


Higher Education: careers outside of academia


📥  For PhDs, Sector Insight, Uncategorized

I talk to quite a few people who want to move outside of research but enjoy being in a university environment; if that's you, then a non-academic role in HE may be worth considering.

So what kinds of roles exist? A surprising variety, often broadly categorised as 'administration', though it's worth noting that that term often has a broader application in HE than it would elsewhere, and that as you progress you are likely to be able to contribute to decision-making and strategic planning.  At the University of Bath there are PhD holders in wide of range of departments including Student Services, Registry, Marketing and Corporate Communications, Research and Innovation Services, the Widening Participation Office, support and managerial roles in academic Departments, Faculties and research centres, as well as right here in the Careers Service. Roles and non-academic departments within a university include student support, student records and admissions, quality assurance, policy and governance, estates and facilities, library, finance, research support and business development, HR, training and development, community outreach, engagement and widening participation, Information Technology

... to name a few.

Getting in

Usually it will be a case of applying for individual roles, though Imperial College run a Finance and Management Graduate Training Scheme which incorporates rotations in a variety of departments. If you are currently a member of research staff and are interested in staying at the University in a non-research role, then you could apply as an internal candidate or through the University's redeployment process.

In order to demonstrate your suitability for non-research roles, you need to engage in a little self-reflection and identify the things that are important to you in a future career move, as well as the broad range of skills you have developed as a researcher. Whilst you may not use your research knowledge and technical research skills in non-research roles, many of the generic research and transferable skills you develop - project management, the ability to handle, analyse and interpret data, solve problems, think critically, and work independently and as part of a team, will be invaluable, as will your ability to communicate with and understand academics, students, and other stakeholders, and your understanding of broader issues in HE. As with any career move there will be value in getting involved in activities outside of research, such as Departmental Committees, student support, training and mentoring, organizing conferences and research seminars, Departmental open days, outreach activities, research commercialisation, and potentially part-time administrative roles, as well as voluntary activities and non-university interests. Some roles, such as counselling, will require an additional professional qualification, and others may benefit from some additional training or skills development; check out the training opportunities offered by the Researcher Development Unit Staff Development, and the Students' Union.

If there are roles you think you might be interested in, talk to people already doing them and find out exactly what they do day-to-day and what skills, knowledge and experience would be required follow a similar path. To give you a helping hand, over the next few weeks we'll be posting a series of case studies of former researchers now working in non-research roles across the University. also have some case studies.






Recruiters' most hated CV phrases revealed...

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📥  Advice, Applications, Careers Resources

How long do you spend reading a potential candidates CV? New research from the New College of the Humanities has revealed that recruiters on average make their minds up in less than 60 seconds. The findings came after researchers interviewed over 860 recruiters, with 20 per cent said they discard a CV before getting to the end, while on average they spend an average of just three minutes and 14 seconds looking over an application.

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The research also looked at the biggest employer gripes with a CV, with the biggest being spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, followed by a too casual tone including using terms such as ‘you guys’ or signing off with ‘cheers’. Other turn off’s including using jargon and clichéd quotes, such as using ‘perfectionism as a weakness, and having a CV over two pages long.

These are the top 10 phrases on CV's that enrage employers.

  • "I'm a hard worker"
  • "I work well under pressure"
  • "I can work independently"
  • "I'm a team player"
  • "I am a problem solver"
  • "Good communicator"
  • "I'm proactive"
  • "I am a good listener"
  • "I'm enthusiastic"
  • "Excellent written communication skills"

If any of these phrases appear on your CV and you are not sure how to convey your skills; then book a drop-in with one of our careers advisers. In less than 15-minutes we can help you transform your CV.


How to network with confidence!

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📥  Advice, Diversity, Event, Networking

We are absolutely thrilled to be delivering two workshops during the Women in Leadership Conference which is being organised by the University of Bath Students Union tomorrow. My colleague Ghislaine Dell will be exploring the concept of personal branding and I will be talking to the participants about the importance of networking.

Reflecting on when I started working, I really lacked confidence; especially when it came to networking and striking conversations with people I didn't know. I think lack of confidence is something that plagues many women. And there’s nowhere less comforting than a networking event – those crucial get-togethers in any sector that can to an extent determine the success of our careers. So, I wanted to share some personal tips that have over time helped me feel more comfortable in networking situations:

  1. Arrive early: Often, the most important people will arrive early to make sure the event is set up. If you arrive before the main crowd, you may get chance to speak to the main organiser, who will often then facilitate introductions to guest speakers, the event sponsors, or other attendees. It also means you don't have to break into existing and established conversations.
  2. F.O.R.M small talk: If you haven't seen it, you must watch the origins of small talk! Small talk needn't be awkward and can often lead to deeper and meaningful conversations. F.O.R.M. it is a memory tool for when you are in social situations and you want to get to know the person you are talking with. F.O.R.M stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation and Message -four areas you can use as conversation helpers in just about any social situation.
    1. Family: ask where they live, how they traveled...this gets the person talking about themselves and gives you a chance to learn about them.
    2. Occupation: what do you do for a living? When they tell you what they do, you have a great opportunity to ask them about their job-if it's in an industry you are familiar with you can comment about how competitive it is, or how challenging. If you are unfamiliar with their industry, here's your chance to learn about it.
    3. Recreation: this one's easy! What do you do for fun? If they participate in a sport or interest that you enjoy as well, you can swap stories and really build a memorable relationship with the person.
    4. Message: when you feel the conversation winding down, or you want to move on to meet other people in the group, have your "message" that you want this person to remember about you ready to go. It's something like your elevator speech, but much more personal to the individual you are talking to. For me, my message is simple. "It was great to meet you, Steven. If you ever need help with any professional development training or you run into someone who needs careers related help –then let me know, I would be delighted to help”.
  3. Watch your body language: Your body is giving constant signals the entire time, so make sure these, too, are geared towards projecting confidence and are open and welcoming. Little tricks like, shoulders back, head up, hands unclenched, arms unfolded can make a huge difference. Switch off your mobile phone and put it away so you are not tempted to hide behind it. Do watch this TED X talk to find out more about this interesting piece of research on body language.
  4. Know when to leave: I always set myself a target: have five good conversations and meet the key people I set out to meet. This means I know I have an end in sight and don't out stay my welcome or linger!  If asked, I say I have somewhere else to be and exit graciously.
  5. Follow up: As soon as you leave the networking event, spend a few minutes jotting down key points from the individual conversations you had. Within 24-hours, send a short email and simply say that you enjoyed meeting them and try to reflect back on a point from the conversation. The tips from Forbes on how to master the art of networking follow-up are excellent!

I hope these tips help and if you are attending the Women in Leadership Conference tomorrow, do put them to practice!

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Channel your inner monkey for a successful 2016!

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📥  Advice, Tips & Hints

Many of our students and graduates will be welcoming the Year of Monkey today and the Bath careers team would like to take this opportunity to wish you all Gōngxǐ fācái. We understand that according to Chinese astrology, the monkey is intelligent, witty, and inventive animal. People born in the Year of Monkey are problem solvers, capable of group work whilst simultaneously demonstrating independence. The nimble monkey is playful, youthful in nature, and is a fun to watch as they move from activity to activity.

The qualities associated with people born in the Year of Monkey are also the very qualities many employers look for in their future employees. Depending on the career sector you choose to work in, there could be very specific skills, abilities and knowledge needed to do the job. However, complementing these are general competences and behaviors that are essential for successful working. These are often overlooked by candidates, but they are the things recruitment professionals want to see evidence of.

TargetJobs have identified the top 10 skills that graduate recruiters want, you may want to view their very handy video and consider whether these skills are reflected in your CV and the job applications you are making. If not, consider what you can do either on campus or as part of your extra-curricular activities to develop these essential skills. TargetJobs provide useful tips on how to develop employability skills which are worth exploring.


However, there is one skill that the Monkey possesses which is universally valued in the workplace and this is enthusiasm! Enthusiasm is an attitude, a frame of mind that is exemplified in what you say and do. You can demonstrate enthusiasm with a positive tone in your voice, upright posture, eye contact with others and by showcasing your knowledge of a particular company, sector or job role. Therefore, developing you commercial awareness can be an incredibly powerful tool in demonstrating your enthusiasm. A few months back, my colleague Ghislaine Dell wrote an excellent post on how to develop your commercial awareness which is worth a read. I also think this article by Career Empowering provides excellent tips on how you can convey enthusiasm.


UCAS points and international qualifications

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📥  Advice, Applications

This afternoon I met a student from Mexico who was applying for graduate schemes. She was a bit stuck as the application form required UCAS points - while there is no direct way to provide a UCAS points equivalent for international qualifications, there are some strategies and organisations you can use to help.

  • Email or telephone the employer giving full details of your qualifications and grades and ask for their advice about what you should put on their application form.
  • Check with your academic department and ask them if they translated your international qualifications into UK equivalents when you applied.
  • If your academic department doesn't have this information then ask them what the entry requirements are for your course in terms of level of  UCAS points. Then explain to your potential employer that you were accepted onto a course that requires this level of pass. You may want to note that Bath does not select on the basis of UCAS points so there will be a degree of guess work involved.

You may also want to bear in mind, larger graduate recruiters will usually accept international qualifications. Simply list your qualifications and grades including percentages if possible. Some employers may have their own way of assessing international qualifications such Deloitte while some employers such as PwC no longer use the UCAS system as part of its application process. Therefore it is important to research different employers and their requirements before you embark on applications.

Finally, the National Academic Recognition Information Centre for the UK (NARIC) is an organisation that specialises in comparing international qualifications for the UK. They can tell you whether your international qualification is broadly equivalent to A-Level study in the UK but they cannot directly compare your previous grades to UCAS points. NARIC usually charge a fee for a written assessment, but have an advice line for simple queries from students.


Should you disclose your sexuality?

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📥  Advice, Diversity, Tips & Hints

Within the careers service we understand just how difficult it can be to embark on your first internship, placement or graduate job. This anxiety can be amplified even further, if you're also worried about having to hide your sexual orientation or gender identity. I often find myself talking to students who aren't sure whether to disclose their sexuality or not. First and foremost, only you can decide whether or not to reveal your sexuality; it’s your personal life, and you have every right to keep it that way if you wish.

The main law relating to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is the Equality Act 2010. It provides the right not to be disadvantaged nor treated badly at work nor in education because of your sexual orientation. Therefore it is worth bearing in mind that you don't have to disclose your sexual orientation at any point during the recruitment process so don't feel like you need to include it in your CV, covering letter or application form. Much the same applies with interviews as with the application process.

You may also want to take your time and research the right employer, an excellent source of information and help when looking for positive employers is Stonewall. You may want to look at the 'Starting Out: Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Careers Guide' and 'The Workplace Equality Index' which Stonewall publishes annually.

You may decide once you're settled in your new place of work that you'd like to be open and share your sexual orientation with your colleagues. Please do take a moment to read this excellent article by the Huffington Post on Coming out of the Closet. If you do decide to share your sexuality, these tips may help:

  • Make sure you’re emotionally ready to be known as your genuine self.
  • If there are other people “out” in your workplace already, maybe seek their confidential guidance in how they approached their own announcement.
  • Know your employer’s diversity policies. Do they have an LGBT group for example? May be worth contacting your HR department.
  • Do think about how others at work may react and your emotional response to their reaction.


New Semester - New Careers Events - New Jobs

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📥  Careers Resources, Event, Graduate Jobs, Internships, Tips & Hints, Work Experience

The staff in the Careers Service are delighted to see campus back in to full swing, especially now students are booking appointments and once more engaging with their careers research and investigation. We do like to be busy!

Here are three things you could be doing to make sure you stay ahead of the game at this time of year.

Check out our Programme of Events

Our new programme is now live and booking in MyFuture.  We have a range of employers coming on campus you can meet up with them to find out more about their opportunities. Some of them will be running skills events too. Our Careers Adviser will also be busy delivering a range of employability skills sessions on campus and virtually. We also have International Careers Week commencing February 29th. Some examples from our programme:

  • Finding Summer Work Experience
  • Interview Success
  • Writing UK Style Covering letters (for International students)
  • Finding a job other than a "graduate scheme"
  • Turning your placement into Graduate job
  • Careers Prep in a Day for Final year undergraduates  (Saturday)
  • Careers Prep in a Day for Master students
  • Webinar: Decisions, Decisions…How to begin your grad job search
  • Webinar: Considering a PhD or a Masters?
  • Assessment Centre Workshops including the chance to practise
  • Using LinkedIn and the Bath Connection to expand your network and build your career

Start Looking or Keep Looking for jobs (summer and graduate)

MyFuture has opportunities being added all the time, be they summer or placement work experience or graduate jobs. Make time to check in regularly and use the Advanced Opportunity Search  to create and save searches. Note that in the date option you can select for the search to show what has been added since you last logged in.

Be aware of how some types of jobs will not be advertised in MyFuture and so find out how you can search for jobs speculatively. Read our two guides Finding a Graduate Job and Finding Work Experience for advice on more comprehensive approaches to job hunting.

Keep your CV and covering letters fresh

I am not talking about keeping them in the fridge but keeping them alive. There is a tendency to fall into complacency once you feel you have nailed your CV and covering letter. Make sure you keep it up to date with new activities and always review your CV in the light of what the employer is looking for. If you have not had success yet then do take the chance to review them with an Adviser and seek help from alumni and employer contacts in your chosen field.

Have a great semester and keep in touch with the Careers Service.