low-stress career planning in the final stages of your doctorate

Posted in: Advice, For PhDs

The final months of a doctorate can be intense and draining, with the pressures of writing up, checking references, making sure tables are properly formatted etc.

In the midst of all this, you may have a nagging sense that you should also be doing things towards plans for after the doctorate, but may be struggling to find the time, or simply not to where to start. Below are some ideas for low-stress, non time-intense activities to help you clarify and realise plans for after the doctorate.

  1. Have a look at our information on where Bath doctoral graduates from the last five years have gone after their studies for some snap-shot ideas and inspiration.
  2. Check out our subject-specific careers web pages for researchers, which have links to a wealth of information sources and vacancy sites.
  3. Set up email alerts for vacancy sites relevant to sectors of interest. An easy way to make sure you don't miss out on opportunities, and also an easy way to find out what kinds of options are coming up if you're a bit unclear on career direction. I get regular updates from jobs.ac.uk, Nature Jobs, The Guardian and Civil Service Jobs, all useful vacancy sites for researchers.
  4. Take ten minutes to reflect on your doctoral experience, and identify which skills you've developed and enjoy using. Which bits of now do you want to take into the future?
  5. Follow up on a contact; someone you've met at a careers event, a friend-of-a-friend or industrial collaborator. Ask for half an hour of their time to chat about what's happening in their sector, what they do on a typical day at work, and any advice they've found useful along the way. Throw in the offer of a coffee/pint if it helps. Bath Connection is a great way to get started with networking with Bath alumni working in a wide range of fields and organisations. Even if you don't have any clear career ideas, networking (which just means connecting with people) is a great way to generate some ideas, and you never know where a 'chance' encounter might lead.
  6. Have a browse through some career stories of researchers to find out how others got to where they are now; there's lots on the Vitae website, and a few on this blog.
  7. If doing anything careers-related feels like an overwhelming challenge, set yourself small, manageable goals: apply for one vacancy, contact one person via Bath Connection, update your CV, have a chat with a careers adviser. Depending on what works for you, set aside regular, small chunks of time to think about your career.
  8. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to have a fixed career plan; some people take a more exploratory approach to their career; build your networks, explore a few options, and plans may become clearer over time.
  9. Check out upcoming Doctoral Skills webinars on applying for jobs inside and outside of academia, and strategies for job-hunting and networking; get some top careers tips from the comfort of your desk over lunchtime.

The final stages of a PhD can be stressful, so be kind to yourself, find ways to relax, and have a chat with our wonderful Student Services team if things are feeling a bit much. And always remember you can get 1:1 support from the Careers Service, in-person or via phone/Skype, both before and after your've graduated.


Posted in: Advice, For PhDs


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