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Caroline - advice
Name: Caroline
PhD discipline: English Literature
Area(s) of work: University teaching; media; business (property management)
Year of graduation: 2001
Date of Interview: 24/06/2008

Now Playing: Caroline - advice
Caroline offers advice to PhD researchers wanting to enter a non-academic career and describes the skills she found most useful in enabling her to do just that.

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If you were going to advise somebody who was coming towards the end of their PhD and they're not certain that an academic career is for them what would you say to them about the other possibilities there might be out there for them?

I would tell them that if they think about what excites them, think about what their passions are, where their heart is and they approach their career path in a creative and confident way they will very, very likely find ways of moving forward and taking something from their doctoral research. Then as they go further along that path they'll find that more and more of their doctoral skills and ideas and material will become relevant so I would certainly encourage them to, not to settle for a proper job if they feel that the proper job is going to cost them too much.

But in order to become entrepreneurial in the way that you have, what can they do in practical ways to pursue an unconventional kind of career?

They can build their network. They can ask everybody they know all the questions they can think of about where there might be openings. The vast majority, something like 70% or 80% I've been told, of jobs are found not through the conventional job -

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-adverts. But through networking. So I'd invite them to build their network. I would advise them to look after themselves physically and emotionally so that they are at their most productive and at their creative best. I would advise them to think as creatively as possible about what they would really like to do in an ideal world and then think about what skills they've acquired during the doctoral process and think quite widely. Not only the academic skills but what people skills, what organisational skills, what work habits, in what ways have they been changed and enriched and educated by acquiring a doctorate and is there something among those skills that will help them to move one step towards their ideal job and continuing to ask questions, to network, to read widely, to look as broadly as possible for opportunities. Perhaps to make opportunities. I do think that luck is often, is probably more often made than found but I think it depends on having the confidence and I suppose the stubbornness, the focus to go there and look for it. You know the cluster of skills that has been identified as emotional intelligence; the resilience, the people skills, the social awareness, the self confidence, the flexibility, the refusal to give up. You might fall down and skin your knees but you get up and keep going. You know the idea that success is the ability to survive failure. Those skills have been enormously important to me as I've moved from academia to entrepreneurial work and they still are. The little company, two little companies, media and property that my family and I are running still have all sorts of challenges. Day to day we've got new problems to solve and we draw not only on our formal education and what that's given us but also on that cluster of emotional intelligence that we've acquired I suppose from life as much as from the classroom to help us find solutions. And I would also advise them to think about the resources they've got already. To think about wealth in terms of people they know who can advise them, the questions that they've been taught to ask. This was one thing that my doctorate really taught me, how to ask useful questions, research questions. Vital in any kind of enterprise. To think about the experience they've got, the skills they have, the information they have access to as well as the qualification because each person probably has a bigger reservoir of resources at their fingertips than they realise. Of course if they look at that on an anxious day all they'll be able to see is that they've got a bill for £500 that's got to be paid by next Tuesday but if they can step back, look after themselves, make sure that they're not in a panicky mode but that they're well physically and emotionally they probably will find that actually somewhere in that pool of resources there are at least two possible solutions and yes the bill needs to be paid by next Tuesday but by Friday at the latest they will have some ideas if they look at that reservoir in a confident and creative way.
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