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How does the PhD connect to the career that follows?
Name: Amanda
PhD discipline: German Literature
Area(s) of work: Diplomacy (foreign and commonwealth office)
Year of graduation: 2001
Date of Interview: 03/06/2008

Now Playing: How does the PhD connect to the career that follows?
The careers advisers discuss the idea of growing and developing a job, and equate the notion of creating new knowledge in a PhD to creating and developing job roles. They draw connections between the PhD and the career that follows, defining both as personal projects, and discuss different aspects of work which individuals can find fulfilling. The group finishes by relating arts and humanities study to the growing cultural economy in the UK.

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Phil: I was wondering if there is anything we can read from the situation in the general graduate jobs market at the moment where we are seeing increasing differentiation in graduate jobs, you know, the traditional graduate jobs. And the idea of growing a graduate job, which has been around for a number of years now, and I guess this is coming from the idea that we can't necessarily just read off from you've done a degree and so you've have to do X job, or you've done a PhD and so you are going to do Y job. We can't engage in these very simplistic matching exercises. And a lot of the time students are, to an extent, creating their career; they are developing a graduate job from a non-graduate job and that sort of thing. I was wondering if we could, this is maybe a bit of a leap, but I was wondering if we perhaps could equate that to the experience of developing new knowledge via a PhD, which again is this act of creation. ‘Entrepreneurship’ in a sense; it is sort of ‘intellectual entrepreneurship’ isn't it. And whether we can make some links between that and the notion of creating one’s own career in the labour market and shaping the labour market that way. 

Catherine: A student said to me the other day ‘it’s about pathways, isn’t it?’ and then she said ‘I suppose I could lay my own path’ which is just, you know, the way I think that we think about things, for her to say that.  

Helen: To have a choice path as well  

Catherine: Yes, but it is her decision which direction it goes in, yes, yes  

Helen: Yeah  

Catherine: I think there are students who feel confident about managing the portfolio that is their career in that way  

Helen: Whereas other people do, to be honest, need the more sort of structured environment with a pension scheme and a very clear understanding of what their day-to-day role is going to require  

Catherine: It’s interesting, isn't it, what different people want from work  

Helen: Yeah  

Catherine: A sort of different psychological contract for each of them  

Helen: Yeah and where they get their validation as well, that's a very sort of unique…  

Catherine: And how much it comes from having colleagues who tell you ‘you are doing a good job’  

Helen: Yeah. And again I think…  

Catherine: I think one of the great things about being in work is that you do get lots of affirmation don't you on a sort of daily basis; people say thank you and well done which can be quite pleasing for some.  

Helen: Absolutely and I think again particularly given that the conversation that we were having a little bit earlier about identity, I think that is interlinked with status and the sport pf notions of status. And having sort of invested time and the intellectual energy in the PhD process, feeling that you need to maybe translate the perceived notions of that status into the job market.  

Phil: Just thinking about the idea of the arts and humanities students in particular and the labour market and how the labour market really is connected with our society – is connected with culture – do you get mainly students wanting to explore that with the links between how if you like our cultural economy is growing and the fact that they’ve done an arts and humanities qualification?  

Helen: I think you can yes  

Catherine: It’s then about who is going to fund you? We're coming to the ‘F word’ of careers; where is the funding coming from and is there a project that you can join that you can either help bid for funding on, and then use some of your grant application type skills. Or is it a project that is already up and running that you can join? And then thinking about the sort of fragmented nature of short-term contracts and not knowing where the next piece of funding comes from. And again that's suiting some and not suiting others  

Helen: Of course sometimes it's seen as something of a luxury; that is superfluous when you have got a slightly fragile, unstable economy and so it is contingent on those factors as well I think.  

Phil: Yeah I was just thinking about my own experience of perhaps working with art and design students and I think sometimes that taciturn is because there aren't any clear structures; there isn't necessarily a clear labour market to match to. I think we do perhaps have a tendency to sort of suck our teeth and say ‘oh, it's very competitive’ you know and all this sort of thing. But actually, you know, if you are looking at the big picture of the cultural economy it's worth billions in the United Kingdom it is a huge part of our economy.  

Catherine: Yeah but don't you think individuals have a difficulty sometimes seeing their place in that the billions that are in the cultural economy and we all know the sort of structures that go into making that and then somebody leaving that university trying to connect themselves to that and find their way into it  

Helen: And also because the reality is that they might have to sort of enter that cultural climate at more of an entry level post than perhaps is commensurate with all their skills and experience and they might be quite reluctant to do that. And so you are sort of overcoming those personal barriers as well.  

Catherine: Yes. But through some understanding of that sector and some connections and some experience of it is perfectly possible and fantastically satisfying  

Helen: It is partially sort of contingent on the individual, isn't it, that sort of creating those accessories as well…  

Catherine: We’re talking about entrepreneurship aren't we  

Phil: Exactly  

Helen: Yeah

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