Helen: When I think of the variety of roles that PhD
students have managed to acquire outside of academia, it is really quite a
broad and diverse list. I mean, I don't know if you've got any particular
Catherine: I know that one particularly common area that we
often find ourselves talking about is a whole set of work that's to do with
working with words. And so it might be through using words, through writing,
through broadcasting, through talking, through presenting material in certain
ways. Even advertising, you know, that end of the labour market. But be able to
use your skill with words in a way that's going to be satisfying for you and
make ends meet financially.
Helen: And it’s not just about the written word either, is
it? It’s about sort verbal communication as well, being able to articulate
ideas and thoughts
Catherine: Yeah, which cuts across the labour market in so
many different ways, we’re finding that role required in lots of different
organisations. People often think of the civil service because of its sort of
drafting nature, you know, writing a well-honed policy document is something
that some PhD students might want to do. But on the other hand, doing some
external affairs role that involves communicating a complicated message
terribly, terribly simply, might be satisfying for other people.
Helen: I certainly know of one PhD student that we've
invited back actually to talk to our current cohort about her job role. And she has had quite an interesting path
because she completed a PhD in history and has actually ended up in a very
senior policy role in a communications division of a major sort of quango,
which doesn't actually have any particular relation to her discipline. But in
relation to the skills that she’s using on a day-to-day basis, being able to
acutely analyse minute details, process information and present it to a variety
of audiences in very meaningful terms.
Catherine: Does she say she misses her PhD topic now?
Helen: No she doesn't at all and she was quite clear and
quite candid about the fact that she didn't have academic aspirations; she
recognised that the environment was not a good fit for her. But she’s also been
very clear that the skills that she can draw upon are very much those that are
grounded in the PhD experience. And she said it is something that she utilises
on a day-to-day basis and is quite confident in asserting that had she not had
that research experience, she probably would not be in such a senior role.
Catherine: But interesting that she is working very happily
in that type of organisation
Catherine: And I think people don't know about the types of
organisations that will suit them until they’ve tried out a few things
Helen: Absolutely, and it is quite easy to have a very narrow
view and think about things that are very closely aligned to your discipline
Catherine: And perhaps that's why people stay in academia
for a while afterwards; they make the transition step by step away from the
academic environment as they test out their identity in different sectors and
realise they can be comfortable.
Helen: And it's not necessarily a bad thing because actually,
when you think of the variety of roles that you could deploy within high
education institutions, it is really quite surprising and I think people aren’t
aware of how easy it is to actually make transitions within departments within
the educational framework.
Catherine: And how well qualified the staff at universities
Helen: And I have to say, it is no accident; thinking about
my own experience with some of the staff that work in university, there is a
significant minority that do have PhDs and, interestingly, most of them are
from are from an art and humanities background that have had success in those