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How important is relevant work experience?
Now Playing: How important is relevant work experience?
The careers advisers discuss employment sectors that PhD researchers are often attracted to, including working in the heritage sector and arts administration. They discuss how recruitment processes aim to reduce risk, and therefore often select people with work experience. The group goes on to discuss ways in which PhD researchers might make time to get this experience.


Catherine: But within arts, administration or library and heritage as well there will be lots of others with PhDs, won't there? They are the sort of home territories probably of people with these sorts of subject discipline background.  

Helen: I think as well that it can be advantageous, if possible, given the constraints imposed by timing and the intense nature of the PhD process, to try and sort of acquire some work shadowing or work experience on perhaps a half day here and there if you are having aspirations in those areas, because it really will pay dividends later on. Because while your PhD will be of intrinsic value and the underlying skills will also be recognised by employers in those areas, I think they do also understand that actually practical experience is really second to none.  

Catherine: Well so often recruitment is about reducing risk, isn't it? And if you are interviewing someone who has tried out that environment, possibly for only half a day, a week or whatever, and really understands it and can say some intelligent things about themselves in it, the employer is reducing their risk. They are much more likely to have somebody who is going to stay, can do a safe pair of hands type job, not rock the boat, not leave within three months because it’s not what they expected. And so you can sort of understand it from an employers point of view, why that would be something that they would seek. And it isn't impossible to gain for a student, perhaps in the gap between submitting and going for the viva it could be quite a creative time for some.  

Helen: And it can it can also be something that you can combine – a sort of session of tutoring as well and so having greater freedom than perhaps you did in the previous three or four years – take advantage of that.  

Catherine: Yes, work experience, work shadowing, and internship, yeah  

Helen: Do you think there is any reservation on the part of sort of PhD students about the notion of work experience and work placements? Maybe the terminology jars a little bit and the notion that they are doing something unpaid?  

Catherine: Well it’s always something for 16 year olds isn't it  

Helen: Yeah  

Catherine: But actually you’ll find people doing it right the way through their careers. I know the chap who joined the board of the Post Office recently went out and spent some days shadowing postmen delivering letters. It was obviously obvious that's what he ought to do in his new role and he had no qualms about going out and doing it.  

Helen: And I would strongly encourage it because I think, as we were talking earlier, there is really no substitute for that sort of insider view. And why we can adequately signpost it isn't quite the same as somebody actually spending a day or spending half a day and really getting to grips with the nuts and bolts and the mechanics of the role.  

Catherine: But I know that we have people coming in and shadowing us when they're thinking about careers training and embarking on paying for a careers guidance course they will often come and shadow a number of different careers advisers for a day, putting together a week of quite broad experience before committing to something like that.  

Helen: And again, it is like minimising their risk, in just the same way as it works for employers, before you actually invest in a career change or career role  

Catherine: And that's easier in some sectors isn't it? The arts, museum and heritage world – lots of admin experience that can be gained  

Helen: And they're normally quite receptive actually to speculative applications as well from the PhD students. I mean certainly there is somebody that I know that is working in a local museum who said he would welcome PhD applicants with open arms because he recognises their intrinsic value.   

Catherine: Yes