News & Publications

SECG Blog: The post-PhD job search: Where to start

Dr Lindsey Brett
Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research, Australian Institute of Health Innovation,
Macquarie University
August 2018

After working as a physiotherapist for several years I completed a PhD on exercise and dementia in residential aged care at the University of Wollongong in 2017. When I began the submission process for my PhD my focus started to shift to the next step: post-PhD work. I knew that I wanted to work in research and academia, but I had no idea where to start. Thankfully I was able to access the resources provided by the Graduate Career Development and Employability department at the University of Wollongong. One of the most helpful sessions I attended was the ‘PhD Job Search Bootcamp’,1 below are my four key take home messages.

1. Discover where to find opportunities and resources

In the university sector there are a number of websites and databases that promote jobs/funding opportunities such as THEunijobs, academia.edu, and ResearchGate. Check out whether your university research office has access to the PIVOT or other databases of funding opportunities. There are also Government resources that can help, such as Job Outlook and State Health websites like NSW Health. Finding websites specific to your interest is another good place to start, for example Research Career and Ethical Jobs. Becoming involved in professional associations, such as the AAG, can also provide valuable resources and networking opportunities specific to your field of interest. Other opportunities include start-ups (entrepreneurial ventures), social media, company webpages, grad programmes, blogs (e.g., the University of Wollongong HDR Career Conversations Blog: http://www.uowblogs.com/careers/ welcomes readers and subscribers regardless of institution), recruitment agencies and networks of people you know such as previous supervisors and employers. Use your research skills!

2. Be open to all opportunities

During a job search it is easy to put on blinkers and only look for very specific jobs related to your PhD and jobs which are permanent. It is important to consider all the possibilities to increase your chance of finding a job post-PhD. Many researchers end up working in fields unrelated to their PhD. It is also important not to dismiss short-term positions, they help to build your CV, may allow you to develop new skills, could provide referees, support your long-term job search and build your network and profile in your chosen area.

3. Develop your authentic personal brand

Think about your authentic personal brand and how you can communicate this to the market. It needs to be based on the truth of who you are, your strengths and what you love about your work. Think about what distinctive value you can add, what you are proud of, what benefits an organisation would get from you, what matters to your target audience and what kind of researcher you are. Here are three key questions to help you get started:

  1. What would you like to do next?

Three key points about you and what you’re looking for that everyone you meet should know.

  1. What exactly do you do (now)?

Have two summaries ready: one for someone who knows nothing about your subject area or research, and one for someone within your broad subject area.

  1. How is your job search going?

This is an opportunity to ask for help – let people know what you need!

4. Build your career community and profile

Consider multiple avenues to meet others and promote yourself, such as university events, professional associations, alumni, supervisors, industry linkages, job opportunities, extra-curricular activities, work experience, internships, volunteering and social media (LinkedIn, Twitter). Building your network/career community is an important part of the job search and provides opportunities that might not be advertised in the regular way. Always be prepared to say a little about yourself at events, but not to the point that it sounds rehearsed. During these opportunities listening is important, show genuine curiosity. Once you have made initial contact with relevant people, make sure to follow up via email, LinkedIn and other social media platforms so you stay on their radar.

When you start searching for a new job post-PhD, remember to tap into the knowledge and resources from the people and services around you, and above all remain optimistic! I followed all of these steps and was successful with my first application. I now work as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University.

Reference List:

  1. Ryan, S. (2017) PhD Job Search Bootcamp, PowerPoint presentation, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia

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