Future Directions

open-roadWhat do you want to be when you grow up?

How many of us honestly started out in life intending to do a doctorate? Like many of us, I have to admit that I kind of ended up doing mine because a) somebody said I could have a place to do it; b) it seemed like a good way of avoiding the corporate career path without having to actually say so; and c) I’d get to spend some quality time finding out about Victorian funerals (although you might wish to insert your own topic here!)  However we get here, though, there comes the point where we do finally have to face the question of what are we going to do with the rest of our lives post-doctorate.

For some doctoral graduates an academic career seems the obvious choice, while others are keeping an open mind – or are maybe thoroughly sick of academia and longing to get out there into the ‘real world.’  However even for those who’re intent on an academic career, the reality is that the jobs market is tougher than ever – so it’s still sensible to keep your options open and be prepared.

This week we ran our Future Directions course, the underlying theme of which was “challenging assumptions” about what doctoral graduates can go on to do careers-wise. In the morning Dr Tilly Line from the UWE Careers service talked about the reasons why doctoral graduates might go into non-academic careers, and the huge range of sectors and industries where their very special, high-level problem-solving, research and analytical skills are much sought after by employers. Tilly particularly tackled the common assumption that taking up a non-academic career represents some kind of failure – in fact over 50% of doctoral graduates are nowadays employed elsewhere so, if anything, it’s the norm!

In the second half of the workshop, we used the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF) for a spot of personal action planning. This is a useful tool for any researcher, whether or not they’re planning to stay in academia, to start developing some vocabulary for the kind of skills, behaviours and attributes they’ve gained through doing their research degree. Of course it can also be used to identify areas for further development, so to finish with we had a go at setting some S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realitic, Timebound) goals that the participants would take forward in order to develop their knowledge/skills in a particular area of the Framework.

So hopefully, next time you get asked what do you want to be when you grow up, maybe after this workshop you’ll have (some of) the answer.

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