‘Using your time effectively to prepare for your future’ was the theme of the LSE Careers seminar for PhD students this week. Our speakers emphasised ways to manage your time efficiently so that you can gain a variety of experiences that will assist your future career progression. They talked about gaining teaching and research experience; learning about academic impact; public engagement and gaining insight into your career options. Slides from this event are on our website.
Here Mia Certo, LSE PhD student in International Relations, gives her views on career progression after a PhD:
5 things to think about while you’re still a PhD student
A PhD is not a conveyor belt to academia
The follow-up comment to identifying yourself as a PhD student is often, ‘So you want to be an academic?’ as though it’s inevitable. Contrary to this belief, an academic career is created through deliberate hard work, not pre-determination. Acceptance to a doctoral programme does not automatically put you on a path to academia. Whether you remain within the Academy or leave it is up to you and the work you do while you’re a student.
It’s okay to not know what you want to do after your PhD
While a lot of advice for doctoral programme applicants emphasises the importance of knowing what you want to do with the PhD, in reality many PhD candidates struggle with questions of what comes after. This process of exploring future options should be normalised. Take advantage of your peers’ diverse backgrounds: many of them will have direct experience in the areas you are considering. Curiosity about what comes next is natural. You may find that others are just as uncertain as you are.
Don’t shut the door on an option prematurely
Don’t let uncertainty prevent you from pursuing experiences and developing skills while you’re still a student. Within reason, you can prepare for several career paths simultaneously. Be aware that shutting doors on types of careers too early can be prohibitive in the future. This is particularly true of opting to not pursue academia early in your degree. Think through your reasons. Test your ideas with your supervisor, friends, and family. You can continue to refine your plans as you progress in your programme.
Your first job after your PhD is not your forever
While discussing career options with my supervisor last year, he suggested that my long-reaching outlook was impairing my decision-making. I was stuck on the question of ‘What do I want to do with my life?’ one that few people can answer with any certainty. Instead, he offered, ‘What do you want to do after your PhD?’
‘After your PhD’ is about more than the job
Taking a more holistic approach to thinking about what comes after the PhD can help to refine your options. Although introspection about the future may focus on careers, it’s important to think about other factors. Where do you want to live after you finish? Are you tied down to a location or can you move anywhere? What sort of life-work balance do you seek? What are your non-negotiables? The question of what comes after encompasses more than the career you decide to pursue.
If you want some support with thinking about your career options and plans during and after your PhD, book an appointment with us.
The Brilliant Club is an award-winning charity which recruits, trains and pays doctoral and post-doctoral researchers to deliver programmes of university-style teaching to small tutorial groups of high-performing pupils in schools that serve disadvantaged communities. Sign up on their website.