seeing the bigger picture

light bulbs‘Business’, ‘entrepreneurship’, ‘profitability’, ‘the bottom-line’, ‘competition’, ‘market’, ‘investor’, ‘stakeholder’, ‘consumer’, ‘brand’.

Do you see these words and think “they will be important in my career” or are you more likely to think, “I don’t want to work in that type of environment?”

Do these words generate excitement, interest, fear, boredom, confusion, frustration, indifference or another response in you?

It can feel that career options for researchers fall into two halves; academia/industry, private/public sector, profit/not-for-profit and by association well-paid/poorly paid, good/bad and a whole lot of other pairings that take on opposite positions.

The reality is that the labour market and the organisations that operate within it are extremely diverse. The boundaries of their remits, who they work with and for what purpose are fluid. A charity may be thinking about brand, competitors and income whilst a multinational could be thinking about environmental impact, corporate social responsibility and community engagement. You can still apply your own values in your choices about who you work for and what you do but your options in meeting your requirements may be broader than you think.

As a result, whatever career path you follow and whatever employer you choose to work for, you will be expected to think and contribute in a way that supports the wider interests of the organisation, not just your specific role. You should understand the sector you are working in and the political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental (PESTLE) issues that impact on it and be part of how your organisation can prepare respond and adapt. Alongside this sits professional behaviour and the way you conduct yourself in your role. This is often termed ‘commercial awareness’ or ‘business acumen’, phrases that often suggest this applies to some environments but not others – perhaps sector savvy would be more appropriate!

Your skills, knowledge and interests from your research experience will be relevant but so will those that come from every aspect of your life. We want PGRs to have the opportunity to gain more experience of demonstrating this and applying these approaches which is why we have come up with a new event – Researcher Challenge.


Whether you are from the Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences, MDH, Engineering or Science this is an opportunity aimed at you. If you are someone who has ideas, can spot alternatives, thinks creatively, who likes finding solutions or who thrives in working alongside others to do so you should enjoy this. If you would like to develop or enhance this way of working this is an opportunity to gain more experience of doing just that.

The Researcher Challenge is a unique event developed by The University of Sheffield Careers Service specifically for PhD students. It provides an opportunity to work on the current challenges and issues that impact organisations including charities, public sector organisations and businesses who are based in this region. Taking place over three days in the beautiful setting of the Kenwood Hall Hotel, you will have the opportunity to experience working innovatively with fellow researchers in a tranquil yet creative environment close to Sheffield city centre. Over three days you will

  • form teams and build relationships with colleagues,
  • conduct consultancy meetings with representatives from a particular organisation,
  • develop an understanding of the issues organisations face and the contexts they work in,
  • work on possible solutions to a current organisational challenge,
  • prepare a team presentation and pitch ideas to your ‘client’,
  • network with fellow participants, facilitators and organisational representatives,
  • demonstrate and enhance relevant skills and strengths and learn new strategies and techniques
  • evaluate your learning and development needs and apply this to your career thinking

Challenge yourself to do something different and bring your unique perspective to this opportunity – others will learn from you and you will gain from them. Register now!

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