#sheffvista 112 Dr Suk May (Joyce) Low, Graduate Careers Manager

Each Friday we post a new v i s t a profile, a career beyond the academy story (use the tags at the bottom of the post to find the entire list). These posts accompany our curated events to support post-PhD career transitions, v i s t a mentoring, and also #sheffvista on Twitter.

Job title and company: Graduate Careers Manager, UKEC (United Kingdom Education Centre)

Approximate salary range for your type of role: £25,000 – £27,000

Joyce.jpgI started my job search as soon as I finished my PhD viva. As I also hold a CELTA (an English teaching qualification), I knew I had to start early to secure a summer position. However, I never heard back from any language schools or the English Centres of various universities. So after completing my thesis minor corrections, I started to look for jobs within universities e.g. research assistant, professional services etc. I was confident that with my experience at the university working part-time in different jobs including Resident Life Mentor (in Halls of Residence), International Office Ambassador, Teaching Assistant, Course Mentor, I would have gained ample experience within a university environment and dealing with students. However, none of the applications were successful.

That was when I started thinking about jobs outside of academia.

On a recommendation from my friend, I worked as a part-time receptionist with a charity in Manchester. This role required proficiency in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. It was a maternity cover for few months so I thought, why not?.Two months into the role, there was an opening for Education, Training and Employment Project Worker. I applied and got the job. This role has provided me with much knowledge in education management, and I was even given the opportunity to write funding applications! I worked at the charity for a year before I took my current job.

I got into this current role because I was introduced to the HR manager a couple of years back by a common friend, whilst I was still a PhD student. We’ve met on a few occasions in the intervening years, and one day she called to ask if I’d be interested in the role. As they were planning to start a new department within the company, she thought my skills in research and my experience as an international student would be useful for the role. I agreed and started my role as a Graduate Careers Manager.

Conducting career talk.jpgMy main objective in the beginning was to set a structure and vision for the new department. My research skills were fully utilised at this point. My manager has given me a lot of autonomy in this role and as the role developed and as we get a clearer picture for the department, I started visiting universities to give ‘employer presentations’. Delivering these presentations not only improved my company’s branding, but also allowed me to share with students my experience of looking for job or working part-time whilst being an international student here in the UK.

My line manager has also discovered my skills in delivering training and so I was also tasked to conduct internal soft skills training for over 80 staff, including face-to-face training and online webinars. So, my day-to-day routine in the past year has been: contacting Career Services of UK universities in order to make arrangement for talks, attending recruitment fairs, planning training sessions and conducting them.

Internal soft skills training.jpg

I’m not sure if I would go back in to academia at this moment but I’m certainly enjoying my role. This role allows me to meet students, be a mentor to them, and continue my passion in teaching/training. All my years of doing academic presentations have certainly trained me to be a better speaker whether in front of students or colleagues, even those who are more senior than me. I also appreciate how my PhD has sharpened my research skills; giving me the ability to identify problems and create solutions.

I understand that it might be frightening for researchers to leave academia because it means coming out of the comfort zone we’ve been in for the past few years. But it is not bad at all! You just need to find a role that you are passionate in and makes use of your transferable skills!

I will actually be moving back to Malaysia in May. I was initially wondering if this is a chance for me to find a new job in academia but after discussing with my company, they are happy for me to do a transfer to our office in Malaysia. Although I will have a new job title, I will have more involvement with academic management and skills training for high school students. Albeit not within a university environment, I am happy that I will still be working closely with young people, mentoring and coaching them.

To all PhDs who will be graduating soon, don’t be disheartened when your job application isn’t successful. Have full confidence that your PhD programme has given you many skills even in the private sector. Let your passion lead your next steps.


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