Archives for posts with tag: career

This is the final Think Ahead blog post from, Jane Simm, Careers Adviser for Researchers. Jane retires on the 31 July 2017 — we wish her all the very best and thank her for her long, passionate and dedicated support.


So what actually does a graduate scheme involve?

Many of the larger organisations provide opportunities for graduates to join them via a ‘graduate scheme’, ‘grad programme’, ‘training scheme’, ‘graduate development programme’ etc etc…in fact a range of terminology is used so take note of this! It is  usually a way of gaining experience, receiving training in functional areas e.g. finance, marketing, purchasing, to name but a few, but can involve routes into obtaining Chartered status also, for certain professions.

Is this an appropriate route for a researcher to consider?

In a nutshell, mmmm quite possibly, but it will depend on the type of work you are seeking to enter, and where the employer/organisation places graduate schemes as part of its recruitment programme. Many smaller organisations such as small to medium size companies (also called SMEs) will have different methods of attracting researchers, such as ‘direct hires’ or ‘experienced hires’, which we will come back to.*

When considering a potential careers outside academia it is essential to consider the many and varied way an organisation uses to attract candidates:

What are the different approaches to job search for researchers ?

Numerous surveys and reports, over the years have discussed this topic, but its all about using your creativity and very obvious research skills to consider what’s best for you. To name some approaches: Social media including LinkedIn (now a key networking site, so how is your online presence?!); Graduate vacancy websites such as Prospects and Target Jobs; your own HE Careers Service jobs pages (if you have access to them), who work with employers wanting to advertise their vacancies; Specialist jobsites depending on the nature of the work you are seeking (e.g. charityjob or Nature Jobs); never underestimate the value of your learned societies or professional bodies who often have their own vacancy sites; recruitment agencies (also called ‘executive search’ sites) are frequently used by researchers to secure employment; regional job search sites such as Yorkshire Graduates; and good old fashioned newspapers in the UK, and specialist publications.

*So what is direct entry or experienced hires?

This is where an organisation may be advertising specific roles, vacancies or positions where your skills set matches their requirements. It could be an advertised vacancy on a company website you have identified, or a speculative approach to a company where you highlight your key skills in a cover letter. These may be research related, or perhaps focussed on a career change, highlighting the transferable skills that employers outside academia value greatly.

So what are the advantages of Direct Hire versus Graduate Schemes

This will depend on what career you are seeking to enter, and whether you are sure of the kind of role you want to take. For example, through Grad Schemes many of the larger companies will provide the chance to experience several different functional roles within their company, possibly linked to professional training and development. However, many researchers with a comprehensive set of skills already banked, may join an organisation based on their current and previous experience as a direct hire which may offer the opportunity for an accelerated career progression. There is no ‘one size fits all’, and you should carefully weigh up your options, and the recruitment patterns of employers.

How do I secure a Graduate scheme?

Timing is often crucial for applications as many employers will close their schemes before December of the year prior to start dates. Timing this right should form part of your job search strategy!

Make sure you are clear what you want and what can you offer a potential employer who is offering a graduate scheme. Highlight your  skills set and do some careful research on what they are, how do they match the organisation’s requirements, you will need to provide clear examples of when you have used these skills and competencies, and would you be able to provide evidence of how they have been used. Consider how to successfully apply for jobs, complete different types of application forms, and cope with various types of interviews. Remember many of the larger employers will use a range of selection techniques such as assessment centres, possibly psychometric assessment, to name but a few. Do your homework and try and get along to any networking sessions employers and Careers Services may be offering.

Still considering options? At Sheffield we bring back past researchers to talk about their experiences in a very successful programme called v i s t a (seminars, mentoring, blogs). We also have two dedicated careers advisers for researchers who provide workshops and one to one support. You can find them through Career Connect.

Remember, always do what’s best for you. Good luck with your job search


ERS_Logo_12_bI attended the Engineering Researcher Symposium last Friday (30 June 2017) and the message that came across to me, was that often collaboration isn’t about having a research idea and then looking for collaborators, but rather it can be by talking to others, that ideas for collaboration come about. Read the rest of this entry »

This is a guest post from Sara Shinton, Head of Researcher Development, University of Edinburgh — see Sara’s blog here.

An analysis of the portfolios of major research funders over the last 20 years would reveal many shifts, but perhaps the most marked is the trend away from single discipline, narrow topic research towards a collaborative model. Researchers are expected to develop connections in other disciplines and sectors and to work with them on projects on a grander scale, with a broader scope or to address specific societal issues. Read the rest of this entry »

On 6 February 2017 a group of university researchers ventured out into the Peak District but this was no ‘walk in the park’. This was one of the biggest cement research groups visiting the biggest cement plant in the UK.

HOPE Cement Works is situated in the centre of the Peak District National Park (Derbyshire) it is currently part of the Breedon Group and employs 165 people. It produces approximately 1.5 million tonnes of cement per year(approximately 0.05% of the world’s cement production!). Cement manufacture is the world’s third largest contributor of man-made carbon dioxide emissions, which promote climate change by gradually warming our planet; these industrial emissions are exceeded only by electricity generation and deforestation. Cement production has such a high carbon dioxide count mainly because cement is the second most consumed commodity in the world after water (which is also mixed with cement to make it set and harden). Due to this large demand for cement, there is a lot of pressure on the industry to reduce its environmental burden. Read the rest of this entry »


In May 2016 I posted about the launch of a research project I am collaborating on with Billy Bryan (@BillyB100) looking into perceptions of value in the PhD.

The study has progressed really well over the last 9 months, we have now completed two phases: our survey for current PhD students got 200+ responses, and we also did 22 in depth interviews with PhD graduates across a range of career types. Read the rest of this entry »

Guest post by Ellen Buckley, Research Technician and PhD Staff Candidate, Department of Neuroscience and member of the Medicine, Dentistry and Health’s Research in Policy Group.


What is the current role of researchers in policy-making and how might or should this change in the future?

What are the routes to how research becomes incorporated into policy?

Why does policy not always reflect research evidence?

What are the range of policy careers available within universities, Government, NGOs and charities?

Read the rest of this entry »

Following this post and this post from @kayguccione about attitudes to leaving academia, this is a guest post from Dr Cally Guerin, University of Adelaide who edits the Doctoral Writing Blog (@docwritingSIG).

When doctoral candidates are nearing the end of their degrees, mentioning their future career paths can be a pretty touchy subject. Just look at these memes:

pitt.pngBrad Pitt in Fight Club Read the rest of this entry »

9e46e897a7450e44f4d99b034b08fac7.jpgAbout every other day I see a piece on Twitter or a blog, or a similar about attitudes to leaving academia. It’s part of my job to consider these attitudes, especially when they may prevent people from freely accessing events, internships and mentoring designed to broaden researcher career horizons. I wrote about it in this post on silence and stigma in leaving the academy, where I make the point that supervisors and PIs have a responsibility to make sure they don’t prevent people engaging. Read the rest of this entry »

women-talking-converted.jpgVia twitter (@kayguccione) I came across this anonymous article yesterday. It adds to a growing recent batch of articles in various places about the value of a PhD for life outside the academy. It describes very well the stats on the likelihood of working in academia permanently, and makes a clear call to reposition the doctoral degree as preparation for whatever should come next (like your UG or Masters is), rather than an academic gauntlet to be run where only the fittest (most stubborn, and most burned out) survive. I am all for this, in fact it’s part of the work I do, getting researchers to broaden their awareness of careers beyond academia — see v i s t a, and v i s t a mentoring (alternatives are available in other institutions). However, yesterday’s article offers the opinion that people aren’t talking about this issue, describing a “universal silence on non-academic career options.” Read the rest of this entry »