Archives for posts with tag: planning

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


d53018c541604453a8446db7ebff4483.jpgI work a lot with stuck and panicking PhD researchers near the end of their time here, and from them I have some intel to share. Bear in mind then that what follows doesn’t represent an ever so typical experience, but it does represent an important and keenly felt negative experience. One we can all learn from as colleagues in researcher development: be your role full time academic superhero and supervisor, or like mine, a specialist learning and development role, I think this will be relevant to you. Read the rest of this entry »


I must admit that I ummed and ahhed about posting this entry. For a start, I’m still in pretty deep denial about it already being September, and the fact that the new academic year is about to begin; and, for another thing, I’ve touched on my approach to resolutions and goal-setting before in this blog, and I was conscious that I could be about to repeat or, maybe, entirely contradict that post. But, actually, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about my New (academic) Year’s resolutions, and, from talking to other colleagues and researchers, I’m not alone. Read the rest of this entry »

trip-birthday-quotesAs another birthday looms (tomorrow! eek) , I again take the opportunity to reflect on the last year and make plans for the next.

It’s a bit like News Year’s Eve except that I have to do it alone, as it’s my birthday and no one else’s! (well, maybe a few million others but no family or friends) No one will be asking me what my new resolutions are, just wishing me ‘Happy Birthday’ with smiles on their faces. Read the rest of this entry »

Organising your PT Phd by @SRDent89

Challenge Annika

“I go through spells where I don’t do anything. I just sort of have lunch—all day.”

Writing is not my natural forte, I like the Nora Ephron quote above about her writing process, so similar to mine. I go through long dry spells where my motivation is on the floor, my focus too caught elsewhere, and I’m not entirely sure I’ll get a PhD at all – the guilt creeping in for every day off, or trip out for coffee. Secretly I feel abit like a dilatant, who if they can look and sound the part someone will eventually give them a PhD. Like Annika’s earlier blogpost, I have the “swishy wool coat and smart leather bag that makes me appear intelligent”.

The truth is I probably work far too much, and am anything but a dilatant. I am a part-time PhD student, with a full time job, who would…

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Oh, okay, not THAT one...

         Oh, okay, not that one…

You may not have heard of Hofstadter’s Law; I hadn’t until, as I sat, staring wretchedly at the expanse of white on my computer screen, I fell back into one of my favourite, if not most useful, writer’s block activities – namely, mashing my keyboard, trying to shake answers to life’s great questions out of my search engine:


Oh, come on, you’ve all done it……right?

Read the rest of this entry »

As a UK-based researcher you might be interested in working in academia outside the UK, whether in a permanent role or just to broaden your experience before resuming a career at home. Given the international nature of the postgraduate student body, the fact that employers recruit globally to academic and research posts and the long tradition of British PhDs undertaking post-docs abroad, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to find someone in your own institution who’s been there and can advise you on how to go about looking for a job in your chosen country. Read the rest of this entry »

Guest post from Caitlin Brumby, a PhD researcher in the Dept. of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.

I joined Kay’s PhD leadership coaching course more because it sounded interesting rather than anything else. In hindsight, this may be one of the better places to start from, it gave me pause to think about almost everything discussed, and one train of thought has stuck with me more than the others. Something I thought about more and more throughout the sessions was giving real thought to one nagging worry:

Perhaps Im not the right person for academia in the long term, would I eventually fit in amongst these well respected academics? Me? They know everything!

bf663c8f441c4a6ea29345837939a968 I’m one of the masses suffering from the imposter syndrome I suppose, a constant feeling of inadequacy, when actually, looking at the facts and feedback, I’m doing pretty well.

I don’t think I’m the perfect PhD student, in fact, I know I’m not. I get incredibly distracted by the big picture, the elegance of experiments, new techniques on different continents and cool 3D microscopy models. Read the rest of this entry »


Wired to go. Wire? Wire not? Image: Darwin Bell, Flickr

Where are your data? How would you feel if somebody contacted you and asked to see it? Public access to research data is an initiative being driven forward by big research funders, influential societies and government. In essence the aim is to ensure transparency and reflect the right to access information through the Freedom of Information Act.

Data Management Plans are now a common part of the application process for research funding and the EPSRC helped roll the ball by mandating that research organisations comply with EPSRC expectations. These include making metadata (the data about data) available online in a way that is visible, searchable and accessible and that accurately represents the underlying research data, in most cases, 12 months after its generation. If access to the underlying data is restricted then the metadata must include the reasons for restriction and conditions of access. Research data must be available for a minimum of 10 years. All publications resulting from RCUK funding require a statement detailing how underlying data can be accessed.

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In June this year, at the University of Sheffield Engineering Symposium (USES), PVC Professor Tony Ryan gave a wonderful talk on collaboration and one of his pearls of wisdom was “Serendipity favours the prepared and open mind”. Serendipity has been described as “an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident; good fortune; or luck.” How true I thought of my life, when several times it has seemed an opportunity has just fallen into my lap! On reflection the only reasons these were ‘lucky’ was, because of the range of experience I already had, from not following a structured career path. “The harder I work, the luckier I get” said Samuel Goldwyn, so perhaps opportunities only come when we have worked hard to ensure we are ready! Can we be prepared for the opportunities that come our way?

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