By Kelly

It’s a dirty word, especially for those of us who have been at university for more years than they care to admit (7!). I am talking about a….j_o_b. If there is one thing that really irks me about studying at a research school it is that all too often the supervisor, and indeed the entire faculty, take no interest in providing PhD students with advice or ideas for prospective employment outside of an academic pursuit.  There are far too many articles for my liking that discuss the over-supply of graduating PhD’s and the lack of academic positions that need to be filled. From my own experience I actually had someone snigger when I expressed my desire to apply for government graduate programs. Apparently yearning for some kind of job security, decent income, and reasonable working hours is beneath a PhD graduate.

As far as the PhD roller coaster goes, I may have hit the low point recently (I may have even figuratively thrown up over the side). However I like to think of myself as a proactive sort, and motivated by this all time low, I signed up for a ‘Careers for graduates’ workshop at the ANU’s Careers Centre. Surely there is light at then end of this tunnel (of horror! okay now I’m getting carried away with the fairground analogy)?. In preparing for the session we were asked to take four quizzes to assess our knowledge of current j_o_b markets and the process of applying for j_o_b_s. I failed two of the quizzes and barely passed the third. I think this is why I am still at university. It would appear I am a little unprepared for the outside world.

The workshop covered many topics, including the state of the labour market, a rather overwhelming clip on why one needs to embrace change (see here), career planning, how to identify opportunities, job search strategies and how to market your skills and qualifications effectively. They provided some excellent examples of how graduates often completely underestimate their skill set. My favourite was the chap who on finishing a PhD in IT wrote on a government application that his IT skills were below average. Unless the job was to build a supercomputer then I am betting his ability was beyond word processing and writing the occasional macro in Excel. The problem was context. He was comparing himself to the academics around him, not those who were likely applying for that particular position.

After a few short hours I have had my eyes opened to the potential in the public sector, the private sector and avenues within the university system that are outside traditional research. Rather than write a comprehensive list of the tips, hints and strategies that were outlined in the workshop I have started putting together a page under our ‘Useful Links‘ banner called ‘J_O_B_S‘. It will be updated with links to relevant government organisations, industry links and portals for navigating an entry into a position of employment, even within academia. Before we get to that point we need to get through the PhD itself so I have also started  ‘PhD Resources‘. As always if anyone has any suggestions feel free to leave comment or contact us.