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What's in store after your PhD?

11 novembre 2019

What's in store after your PhD? How can you prepare to join the workforce after your PhD? See what our PhD candidates and alumni had to say in this article published by the Association francophone pour le savoir (ACFAS). What about you? How are you preparing for the next step?

Articles originally published in French here

Take charge of your career

How can you prepare to join the workforce after university? This is a hard question for me to answer, since I haven’t had many opportunities to gain professional experience during my studies—and I think that many post-graduate students can relate to that. That said, as a PhD candidate nearing the end of my studies, I would still like to share some ideas that I have encountered and that I learned during the ACFAS’s Journées de la relève en recherche (young researchers conference), held on September 24 and 25, 2015.

At the risk of repeating myself, we’re not given many opportunities to ensure post-PhD success. Ask yourself this question: What type of job would you like to find after you complete your studies? I’ve been asked this question many times over the years. I like research, but is that really what I want to end up doing? What other possibilities or career choices are available to me? It can be hard to have perspective on the situation and get a big-picture view of the career opportunities in your field. Despite being immersed in this field for years during your studies, you may still have a hard time knowing what keywords appeal to recruiters. At the young researchers conference, I realized that I already have several skills that are valued on the job market and that I simply need to find the right words to describe these skills. I also learned what areas I should work on. This message was repeated. Think hard about the various career options that interest you—within the university research field and beyond—while you’re still doing your PhD studies. There are all kinds of jobs available outside of universities and even outside the realm of research (though still related to it). In fact, few PhD graduates will land positions as research professors, and there are many interesting careers out there that simply aren’t well-known.

Start preparing. The first step is to look into these matters while you’re still at university. There’s isn’t a single, fool-proof solution. Determine which career options might be available to you later, inside and outside the university research field, and then work on developing the skills required for those positions. It’s to your advantage to gain a range of different skills (i.e. cross-sector skills). This means you should participate in scientific activities other than those for your thesis. Do volunteer work. Jump on any opportunity that will allow you to rub shoulders with other scientists and professionals in your field. Keep your eyes and ears open. Talk about your work in simple terms. Work your network of contacts. Take initiative.

In short, take charge of your career!

Audrey Moffett, Biologist, MSc PhD candidate, water science at the INRS’s water, earth and environment/ecotoxicology department

Top up your PhD with secondary skills

“Half of you won’t end up working in your field.”

When I started my PhD, the Dean of Research offered up this inspiring little nugget of information: “Half of you won’t end up working in your field.” I was in Ireland at the time, but I doubt that this statistic has improved there or in Quebec since then. My university was honest enough to tell us what we really needed: a PhD and secondary skills. These include abilities related to personnel management, lab management, problem-solving, writing, literature review, explaining concepts in plain language, resilience to failure, etc. The list is long, positive and full of hope.

If you have a PhD, there are a lot of options available to you. Some people become researchers, others manage English soccer teams (with a doctorate in history!). Your secondary skills, combined with your expertise—or not—will help you find a job, uphold your values and maybe even change the world, if that’s what you’re inclined to do. The best thing that prepared me was realizing that I would have to make a decision after graduating. This pushed me to look for tools that would pave the way to a job outside of research, since that option suited me better.

If the Dean hadn’t been so open, I never would have seized the opportunity that has enabled me to do what I do today. But it took work. I got involved in several different workplaces, I spoke to career counsellors and I thought about my future. This helped me find my calling and develop these everimportant secondary skills.

Louis-Charles Rainville Project manager, Merinov, Gaspé PhD in Biochemistry (University College Cork)

Seizing opportunities as a PhD student!

I believe that the secret to preparing for life in the workforce is to seize the opportunities available when you’re completing your PhD. That’s the time to explore the various paths that you cross while writing your thesis! In fact, I believe that cross-sector skills can be developed while you carry out PhD projects. There are many possibilities. Can you participate in a research team working in a clinic outside the university? Can you teach university students or offer workshops to high school or Cegep students? Is there a scientific association or group that needs a student representative to implement new initiatives? Do any mentors need help with projects outside of academia? With a little hunting around, you’ll quickly realize that opportunities abound. Of course, I believe that mentors and research supervisors should be open to allowing PhD candidates to do more than just their PhD. They should encourage students to get involved in various projects by opening the door to this type of opportunity.

In the same vein as this month’s editorial, I loved the idea behind the TraCe project, which follows PhD students for several years after they graduate. By showing us where they end up, the project makes it much easier to understand that a PhD can take you down a lot of different paths outside the academic world. This is a great way to help PhD students find their way, whether they’re starting or ending their studies!

I am also a proponent of stronger ties between alumni and universities. These should be encouraged and developed. People are always talking about the connection between research and practical or clinical settings. By maintaining links between PhD graduates and the university, we would be able to set up singular initiatives between public or private work environments and university research centres. There’s still a lot to be done in this regard, but the ideas are already being tabled—we just need to put them into action!

Anne Hudon PhD student, Rehabilitative Sciences Université de Montréal

Be proactive and develop transferrable skills

When I did my PhD in physiology, I found that there were few links between the academic sector and the private sector, except in research and development. If you want to find a different career outside the university setting, I believe that you have to be proactive and seek out connections with professionals from various fields. This is a good way of finding out what’s happening off campus and discovering careers that you didn’t even know existed. A good starting point is meeting with alumni and joining networking groups in your field of interest. In addition to giving you a different point of view on available careers, these groups will help you build your own network, which will come in handy when you look for a job after graduating.

It’s also important to think about the type of work you’d like to get and figure out what skills you’re gaining at university that could be transferrable. Develop these skills so that you can convince future employers that your academic experience has prepared you for their specific needs.

Manuelle Rongy, PhD Medical Science Liaison Officer

Practice makes perfect!

How do you prepare for working outside university? In my opinion, the question contains the answer. If you want to prepare for life off campus, then you need to work off campus. As they say, practice makes perfect! In my case, that’s just how things unfolded. I spent seven years in the workforce between the end of my master’s degree (2008) and the beginning of my PhD (2015). During that time, I had the chance to learn more about my field, to participate in interesting projects and to understand the differences between academic practice and professional practice in my field, which is engineering. This also helped me figure out which role I wanted to play and which scientific knowledge I wanted to gain through research. All this helped inform my decision to pursue a PhD—and it has prepared me for whatever happens during my studies and after!

Nicolas Beauchamp, Eng., MASc Instructor, Assistant Instructor and PhD student

What’s the best way to prepare?

It’s simple. Just do volunteer work or get involved in social or environmental causes to better understand the issues affecting humanity. This real-life, non-academic experience will help you align your goals and skills with your chosen profession. Dolorès Contré Migwans Lecturer Université de Montréal What awaits after your PhD? I have extended my PhD studies in environmental science at UQÀM’s environmental science institute, and I often think about the various factors that led to my current situation. Even though a PhD may close some doors with employers who think I’m over-qualified for a position, I don’t regret my decision to take this path because it has helped me grow so much, both intellectually and spiritually.

Today, the only avenue that I can envision after my PhD is to start my own business. I’m lucky to work in a field where there is a lot of potential and there are a lot of doors still unopened. I have a big project in mind, but entrepreneurship is still something I need to explore.

Olivier Collin-Haubensak

 

référence

 

Dossier doctorat: Comment se préparer à oeuvrer aussi hors de l'université - https://www.acfas.ca/publications/decouvrir/2015/10/dossier-doctorat

 

 
Sujet(s) : Recherche d'emploi/stage, Conseils-carrière, Marché du travail/tendances
Cycle(s) d'études : Cycles supérieurs

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