Broaden your horizons: opportunities to gain skills and experiences outside your PhD (part 1)

Gemma Garrett, Careers Consultant

Whether you’re seeking a career in academia or elsewhere, it’s likely your next employer will be looking for a broad range of skills and experiences, not all of which you might acquire during your PhD. It’s therefore useful to be aware, and take advantage of, opportunities to broaden your horizons beyond your PhD. 

On Weds 13th June, postgraduate researchers gathered to hear from six of their peers about a variety of activities they’re involved in alongside their PhD. The event aimed to raise awareness of the exciting range of opportunities available to PhD students to broaden their skills and experiences, and further enhance their chances of securing their next role. Broaden your horizons was organised by Careers & Enterprise as part of the 2016 GradFest organised by QMUL’s Doctoral College.

Read on to find out more about what our speakers are involved in… we’ll be featuring more of our speakers on our blog soon, so watch this space!

jenny mccurryJenny McCurry, a third year Geography postgraduate, recently completed a three month Research Councils UK (RCUK) policy internship. These paid internships are available to any Research Council-funded PhD students, regardless of their discipline (they are offered by the MRC, NERC, BBSRC, EPSRC, ESRC and AHRC). They provide the opportunity to develop an understanding of the policy-making process and how research contributes to it. In her role, Jenny was working in a team of analysts at the Department for Communities and Local Government. The experience gave her an insight into the different roles within government and how the policy process works. It also allowed her to apply the research skills developed throughout her PhD to new topic areas, and to achieve impact in a new environment outside academia. As well as gaining an insight into a different job sector, Jenny made a myriad of new contacts (including academics active in the policy arena) that will support her in her next career move.

Samuel BrodSamuel Brod from the WHRI spoke about how a chance encounter, talking to a (then) stranger in a bar about his PhD project, led to involvement in a series of science communication activities. This started with a video combining his science with art, but subsequently led to writing, public engagement and presenting roles. Sam found these opportunities through a combination of proactivity (seeking out activities like the NatureJobs blog writing competition) and his ability to talk enthusiastically about his subject to anyone who will listen (leading to referrals to roles that included an internship at the Centre of the Cell). Among other things, Sam has contributed to the NatureJobs blog, helped organise events such as Pint of Science and the Cheltenham Science Festival, and edited the WHRI academic newsletter.  His rising science communication profile means that people now approach him with paid work to do something he enjoys doing!


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