Planning your career for life after the PhD

Teaching and research posts are scarce these days thanks to the drastic changes to HE funding, widespread job cuts, increased tuition fees and the trend towards marketization of the sector, leading to fierce competition in the job market.

As a result, employers are increasingly eliminating candidates who do not have a long list of publications on their CV or research eligible for submission to the new REF that commences in 2014. If you are nearing submission of your PhD and plan to write journal articles later this year, you should note that only articles published before December 2013 will be eligible for REF submission.

This has left many PhD graduates being unable to secure a full-time post and facing an uncertain academic future.

The role of the hourly paid lecturer, (the most likely option), has frequently been described as ‘slave labour,’ by emerging academics who have expressed confusion over the new zero hour contracts. Many also complain about having to complete weekly time sheets and receiving pay two months in arrears.

So what are the alternatives?  Postdoctoral Research Fellow posts are few and far between but offer an opportunity to work on a funded research project at a university. The downside is that they are generally only offered as fixed term contracts of up to two years.

However, just because the competition is fierce this should not deter you from submitting job applications. Even if you have not yet published any research, you can still demonstrate your potential to develop a strong research profile by including details of conference presentations or participation in research groups.

You should also include details of your research interests, articles you are developing for future publication and of course any current book proposals that you are developing or have submitted to academic publishers.

Don’t under-sell your professional experience or any knowledge and skills gained through voluntary work. This can boost your CV considerably, especially if you can demonstrate how this complements and has contributed to your academic development.

Some PhD students have teaching experience gained before and during their studentship and this will also be an asset, as would a teaching qualification such as the PG Cert or Diploma in Teaching in HE.

If you have not been involved in teaching, then following submission of your PhD thesis would be a good time to take up hourly paid lecturing whilst undertaking a teaching qualification.

Set yourself a target of 10-12 months to develop your teaching skills and publish four journal articles. By next year you will be a highly desirable candidate ready to embark on your first full-time academic post!

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