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Last post for a while…

I finish up today for maternity leave, so won’t be posting for the next while, but there are still plenty of sites where you can find PGR specific careers info and get guidance and advice on your career plans…

First of all, I often reference Vitae in this blog because they’re a body that exist solely to provide this kind of info for research students and staff. If you haven’t already looked at their careers pages, there’s lots of good info there including stats on what PhDs do, CV advice and examples and case studies of PGRs who’ve gone on to do all kinds of interesting things.  If you find those case studies interesting, you can also see more at Beyond the PhD from Arts & Humanities graduates.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t write off general graduate careers sites – even though they’re not specifically designed for PhDs there’s lots of info which can be particularly useful if you want to think about other options but don’t know where to start.  For example, Prospects has short descriptions of a wide variety of job titles with info about what’s involved, how and where to find vacancies, and indications of average salaries and longer-term prospects.  For those of you looking for a place to start, a new tool on the Gradireland site aims to build a profile of careers you might be interested in, and while I wouldn’t recommend basing your life plans solely on an online quiz, it might give you some ideas.

Meanwhile for those of you focussing on academic careers, you’re probably already using jobs.ac.uk to look for vacancies, but did you know there’s also a growing list of articles, blogs and CV templates on there too?  The Times Higher is also invaluable for keeping up to date with the latest debates in the field, and if you’re looking at the North American market the Chronicle provides an equivalent.

These are just a few of my most used starting points – if you’re aware of any other great resources then why not use the comments facility to post them here?  Of course, if you’d rather explore career options and info face-to-face there will still be career-related PSTP workshops running throughout the year, and if you want to arrange an individual discussion about your plans just email careers@qub.ac.uk.

Bye for now, and good luck with your plans!

Students who have an interest in EU affairs or are considering EU career options, might be interested in this event:

The University will be hosting a visit from the Minister for Europe, Rt Hon David Lidington MP, on the afternoon of Wednesday, 19 October 2011. The Minister’s primary objective for his visit is to spread the word on what the European Union has to offer to our students and the opportunities for Northern Ireland graduates in the EU Institutions.

The Minister will give a presentation to invited guests on the subject of EU careers, and this will be followed by a panel-led discussion and Q&A, chaired by the Vice-Chancellor and involving the Minister for Europe, Dr Stephen Farry MLA, Minister for Employment and Learning, Mr Maurice Maxwell, Head of European Commission’s Office in Belfast, and Dr David Phinnemore, Lecturer in Politics, International Studies and Philosophy.

The main event will take place from 1.05 – 2.20pm in the Great Hall, Queen’s University. Numbers will be limited, therefore, students interested in attending should book a place at through the Careers Events Calendar.

This is a question I get asked a lot, particularly from people wondering if this is the only route open to them outside academia.  It’s definitely not the only way to get a job, and has never been the way in which the majority of graduates find employment, but there are some circumstances under which you might want to consider going the graduate scheme route. 

Firstly, I’m using the term ‘graduate scheme’ as a catch-all for when an employer knows that their organisation can sustain a certain number of new recruits, even if they don’t have a particular job in mind for them.  Instead, they take on a batch of new graduates and move them around the organisation for the first few years, where they work on a number of different projects and receive training, before moving into a more defined role.  Because the graduate scheme is very much about training and developing the graduate for a future within that organisation, many graduate schemes do not specify a particular degree discipline (although some more specific programmes, especially those recruiting into research and development roles, might ask for a broad area such as Engineering).

So they can be a good option for people who feel like doing something totally different, or aren’t quite sure exactly what they want to do.  For example, we produce a booklet every year of graduate opportunities in the Financial Services Sector, where most employers ask for 2:1 degree in any discipline.  Similarly, many of the wide range of employers attending our Administration, Finance and Management Careers Fair on Tue 25 October are interested in recruiting graduates from any degree background.  Because many of the companies who recruit in this way are multinationals, it can also be a good option for those who want to travel with their job.

But are they going to be particularly keen on, or indeed put off by, your PhD?  Most often the answer is neither – they’ll treat you as any other graduate, and as well as your first degree will have a list of competencies that they’ll want you to be able to demonstrate, whether that’s through your PhD or other experiences.  However, their processes will be based around the undergraduate timetable, so if you want to start work in autumn 2012 they’ll usually expect you to start the application process around a year in advance.  Typically, this will include several stages such as online applications, aptitude tests, interviews and assessment centres and we can help you to prepare for all of these activities.

So if this is something you’re considering, don’t leave it too late – come along to the careers fairs, pick up some publications in the Student Guidance Centre and get in touch if you have any queries.

Public sector administration has long been a key employer of PhD graduates (approx 5 % of PhD graduates across all disciplines according to the most recent Vitae analysis) – perhaps unsurprisingly, as much of the work focuses on developing research-informed policy that will have a major impact on the wider community. However, it’s not a big secret that current government policy is aiming to cut public sector jobs and bureaucracy, so is there any point in thinking about it as a place to build your career?

It’s true that in the last couple of years, there have been recruitment freezes and cuts in some areas. However, employers keep telling us that they’ve learned the lessons of past recessions: namely, if you don’t keep bringing in good people even when times are tough, then it’s more difficult to recover when circumstances improve.  Therefore, they might not be looking for the same numbers of graduates as they did in past years but in many cases they are still recruiting.

One of the best known and most competitive routes into the public sector is through the UK Civil Service Fast Stream, which describes itself as the ‘talent management scheme for graduates who have the potential to become future leaders of the Civil Service.’  As well as a generalist stream for graduates of any degree discipline, there are also specialist streams for applicants with a particular focus, including one for those graduates who want to work in the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

If you are applying through this route, bear in mind the application process is designed around the undergraduate year, so applications opened this week for people looking to start work in September 2012.  It’s also worth knowing that the first stage in the application process involves some pretty tricky aptitude tests, so you might want to attend a workshop on aptitude testing or try some practice tests.

This ‘graduate scheme’ isn’t the only way in to the public sector however – for example, NISRA are currently advertising entry level Assistant Statistician positions (closing date September 30th!) on our vacancy database and are very keen to receive applications from PhDs, and we add jobs to this database every day so keep checking back.

Students thinking about careers in conference organisation might be interested in this vacancy I recently received:

The Institute of Technology Tralee and the CARA APA Centre will host the European Congress in Adapted Physical Activity (EUCAPA) Conference in Killarney, County Kerry in early May 2012. The title of the 2012 event is “Putting Practice Based Research into Action” and the focus of the conference is the presentation of research and case studies which can inform day to day practice in relation to the inclusion and empowerment of people with disabilities in sport, physical activity and physical education.  EUCAPA 2012 will also involve an extensive cultural programme which will introduce delegates to the diversity of Irish folk, culture and sports. It is expected that over 400 delegates will attend the conference. The CARA National APA Centre wish to recruit a Co-ordinator to plan for, manage, execute and evaluate the EUCAPA Conference. This position will commence in August 2011 and is a 12 month appointment.

To see more details and download an application forms, visit CARA’s jobs page. Closing date for applications is Wed 6th July at 12 noon.

Careers colleagues at the University of Limerick have invited all research students from Irish institutions to join them for a Science, Engineering & Technology Research Careers Fair and Networking Event on Wednesday 1 June. The event will consist of a Networking Seminar  from 11.00-12.00 followed immediately by the Research Careers Fair from 12.00-2.00pm.  Both events will take place in the Foundation Building Atrium – no 11 on the campus map at  http://www2.ul.ie/pdf/918246657.pdf.  Parking is available in the Concert Hall car park which is beside the building.

The SET Research Careers Fair and Networking Event offers research students the opportunity to meet with employer representatives and find out how jobs are sourced and why types of research roles exist and how these roles are filled. The event will commence with a Networking Seminar, delivered by Sinead English, to facilitate research students to think about and articulate what they have to offer and what they are looking for from their career– with the aim of putting it into practice immediately afterwards with participating employers. With 24 select organisations attending the fair this event offers researchers a unique opportunity to meet research as well as HR professionals from participating companies.  

If interested please register in advance at www.ul.ie/careers/careers/events/Registration_RCS/  so that they can estimate the number attending. Of course, if you can’t attend then knowing that all the companies below are interested in recruiting researchers might also be helpful…

Participating organisations include:
Abbott Ireland             
Analog Devices
Annadale Technologies
Bell Labs – Alcatel Lucent              
Boston Scientific              
Goodman Medical          
Hewlett Packard              
ITLG (Irish Technology Leadership Group)           
Kerry Group      
Medtronic Vascular        
Pharma Bio Serv              
Silicon Laboratories        
Stryker Instruments      

PwC are looking for entry level Consultants to join the Technology Centre of Excellence in NI in September 2011. This program is open to to ANY GRADUATE tracking to or with a 2:1 with a business, finance, science,
engineering, mathematical or IT component. Overall, you must have business and commercial awareness and be comfortable with IT/technology. In addition you must be able to demonstrate strong interpersonal and communication skills.

To apply for these roles, please follow the following application path:
• Click on latest jobs in NI
• Enter reference no. CON00232 and apply online
Closing date for receipt of all applications is 13 May 2011.

Jobs with Seagate

Seagate are currently recruiting for a Thin Films and a Magnetics Specialist, and are interested in applications from PhDs who meet the requirements.

Seagate is the worldwide leader in the design, manufacture and marketing of hard disc drives, providing products for a wide-range of Enterprise, Desktop, Mobile Computing, and Consumer Electronics applications. Located in L’Derry Northern Ireland, Seagate’s Springtown facility employs over 1,350 people involved in the development and manufacture of recording heads. Seagate can be found around the globe and at www.seagate.com.

For job descriptions and application forms telephone the Applications helpdesk on 02871 274174 or email STST.recruitment@seagate.com. The closing date for receipt of applications is Friday 13th May 2011 at 4 pm.

Accenture are currently establishing a new Analytics Innovation Centre in Dublin, where they plan to hire approx 100 staff with analytical and statistical experience over the next few years, and they’re interested in PhD graduates: see their recruitment site for further details and their press release for background.

Whenever a study is done about employer perceptions of PhD graduates, the same issue always comes out top: the employers’ main concern is that PhD graduates might have ”difficulty in gaining commercial awareness and in making the transition from one working culture to another”.

I therefore asked Pete Goode from Mercer to give a PSTP talk on Commercial Awareness last week, and thought I would share some of the main points he covered.

Firstly, what do companies mean by commercial awareness? In his book ‘All you need to know about Commercial Awareness’, Christopher Stokes defines it as “At heart, commercial awareness is about being able to talk to clients, finding out what they want, why they want it, what they will do with it and what they are prepared to pay, and then delivering it in the way they want. To do that you need to understand how organisations work, the issues they face and the role of people within them.” 

From the point of view of a potential graduate recruit, this might involve knowing about the organisation and the wider environment it operates in, its main competitors, how changes to the market or other external factors might impact on business, and how the organisation might respond to change.  It was also emphasised that although commercial awareness involves an appreciation of what’s involved in a commercial transaction and of the need for value for money, you don’t need to be applying for a career in commerce to require these skills!  

In order to develop commercial awareness, students can read business publications like the Financial Times (complimentary copies available in the Student Guidance Centre), watch or listen to business related programmes like Working Lunch or Dragons’ Den, or learn to use tools like SWOT analysis.  Pete particularly emphasised though that students should talk about how their own experiences have developed their commercial skills – so whether it’s haggling over consumables or waiting tables, it’s all relevant.

More generally, when applying for jobs doing your research into the organisation and role you’re interested in is vital – and this doesn’t just involve looking at their recruitment website.  Employers will expect you to have considered the above areas and to be prepared to answer questions about the bigger picture, like “How can good relationships be maintained with customers, employees and suppliers?” and “What impact is the state of the economy likely to have on business decisions?”

(Oh and finally, Pete mentioned that Mercer is very keen to recruit numerate graduates with a 2:1 and 300 UCAS points to their Retirement Service Centre in Belfast – see website for details)

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