Career services

CAREER SERVICES & SUPPORT

Making career decisions and considering your next career move is challenging whether you want to remain in or leave academia. As a qualified and certified career consultant, I specialise in the career development of PhD students and postdoctoral researchers through workshops and one-to-one career guidance interviews held in their own institutes and universities or during scientific meetings. If you are an academic responsible for career development, a researcher development manager or a PhD student or postdoctoral researcher looking for a career professional to design and deliver a training session, you can contact me for an initial discussion via email: sarah@biosciencecareers.org or LinkedIn.

The following list is a selection of some of the themes of my career support.  Workshops can be adapted and delivered individually or put together to form a longer programme (from a half-day up to 3 days):

1. THE NON-ACADEMIC JOB MARKET

Many PhD students and postdoctoral researchers are unaware of the wide variety of careers on offer to PhD-qualified bioscientists. In this workshop, participants are exposed to a wide range of jobs within various career sectors in which they are able to use their PhD knowledge and skills directly, indirectly or where they can transfer them into other non-science roles. They will learn about what skills and competencies these employers are looking for and how to convince them of their suitability for the job. They will find out how to search for, research and identify different types of careers of interest to them, as well as how to approach employers and present themselves effectively.

2. MAKING EFFECTIVE CAREER CHOICES

Due to the competitiveness for tenured academic positions, the majority of PhD students and researchers need to consider careers outside of academia (see blog). But whether you are aiming for an academic or non-academic career, how do you know what types of posts or jobs will interest you? How do you find these jobs? And how can you enhance your chances of succeeding in your chosen profession? This workshop is  structured using a practical career framework, which enables participants to identify their interests and skills, group them into categories and then match them with relevant and realistic job types. With resources and information on effective job seeking and personal development, the workshop provides comprehensive guidance on how to make effective career decisions and take a proactive approach to planning your next career move. There are resources and further information to take away at the end of the session.

3. CV and APPLICATIONS WORKSHOP

This workshop demonstrates the different ways in which postgraduates and postdoctorals can present themselves in an application or CV depending on the type of job they are applying for with the aim of increasing its impact and success. Different types of CV are presented, including academic, skills and targeted-based CVs, as well as how to write a professional cover letter. This workshop is usually best presented following the ‘Recognising Skills’ session and/or a career coaching session. Examples of CVs are presented and contextualised using live job descriptions and bioscience-specific materials and resources. There is scope for the participants send on their CVs to the tutor as a follow-up addition to this workshop.

4. INTERVIEW WORKSHOP 

Interviews come in many shapes and sizes and can be a daunting prospect for even the most experienced professional. In this workshop, participants learn about the purpose of interviews and what they can do to maximise their performance. By introducing techniques, such as ‘STAR’, the participants practice how to answer long/open questions as well as more specific and challenging ones in  structured and coherent way. Peer learning is central to this interactive workshops, which is usually run over a half-day following the CV and Applications workshop, although it can be delivered as a stand-alone session.  An optional addition to the workshop is the involvement of external professionals who provide more realistic mock interviews.

5. RECOGNISING SKILLS  

This workshop aims to raise awareness of the range of skills postgraduates and postdoctorals acquire whilst undertaking their research activities so that they can express this more clearly in moving their career forward whether it is within academia or for an alternative career. Participants are grouped according to their career stage with 1st year postgraduates through to mature postdoctorals seated in groups. In this way similar roles and tasks are usually defined by the group and can then be translated into skill sets and personal qualities which can then be linked to a range of examples of live job descriptions.  This workshop can be followed on by a CV and application workshop which will demonstrate how to set out personal information depending on the type of position being applied for.

6. RAISING SELF-AWARENESS

The aim of the session is to raise awareness to the participants of their personality similarities and differences. The workshop makes use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) which assesses personality type following completion of a questionnaire (88 questions which takes about 30 minutes to complete). The personality profiles derived from this assessment illustrate different ways in which people prefer to organise themselves, take in information, make decisions and communicate. It has implications for day-to-day interactions, working style, communication, collaborations, networking, contributing to committee meetings, time management, analysing research results and direction, supervising students etc.

7. EFFECTIVE NETWORKING (including Social Media)

Networking is vital to career success, whether it’s to find and secure a new position or to seek assistance with improving one’s current situation. Generally, it can be viewed quite cynically by PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, so one of the main objectives of the workshop is to break down barriers and show them the value of networking for career success. Depending on their career intentions, they will need to target their connections professionally and differentially, as well as presenting themselves consistently in person and, more often than not, on-line. The session works really well to raise awareness of the need to network and communicate effectively at conferences, on social media and in other settings. Additionally, as a result of all the interactions, the activities also allow participants to network with each other, learn about each other’s work and promote potential interdisciplinary thinking and future collaborations.

8. ACADEMIC MOBILITY

Scientific research is an international endeavour and so mobility nearly always plays a part in the careers of researchers. Whether it is moving to another country to take up a fellowship or new post or even if it is a short visit to improve on professional skills and gain more experience, preparation is  paramount. This workshop includes research studies conducted on mobility, case studies, dual career couples, funding information, advice and strategies for those considering whether to stay or go. It provides a space for participants to discuss the challenges and benefits of career mobility and different ways in which they can spend time in different work environments, either long-term or short-term, depending on their own situation and career goals.

9. INDIVIDUAL CAREER COACHING/CV CHECKING 

One-to-one career guidance interviews (usually 30 mins to 1 hour per person via Skype or in person) provide an opportunity for individuals to reflect and discuss their own career plans. As a registered professional of the Career Development Institute and qualified with a master’s degree in career guidance (Warwick University, UK), I use recognised guidance and coaching techniques to help people to clarify their current issues and challenges and enable them to work out what to do next to assist them with their career. The interviews can be included as part of a workshop session or run separately.

10. SELF LEADERSHIP

Self-awareness is a key characteristic of high performers and an important factor in realising a successful career. In this workshop, PhD students and researchers have the opportunity to examine their personality, behaviours, preferences, skills, strengths and weaknesses with the aim of improving their own performance, providing direction and making them more purposeful, as well as being better prepared for a leadership role.

11. “IN ROLE” CAREER COMPETENCIES

Along with leadership and self-awareness, other competencies such as assertiveness, time management, decision-making and negotiation skills can contribute to a person’s sense of greater personal control and  confidence in their current role and for their future career aspirations. Improving career competencies such as these takes time and practice, and the purpose of the workshop is to introduce these skills and give participants the opportunity to spend time in a confidential training session learning about them and trying them out.

12. TRAINING PROFESSIONALS IN CAREER GUIDANCE

A qualified trainer, I also provide introductory training workshops on behalf of the Association of Graduates Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) to those who wish to provide career guidance in their own institutions.

Present and former clients include:

Universities: Aberystwyth (Wales), Antwerp (Belgium), Charles University (Prague), Copenhagen (Denmark), Goettingen (Germany), Lancaster (UK), Lyon, Nice (France), Southampton (UK), Vienna (Austria), Warwick, York (UK).
Research institutes: CEMM (Vienna), CiMS-IMPRS (Muenster), ETH Zurich, IGBMC (Strasbourg), John Innes Centre (UK), Karolinksa (Sweden), MDC (Berlin), Rothamsted Research (UK), Vienna Biocenter.
Conferences: NatureCareers, EMBO, ESOF, American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), Biochemical Society, Microbiology Society, Society for Experimental Biology.
Doctoral Training Parternship: ITN-MIMIC, Triforc, Food Security, TRAIN-ASAP, Cells in Motion, LIBRA, MIBTP.

What participants and clients have said:

“Excellent and informative – a useful framework for thinking about careers/jobs. Now changed the way I think about the jobs I’m applying for.”

“I just wanted to say again how helpful I found the conversation we had. I thought you were really insightful not just about the process of a PhD and what it takes to be an academic, but also about me as a person.”

“Thank you for organising this. It really feels like I have had a wake-up call! A lot of good advice and tips were given. Interactive exercises were excellent.”

“Very well organised and was very positive and helpful. A confidence booster and would recommend every PhD student to attend this workshop.”

“Thanks for your help with thinking about and preparing for the job interview I did earlier this year – I got the job! Meeting with you, and attending your interviews course were both really useful, and gave me more confidence in approaching both the application and the interview.”

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For more information contact s.blackford@lancaster.ac.uk

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