Day 5: What are you good at? Post-PhD employment

Round up

This week we have looked at a range of skills and capabilities developed during a research degree, labelling them as Research Technique, Research Management, Communication and Professional Practice. Under these headings, we’ve unpacked what kinds of skills can be included and the language we can use to describe them.

ACTIVITY: During the week, you have kept a list of all the day-to-day tasks you engage in for your current work. Have another look at that list and see where you might place those tasks on the ANU Research Skills framework. Does it all fit into the columns of the ANU framework, or do you want to create some new categories? What gaps have you identified and how could you fill them? And importantly, which of those tasks have been most enjoyable and energising for you? You’ll want to continue to perform these in new ways when you transition into your next workplace. Please use the Comments box to share your ideas with the group.

Inger Mewburn’s work on “What do employers want?” reveals that the top priorities for employers are skills in:

  • using relevant software
  • project planning and management (including risk management)
  • the ability to identify commercial opportunities and taking entrepreneurial approaches.

Now that you understand what these terms mean in your own context, you can translate them into demonstrations of your specific skills and abilities. You can see that “employers tend to be more interested in research skills than in research knowledge”. The Versatile PhD has a range of suggestions for how and where those skills can be used.

Euraxess asked employers to list the top ten skills and competencies they are looking for in their employees. Happily, this matches pretty closely the skills that researchers know they bring to employers.

Comparing researcher skills with employer wish-list

The Euraxess site has a page that lists a range of employment sectors and the kinds of jobs in those areas. You can click on a sector you’d like to work in, then choose one of the jobs listed.

For example, I’m interested in the Charity Sector, and think that Community Education Officer might be a satisfying and fulfilling role.

Employment sectors

Clicking on this job shows that I actually could make a case that I have experience in all the 6 required skills – that makes me even more interested in looking at these kinds of jobs!

Skills required for Community Education Officer

ACTIVITY: Have a look around the Euraxess website. Click on a sector you’d like to work in, then choose one of the jobs listed. Which skills do you already have? If there are some gaps in your current skillset, how could you gain some experience in that skill? Let us know what happens by replying through the Comments section at the bottom of this post.

Jobs on Toast suggests that PhD graduates who are transitioning out of academia should present themselves as a “professional researcher, or analyst, or scientist or educator, who has a strong skillset and relevant qualifications and experience.” I hope that after reading and thinking about your skills this week that you feel confident and optimistic about how to do this! You all have so much to offer and our society needs high-level thinkers with practical skills who can get the job done in these challenging times.

Good luck with your research and with the next stage in your career. As Beyond the Professoriate reminds us, your next job is not your last job; rather, it’s a step towards something else. Let me know how you get on—I love to receive emails and comments from you about what’s happening out there, what the challenges are and how you are finding solutions that work for you.


  1. Possible new categories for the ANU Research Skills framework in light of 2020:

    Ability to have a degree of flexibility and adjust research according to social and environmental restrictions

    Proficiency in online conferencing software!

    Euraxess website:

    I chose the Public Sector: Intelligence Analyst for a bit of fun. The skills required are: Problem-Solving, Communication, Teamwork, Computer/IT, Interpersonal, Analytical, Personal-Initiative/Confidence, Organizational and Flexibility. I could argue I have developed all these skills during my PhD.

    1. Good point about being flexible and able to adapt to suddenly changing situations – this would seem to be a key skill in any research environment. And yes, your newly acquired proficiency in online conferencing software will definitely be useful in any future workplace!! 🙂

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