Making your DPhil Count | The Careers Service Making your DPhil Count – Oxford University Careers Service
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An Oxford DPhil (PhD) can be a fantastic boost to your career if you are smart and pro-active in how you use your time. Simply having the PhD will not be enough to get the job you want, and the growing supply of doctoral degree holders means you need something extra to stand out.

We encourage you to make a start on your career thinking as soon as possible to maximise the time available for developing those ‘added extras’.

Oxford has many resources and opportunities for you to acquire the additional skills and experience that will help you to distinguish yourself from the crowd. It is easiest to take advantage of these if you already know the skills that you have and what you will need for your chosen career.

Benchmarking and expanding your skill set

Do you have a clear overview of your skills and competencies?

In the 2010 national Destinations of Leavers of Higher Education (DLHE) survey, 91% of participating doctoral graduates rated their skills and competencies as a critical factor in gaining their current position, with 46% saying these were a formal requirement and 45% that they were important factors.

In addition, 76% stated that having relevant work experience was either a formal requirement (28%) or an important element (48%) of their recruitment. (See the 2013 Vitae report ‘What do researchers do?’ for the full analysis.)

Spend some time listing the skills that you already have, including both ‘hard’ skills (teachable and measurable skills such as coding, languages, maths or statistical analysis) and ‘soft’ skills (interpersonal skills such as leadership, communication or emotional intelligence).  You can then see where there might be gaps and look for opportunities to plug these.

Skills for an academic career

The organisation Vitae exists to support the development of researchers. Vitae’s ‘Researcher development Framework’ (RDF) sets out in detail the skills required for and gained through research (and broader academic) endeavours; it can be used as a tool for benchmarking your current level in each of the 63 identified skills.

The RDF and a set of accompanying documents that provide sector-specific lenses on the RDF can be downloaded from the Vitae website thanks to Oxford’s institutional membership.

Talking to existing postdocs and visiting other labs can be very useful ways to gain insights into the most commonly sought skills for academic research.

Wider employability skills

Employers across career sectors typically look for applicants who demonstrate skills and experience in the following areas, depending on the nature of the role: Business awareness; communication; creativity; initiative; leadership; planning; self-management; and teamwork.

The OCTANE programme lists some of the ways in which you can increase skills and experience in each of those areas; see also our Boost your employability page.

These wider skills are relevant for academic as well as non-academic roles. Being strategic about gaining experience and developing skills across the range will help you to keep your options open and still be job-ready when you reach the end of your doctoral studies.

Writing a skills-based CV and making an effort to become familiar with the language and terminology of any sectors you are considering moving into will also improve your readiness to compete for jobs in a crowded market.

Raising your profile

Work on your publications plan

Publications remain a major aspect of your academic profile and your employability in some academic roles. Talk to your supervisor and other senior faculty or postdocs about when and where to start publishing; the advice here differs by field and department.

Knowledge Exchange and Public Engagement activities

25% of the score given to University departments in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework assessment will be based on demonstrable research impact. Getting involved in knowledge exchange or public engagement initiatives is a good way to boost your skills and experience in this increasingly important aspect of the academic’s profile.

Such activities may be built into a doctoral research project for some students; others can get experience by volunteering to help departmental colleagues with projects or events. Talk to supervisor or Director of Graduate Studies about opportunities for getting involved in activities in your department.

Public engagement work can be an excellent way to investigate non-academic roles and organisations, as well as providing evidence of your ability to work and communicate effectively with non-academic audiences.

Think now about how your research will have an impact on wider society – James Cunningham’s helpful (2014) booklet ‘Positioning for Impact on Your Scientific Journey: Reflection and Action Book’ can help you to reflect on how best to do that.

Get experience working on funding applications

Anyone planning an academic future needs to show they understand the world of funding. You can do this by listing any contribution you have made to drafting a large grant proposal or by listing your own applications to smaller pots of money, such as travel grants, funding to organise a conference, money towards your fieldwork expenses etc.

Ask your supervisor about opportunities to make or work on funding applications in your department.


Internships are not just for undergraduates! On the contrary, the right internship can be a wise investment, giving you valuable insight into the everyday functioning of a role or sector that you’re considering a career in, as well as a chance to gauge whether the reality matches your expectations.

Summer internships and micro-internships

Our inspiring programme of micro-internships (2-5 day placements in 9th week each term) and summer internships (4-12 weeks, typically during the Long Vac) offers placements in a wide range of industries located wither locally, nationally or internationally.

All current graduate students are eligible to apply for any of the internships offered through the careers service. Summer internships are advertised from the beginning of Hilary term; micro-internships are advertised from 0th week of each term. See our Micro-internships and Summer Internships pages respectively for more details on each programme and to sign up for alerts.

When applying for a Careers Service internship, be bold about stating what skills and added extras that you can offer (for example, your ability to work independently, or flexibility over dates), over and above those offered by the undergraduates with whom you may be competing for a place.

Doctoral Internship programme

Some DPhil students will be required to undertake an internship as part of their doctoral studies. For more information on the support available to these students see our Doctoral Internship programme pages and speak to your doctoral training programme co-ordinator.

Create your own internship

If you are keen to find an internship but cannot find an advertised role that meets your brief, consider organising your own, bespoke internship. Many of the tips on the doctoral internship programme page will help students who wish to arrange their own internship.

Developing core employability skills

Each of the university’s Divisions offers a wide range of training courses covering both academic and professional skills. Your supervisor can recommend which courses may be most useful to you.

The programmes for each Division, plus other providers such as the Oxford Learning Institute, can be found here.

The Researcher Strategy Consultancy run by the Careers Service is another good way for early career researchers (DPhil students, RAs, and Post-Docs) from all disciplines to expand their skill set.

Through direct work on genuine business/strategic problems in a client-facing environment, participants polish a number of the skills required for work analytical or policy roles in the public and private sector. For more information see our Researcher Consultancy pages.

External resources

Career Management for Early Career Academic Researchers: a tool for early career researchers of all disciplines.

Imagine PhD: a career exploration resource aimed specifically at humanities and social sciences researchers

An Academic Career: guidance and tips for exploring whether an academic career is right for you – and how to get started if it is – from the University of Manchester.

The Professor is In: very useful insights into building an academic career in the USA.

Yale University’s Office of Career Strategy gives some helpful pointers.

This information was last updated on 03 October 2018.
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Recent blogs about Making your DPhil Count

OXFO L.E.V8 Accelerator

Posted on behalf of Oxford Foundry. Blogged by Mike Moss on 20/09/2019.

OXFO L.E.V8 (Elevate) at the Oxford Foundry is the University of Oxford’s most diverse accelerator. The programme takes in up to 12 high potential ventures a year and is designed to support and nurture early-stage start-up teams affiliated to the university.

Oxford students, staff and alumni can get six months free support to build their venture. This includes mentorship, masterclasses, and access to the Foundry’s global network of investors and partners including Biz Stone, Cofounder of Twitter and Medium, Jenny Tooth OBE, UK Business Angels Association, Professor Bill Aulet, MIT, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, and Robin Saunders, Managing Partner at Clearbrook Capital.

Ventures also get support to build a team – many ventures have met their cofounders through the Foundry, along with leadership and resilience skills support, financial, business, pitching, product-market fit, customer development and legal advice.

To date, the Foundry has supported 19 start-ups who have raised £7m, created 70 jobs and are having a global impact across sectors including retail, medtech, energy, publishing, fintech and more.

The accelerator is based in our Oxford Foundry building on Hythe Bridge street and runs from 18 November 2019 to May 2020.

“The Foundry has accelerated our growth by providing a space devoted to entrepreneurship, giving us access to people with diverse talents and expertise, and to its network of investors. It has been incredible. Such growth wouldn’t have been possible without the Foundry. We are now focused on raising capital and sales and marketing. We want to sign ten new clients by the end of the year.” Jason Lacombe, CEO, Veratrak.

We welcome solo founders and teams and it’s a fantastic chance to be part of a supportive and expert community.  The programme is equity-free.

Apply online on the Oxford Foundry website. Deadline: 30 September 2019.

International Mathematical Olympiad: Exclusive talk and weekly cash prize competitions

Posted on behalf of G-Research. Blogged by Hugh Nicholson-Lailey on 28/06/2019.

G-Research, a leading quantitative research and technology company and long-standing Oxford recruiter is sponsoring the International Mathematical Olympiad 2019.

Weekly Competitions

To celebrate this, they are launching a weekly mathematical challenge in the style of IMO problems – with a cash prize of £1,000 each week for the first person to submit the correct answer. A ‘warm-up’ taster challenge will go live on Monday 1 July, and the first cash prize challenge will go live at midday Monday 8 July. You will find the puzzles here >>

Exclusive talk on Combinatorics: Monday 22 July, from 18:00

Professor Po-Shen Loh (Carnegie Mellon University), national coach of the USA International Mathematical Olympiad team national coach of the USA International Mathematical Olympiad team will give a talk on combinatorics in London on 22 July.

When Bare Hands Fail: An Interactive Talk on Combinatorics with Po-Shen Loh,

Where: The Royal College of Physicians, 11 Saint Andrews Place Regent’s Park, London, NW1 4LE
When: Monday 22 July, from 18:00
Reserve your place: please email – places are limited and first come, first served so register ASAP to avoid missing out!

This interactive lecture will use one of the most difficult problems from a recent USA Mathematical Olympiad exam to illustrate the connections between modern combinatorial problems and theorems and techniques from other branches of mathematics, such as algebra, probability, and even topology.

Free event, and travel to and from the event will be reimbursed – please remember to bring your receipt with you on the day.

Bolstering your core employability skills – for Researchers

Blogged by Rebecca Ehata on 21/05/2019.

Do you know which skills employers are looking for – and which of these you already have? Are you looking for tips on how best to communicate your skills to employers?

Come to our workshop for DPhil students and research staff, Bolstering your Core Employability Skills for Researchers, to learn what core employability skills are, how to identify your current skills set, and how to demonstrate these in the job application process.

When: 4 June, 13:00-16:00
Where: Seminar Room B, St Cross Building
Book your place here.

Researchers in Schools programme: applications close 27 May!

Posted on behalf of Researchers in Schools. Blogged by Rebecca Ehata on 08/05/2019.

In the UK today, there is an entrenched link between household income and educational success. Pupils from low-income backgrounds are far less likely than their wealthier peers to attain five good GCSE grades, progress to higher education or have a fulfilling career.

The Researchers in Schools programme tackles this by mobilising the research community to become outstanding classroom teachers, as well as champions of evidence-based practice and higher education.

We offer PhD researchers a unique, generously-funded route into teaching tailored to your abilities, knowledge and experience. Through our programme, you’ll develop the skills to become a highly-effective classroom teacher, helping support pupils, regardless of background, to excel and progress to higher education.

  • Complete our Research Leader in Education Award, a fully-funded, three-year programme of professional development designed around the PhD skill set;
  • Create and deliver Uni Pathways, a university-access intervention based on your PhD, aimed at increasing target pupils’ chances of attending a highly-selective university;
  • Take one day of protected time each week to work towards the RLE and Uni Pathways;
  • Receive honorary academic status at a research-intensive university, providing access to research facilities and a network of academic support;
  • Benefit from competitive financial support, including generous funding options for your training year.

For more information and to apply, visit Applications close 27 May 2019 so please submit your application as soon as possible!

May is a month of career development opportunities…

Blogged by Rachel Bray on 02/05/2019.

This term is already flying along… Take some time out of your research to reflect on your career development, and make some easily-actionable plans.

Join us for an updated Career Management workshop for DPhil students and research staff in one of three locations during 4th week:

  • Tuesday 21 May, 10:00 – 12:30 (followed by lunch), St Luke’s Chapel, Radcliffe Obs Quarter. Register here.
  • Wednesday 22 May, 10:30 – 14:00 (lunch provided), Gottmann Room, School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford, OX1 3QY. Register here.
  • Friday 24 May, 10:00-12:00, Seminar Room A, English Faculty (St Cross Building). Register here.

This interactive workshop – piloted last week and received excellent feedback – will enable you to to step back, consider future possible career paths, and identify what you have to offer to employers within, or beyond, academia.

Topics will include job satisfaction, your values, career motivations and transferable skills. Our focus will be on making the most of what you already have, opportunities to boost any core employability skills during your time at Oxford and how to articulate these to others, whether in person or in applications. We will also share  top tips on effective, mutually-rewarding networking

You will be encouraged to draw your insights together to begin a realistic personal career plan and to consider your next steps.

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