What’s next for you? | The Careers Service What’s next for you? – Oxford University Careers Service
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Getting started

Some of you reading this page will already be focused on a particular career direction, while others are exploring several options or looking for ideas.

Wherever you are on this spectrum, a great way to move your thinking forward is to read biographies of successful people in a range of work sectors. You’ll find an honest, entertaining insight into the attractions, disappointments, unexpected joys and bumps along the road.

And you will feel better about your prospects and learn a couple of (magic) tricks from JK Rowling’s 2008 commencement speech to Harvard graduates.

If you prefer listening, find inspiration and an understanding of what counts in career progression on radio programmes such as The Life Scientific, the Reith Lectures and even Desert Island Discs. Many invited guests did a doctorate and/or some significant research at some point in their career.

Look at what others have done – a quick search for former researchers with similar backgrounds will stimulate new ideas, and even point you to prospective employers.

Be encouraged! As a researcher, you have already proved that you are a highly adaptive, life-long learner. Both qualities are valued in most evolving employment landscapes. You will no doubt have further adaptable skills and competencies to offer, some of which may not be recognised in your current academic setting or circles. Keep reading our pages for ideas on how to demonstrate, or grow, your skills.

And a quick plea: Try replacing the common way of thinking about researcher career progression as either ‘staying in academia’ OR ‘moving beyond academia’, with a perspective that enables you to hold both scenarios in mind as compatible and mutually re-enforcing, at least while you identify your immediate priorities. It is becoming increasingly possible for people to move between academia and other sectors, particularly in certain fields.

Pursuing academia

The early stages of an academic career can be exciting, uncertain and daunting, all at the same time. Our top tip is to find out what is needed to progress in your subject area as soon as possible, then decide how to use your time in Oxford to raise your chances.

Remember, careers in academia are no longer as linear or predictable as they once were, making it all the more important to think creatively and investigate the diverse opportunities available in universities around the world.

We suggest you ask yourself some questions to check whether you are working on the basis of assumptions, or evidence:

Do I know enough about the range of jobs I could do?

Am I fully aware of what people hiring for these roles look for in a candidate?

  • read research that sheds light on the context in which some progress while others struggle, for example:
    • Mid-career academic women’s reluctance to overtly pursue prestige (2018)
    • The value given to competencies not made explicit in job descriptions (2014) such as
      • Vision: knowing what your contribution to knowledge will be in 20 years
      • Management and Leadership in research teams, funding bids etc
      • Strategy: pro-active scanning and managing both personal horizons and those of your research group or department.
      • Boundary-Spanning: being able to interact across sectors, including through public engagement and impact work

Do I know how to prepare myself to move forward?

Gaining independence as a researcher

Download the full version of Vitae’s Researcher Development Framework to see the range  of skills expected in most academic roles, and what level of each skill is expected at each stage between completing a PhD and becoming independent.

Use the RDF to work out which skills you are already developing, identify any training needs to discuss with your supervisor or PI and plan your time accordingly.

Remember: postdocs and all research staff are encouraged to take dedicated time for professional development of their choosing within their contracted time according to University policy.

You don’t have to use your annual leave, and we advise planning development time into your year.

Current policy states up to 5 days for those working in departments within the Medical Sciences Division and up to 10 days for those within MPLS. Social sciences and Humanities are similarly supportive and have not set specific allocations. If you are unsure how to approach this with your PI, seek advice from your departmental administrator or divisional HR manager.

It’s up to you to choose how best to use this time – conferences can be great for networking but there’s much more out there. See our Boosting Employability page for ideas

Preparing to teach

A track record of teaching experience is required for lectureships and other teaching roles.

Finding opportunities to gain experience at Oxford is easier in some departments than others. Wherever you are, take the initiative: Let senior colleagues know your availability and what you can offer.

It can be frustrating that Oxford’s tutorial approach offers relatively few openings to get involved in teaching undergraduates. Remember that the Oxford system is highly unusual, and that the vast majority of universities look for experience in delivering lectures to large numbers and running weekly seminars. You can get gain relevant experience by giving talks, facilitating or contributing to seminars in your department, local schools, youth groups or adult education settings. If you are a postdoc with some experience, consider taking the PGCert qualification, as outlined below.

Oxford-trained researchers have secured lectureships having done some part-time teaching in another nearby university. Keep an eye out for short-term or part-time positions, and reach out to your equivalent departments in Warwick, Oxford Brookes, Reading, Bath, one of the London group or even the Open University, to offer a module related to your specialisms.

Teaching qualifications also help. The Oxford Learning Institute offers a range of courses and other forms of support to all DPhils and staff involved in, or keen to start, teaching. Postdocs looking to consolidate existing teaching experience are welcome to apply for a place on the one-year, part-time course to gain a Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.  The programme is designed to fit around work commitments, and actively encourages trainees to look outside Oxford to how teaching is designed and delivered elsewhere, plus ways of teaching inclusively and using technology.

Be aware that senior academics appointing new teaching staff in many UK universities will be thinking about how candidates will help them score well in the next TEF (Teaching Excellence Framework). Read up to make sure you understand what is being measured, and talk to people in departments advertising roles to identify their priorities for retaining or improving teaching quality.

Combining academia with other roles: Portfolio Careers

More and more people are choosing to do a PhD, many with an initial plan to become an academic. Most quickly discover that the academic job market in Europe and the US has not grown at the same pace, meaning fierce competition for relatively few permanent positions.

Combining an academic role with others is becoming more common. For some, this is a short-term strategy to muster the publications or other credentials for a competitive academic application. For others, it is a career choice to achieve variety and develop expertise in different sectors. The trend is stronger in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and is increasing in the Sciences. Over time, the academic component can lead to policy-related roles, perhaps alongside editing, consulting or other activities suited to time-bound projects.

For more insights into how this can work in practice, see our podcastsvideo and the related workbook Portfolio Careers: How to optimise and manage them

You can find further guidance and entry points via

Exploring beyond academia

If you know which sectors you wish to explore, look at our relevant sector webpages to learn about different roles, entry points, any prior experience needed and job search strategies.

If you want ideas, there’s plenty of inspiration out there: See what others have done, read the bios of employees with a doctorate and their employers at our most recent Careers Conference for Researchers, and browse research-careers.org to see the jobs people have got after a PhD or postdoc, and what helped them make the transition from academia.

LinkedIn is a vast database stretching across the globe. You can always find at least a dozen people with similar background and interests, and see where they now work, in what role and the steps they took between a PhD or postdoc and their current position.

Talking to people working in any given sector will give you the best flavour of their working world, and can open opportunities to visit, do some work-shadowing or an internship to gain more insight. Make sure you hear about events and opportunities offered by employers keen to recruit from Oxford. Sign up to receive these email invitations via CareerConnect and keep an eye on our termly calendars.

Researchers can be excellent entrepreneurs – whether through their original ideas or a love of thinking creatively with others. What’s more, it is at the interfaces between academia, industry, policy and practice where the most exciting developments tend to occur.  There is a lot going on in and around the University and city to support entrepreneurial learning and activity, much of it leading to jobs or improving people’s chances of getting a job. Check out where you can learn more by browsing Enterprising Oxford.

Internships are a great way to gain insight into a new field, develop your skills and strengthen your professional networks. Many lead to job offers.

Employers list a wide range of internships on our opportunities page in CareerConnect, the majority of which are open to all at Oxford.

DPhil students can apply to all our summer internships and termly micro-internships.

If your DPhil is funded by a research council, ask your department about Doctoral Internships. These excellent schemes let you choose the organisation, cover all costs and give you an extension on your submission date. They are currently offered in Interdisciplinary Biosciences, Humanities and Social Science. Other research councils may offer them soon.

If you are not funded by a research council, ask your department about Knowledge Exchange or other grants that allow you to propose an experience with an external organisation related to your research or in a sector you might want to work in.

See our top tips on setting up your own internship or work experience

SEO Careers focuses on helping students with disabilities or from under represented and under-served communities to secure places on some of the most rewarding and competitive internship programmes in the UK. Opportunities for Black and minority ethnic (BME) students are also available through Rare Recruitment.

Looking for ideas? Unsure which way next?

Take comfort – you are not alone if you’re unsure whether an academic career path is for you. To start reviewing your options, read Your PhD….what next? (on the Prospects website), and explore what others like you have done.

You may want to step back and think about what matters most at this point in your life. Use our Careers Compass to evaluate your skills and priorities, and look at Career Planning or the careers section of the Vitae website.

Introspection can only get you so far. It is then time to start networking and trying out different kinds of work through an internship (see above), volunteering or gaining work experience in a local organisation.

Think strategically and creatively about the overlap between your research and the interests of local or national organisations. And be bold in helping them see these connections when you make a speculative approach to ask how you could contribute through a short project, internship etc…

If you would like to discuss your thinking with a Careers Adviser, please book a 1:1 appointment by registering for a CareerConnect account via the Careers Service website.

For help with setting up an account or any other matter related to appointments, contact the Careers Service reception team: reception@careers.ox.ac.uk 01865 274646.

Finding a good fit: MBTI questionnaire

There is more to you than your research expertise. Making wise career decisions relies on you having a good understanding of how you function, how you differ from others, and the kinds of environments in which you thrive.

Based on the work of Carl Jung, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality questionnaire that looks at the different ways in which people perceive their surroundings and make decisions. In our experience, those who are already working and may wish to change direction find it particularly useful.

The MBTI does not give you a list of jobs either to choose or to avoid. It has been developed over many years, and research into it is a continual process; think of it as a framework to aid your thinking and personal understanding.

One of our careers advisers is qualified as an MBTI practitioner and would be happy to talk with you about whether this tool might be appropriate for your particular circumstances (perhaps as part of a short booked discussion or telephone discussion). Contact reception@careers.ox.ac.uk for details – availability may be restricted in Michaelmas Term and other very busy times. We occasionally also run interactive 3 hour group sessions for researchers on applying the MBTI. See the events calendar on CareerConnect for details.

Needing a confidence boost

Setbacks are part of life, but sometimes they can feel overwhelming and cause us to get stuck.

Embarking on research training and an academic career path is challenging for many reasons. Many people struggle with the feeling that they are not ‘good enough’ to succeed in academia, or even anywhere. Yet these experiences are seldom discussed openly.

We have listened to, and worked closely with, Oxford DPhils and research staff who also believe that it is important to recognise how such feelings can affect people at all stages of their research or career journey, and to find practical ways to address these.

The result is an illustrated workbook and five podcasts on Overcoming a Sense of Academic Failure. These contain insights into why we can find ourselves feeling inadequate (as if we are ‘a failure’) and suggestions for responding to this experience individually and with peers.

More tips on developing resilience in academic settings can be found on our Early Career Researchers blog.

Writing Partnerships or workshops are an effective and fun way to rekindle a love of your subject and boost your productivity. Find out what is on offer through training programmes in your Division

This information was last updated on 18 October 2018.
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Recent blogs about What’s next for you?

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 Alex.Whitlcok@gresearch.co.uk – 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 www.researchersinschools.org. 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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