Epigeum Research Skills Toolkit is a suite of five programmes designed to support researchers throughout their research journey. Within this toolkit is our brand-new course Beyond Research, which offers researchers the chance to plan the next stage in their careers. It contains two modules: ‘Career Planning’ and ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship’. To mark the launch, our Lead Advisor Professor Denney shares her tips to careers beyond research, from marketing your transferable skills to raising awareness of the diverse career pathways available.
Professor Fiona Denney is Professor in Business Education at Brunel Business School, a principal fellow of the Higher Education Academy and Fellow of the Royal Society.
Beyond Research is especially useful for researchers who are thinking about what they might do when they finish their research degree, or current research contract. Whilst many might not have considered a career outside academia as their first option, it is always helpful to know about other options available so that researchers are empowered to choosing the career route that suits them best.
As research supervisors, we always hope that our research students will be so enthusiastic and committed to their research area. We hope that they see their experiences with us as a stepping stone to a career in that area. We do, however, also know first-hand just how challenging academia can be and we are keen to support research students in thinking more broadly about their next career steps. Happily, there is now a lot more support for this in universities than there used to be. Many universities now employ careers advisers who specialise in working with early career researchers and doctoral students, so a first port of call needs to be the careers office at your university to find out what additional guidance is available to you. Epigeum courses like The Research Skills Toolkit are also a great go-to resource to go hand in hand with career services within institutions.
It is important to recognise that postgraduate research offers the opportunity to develop a lot of skills that are highly transferable to other careers and can open a lot of career doors. Researchers may want to leave academic research for many reasons such as personal motivations and goals, the desire to do something impactful such as working in policy, industry or related areas, setting up a social enterprise or starting a business or simply the opportunity to continue doing research but in another context. Some researchers may also simply discover that research itself is not what they thought it would be and they no longer want to do it as their main job. Whatever the reason, the good news is that postgraduate research supports the development of a wide set of skills that can be taken into different career options.
As a researcher, have you ever had to do any of the following:
- Write a research proposal and persuade an academic to supervise your project?
- Apply for funding and present a convincing case that your research project is the one that the funders should invest in?
- Formulate a systematic approach to finding literature on your topic, identify and construct the main arguments that have guided the knowledge in your area over a period of time and write this all concisely and clearly?
My guess is that you answered “yes” to most of the above questions because these are some of the core activities of research. If so, you have started to identify some of the skills that are transferable to other careers and contexts.
When you look closely at the above activities, you’ve been developing the following skills:
- Promotion and marketing of your project idea – to potential supervisors and funders
- Negotiation with other people (your supervisor)
- Development of a project plan, probably with costings and outputs specified
- Detailed investigation and research into the literature and existing data, involving summarising and synthesising the data for presentation and evaluating the trustworthiness of the data
- Presentation and communication skills to expert and lay audiences
When you start to unpick the details of what you have been doing for your research project, you can start to identify the kinds of skills that are often asked for in a variety of jobs. Think about the career pathways that you might want to undertake and start using your research expertise to identify open positions and mine those job descriptions for details of what they are looking for. A good next step is then to map activities and skills that you have been doing and developing throughout your research against the requirements of the job description.
Epigeum’s new course Beyond Research will help guide you through your research skills analysis and consider future career opportunities in an efficient and meaningful way. There are lots of possibilities out there for you and we wish you all the very best in your career journey – wherever it takes you!
To learn more about Beyond Research and request a free trial visit the programme’s website page.