IOP Virtual Careers Fair

Another careers fair, this time on the web only, is being organised by the Institute of Physics. Open to a range of scientists, engineers and mathematicians, it’s not just for physicists.

Yes, there are traditionally physics focused employers like CERN, National Physical Laboratory and the Science and Technologies Facilities Council attending, but also the Bank of England, Accenture and Metronet Rail amongst others. The Fair runs from the 26th June to the 2nd July when, in addition to searching for vacancies, you can talk to employers in a virtual chat room, attend online presentations on interview techniques, assessment centres and CV construction and chat to one of their careers advisers on-line. Register on-line to get access to all these activities.

This is another good illustration of how using a professional body, like the IOP, can really help when it comes to your career. They have a vested interest in helping you be as successful as possible, and are full of enthusiastic and helpful staff – like Louise Butcher, who, we’re delighted to say, took the time to come to the Pathways event, with a stand showing the many ways in which the IOP can help its members (hope some of you got to meet her).


Pathways 2008 – FAQs

NOTE:  1st June 2009
The rest of this post refers to the Pathways event in 2008. Just spotted that quite a lot of you have found your way here in 2009, so to avoid confusion, I’ve removed last year’s timetables (which will be different this year), and will add a new post with updated FAQs (keeping a lot of the stuff on this page which is still relevant).

Original June 2008 post:

Pathways is almost upon us (this Friday and Monday) so here are a few answers to questions I’ve been asked (and some I’ve made up – but you might be asking).

12th June – Latest : Timetables for both days are now available here to download (these were also e-mailed out to all those who registered)

Day 1 Timetable : Panel Timetable

Day 2 Timetable : Workshop Timetable

Note : We’ve now added a couple more workshop sessions to Day 2 since drawing up the timetables –

11.00-12.00 – “Immigration and Working in the UK For Researchers” – Gerry Bell, our International Officer will tell you all about the very latest (ie it changed again yesterday!) on working in the UK for our international researchers. As this is likely to be a very popular session, this will take place in the main (C16) lecture theatre on C floor

12.00-1.00 – “CVs for Researchers” – again in the large lecture theatre on C floor. By popular request (ie somebody asked), I’ll be repeating the Career Essentials session on the nuts and bolts of how to sell yourself on your CVs and applications. If you’ve already been to one of my CV talks, you might want to try one of the other sessions, but if you haven’t updated your CV recently, or are now trying to move into a different job, I’ll go through the basics and then it’s a free for all with your questions – all welcome!

  • Do I have to attend both days?
    No, either Friday, or Monday, or both, are available, whatever suits your needs. Have a look at what’s on both days and decide, but if you attend on Friday, Monday is designed to help you make sense of what to do next about your career.
  • Can’t I just wait for the next lot of careers workshops, they’re always advertising them?
    Of course you can, but you probably won’t get these workshops. Instead of running our standard careers sessions (I’ll run more of those at other times of the year), we’ve arranged for some special one-off sessions from a range of external providers, many of whom you may never get the chance to see again – or if you do, you’ll have to wait until next year’s Pathways event.
  • What if there’s no-one coming from the company I want to work for or the career I want to go into – is it worth it attending?
    If you just want information about a specific employer or job, you may not get that here. However, if you want to find out about other jobs you never knew existed, how to convince employers to take you, how real people have found jobs through non-standard methods and a whole load more, this will really help. Also, you may find out that one of the panellists has actually done the job/worked for the employer you want to know about in a previous role – then you can get inside info (and maybe even a contact) to help you.
  • Why is there no-one from my discipline coming – aren’t we important enough?
    We’ve found the panellists and other guest speakers and trainers from personal contacts, alumni, employer contacts, friends – frankly, we’d take pretty well anyone we could persuade, the only proviso being that all (or most) of them had to have a PhD.

    We have no way of finding, for example, a source of pure mathematicians who did a PhD within the last 10 years who have gone into other careers – but if you know any, we’d love to talk to them for next year (Note : I don’t know if we’ve got any pure mathematicians this year, but this was a complaint from last year – maybe they could have broadened their thinking just a little and learnt something from the various other sorts of mathematicians who were there …)

    Also, don’t assume that just because we don’t, for example, have someone in a job called “Historian” that we don’t have any History PhDs attending – you might be amazed at what historians go into (like being an archivist for Canterbury Cathedral – Mark’s coming all the way from Canterbury this year after making a virtual appearance on video last year, hooray!)

  • I haven’t registered – can I still attend?
    Yes! We need to know numbers beforehand to judge room sizes and numbers of lunches, but if you didn’t manage to click here and register (go on, it’s quick and easy and helps us) you can still attend. We’ll be registering people on the day by their swipe card, so remember to bring yours. If you don’t have it with you, we’ll still be able to register you, but it will take a bit longer.
  • How do I make sure I get to the session I want?
    This is a tricky one. With such large numbers of attendees and such a choice of sessions, it’s impossible to book in advance for specific sessions (we know from bitter experience that bookings bear little relation to who turns up on the day). To get the session you want, you’ll need to get there in good time.

    On Friday, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem, as rooms for the popular areas are large, and we’ve tried to run most sessions more than once during the day to accommodate clashes. Also, you may be able to have an informal one-to-one chat with a particular panellist when they’re not sitting on a panel in our career conversation lounge (we’ve even arranged comfy sofas).

    On Monday, some of the workshop sessions are only for small numbers, so you’ll have to get in early. For the Accenture Interview coaching sessions in the afternoon, we will take a list of people who want to sign up for that from registration (10-ish onwards – or get there even earlier on the day and collar us to get in first!). We’ll just have to see how it goes, but apologies if you don’t get the sessions you want on the day. Do let us know if there are any you wanted to get into but couldn’t, and that will give us our priorities for organising future training, hopefully before next year’s Pathways.

  • I’m not a PhD or member of research staff at Manchester University – can I still come?
    Afraid not – this is specifically aimed at current and recent PhDs and research staff at Manchester University only. If you’re a Masters student, I’m afraid this also isn’t for you – it focuses specifically on careers for PhDs. However, if you decide to do a PhD at Manchester, you’ll be able to attend the event once you’re started.

Any more FAQs you want answered, just post a comment here and I’ll try and answer them with another post before the event.

Now I’m off to the Graduate Fair, to give careers advice to anyone who asks for it. You get some weird queries at the fairs, often from graduates from other universities who’ve done degrees in things like Choreography, which isn’t exactly my specialism (not many PhD Bioscientists ask about interpretive dance as a career) but I enjoy being kept on my toes.

Interviews – Watch, Listen And Learn

Following this week’s BBC Apprentice show, there’s been a lot of talk (well, in my careers world anyway, and on the BBC website) about how to fail at interviews and daft interview questions. If you’re reading this before 11th June, you can still see the episode on the BBC iPlayer – and if you want to fast forward to the bit where the guy gets caught out inflating the time he spent at university, it’s about 26 minutes in. Hopefully, watching him squirm would make most people think twice about lying about something like this which is easily verifiable.

However, if you want to avoid the pitfalls for your next interview, now’s a good time to get some real face to face help, with talks at our New Grad programme, linked to the Graduate Recruitment Fair, and one-off innovative workshops at the Pathways event.

Interviews sessions on the New Grad programme :

  • Monday 9th June, 2-3, Lecture Theatre 1, Manchester Business School East – how to answer the tricky questions they can throw at you, by Yours Truly (I made the mistake 5 minutes ago of asking who was doing this talk – just as they were trying to find someone to replace another speaker who had dropped out…)
  • Wednesday 11th June and Thursday 12th June, 12.30pm, Firs Pavillion – two talks at the Graduate Recruitment Fair. There won’t be formal interviews at the Fairs, but some organisations have booked interview rooms with us after the fairs, so it’s best to be prepared.
  • Friday 13th June, 1-2, Lecture Theatre 1, Manchester Business School East – another interviews talk, this time from Accenture

Interviews Sessions At Pathways :

We’ve got some really innovative workshops coming up at Pathways for those PhDs and research staff who have registered to attend the Monday 16th June sessions.

  • Vox Coaching, a training company linked to the Drama department at Bristol University work with researchers using their drama skills to really bring topics like interviews to life. We rarely get the chance to invite trainers like this to work with our researchers, so sign up for one of their sessions on Monday
  • Accenture have offered a tremendous opportunity to get small group coaching in interview skills in two workshops on Monday afternoon. Although the Assessment Centre session they are running in the morning can cater for large numbers, places on the Interview Skills workshops are very limited. If you want a place, we’ll have a sign up sheet on the day – first come, first served (sign up at registration from 10.00am onwards)

Pathways Registration – Now Live

For all Manchester University PhDs (including recent PhD alumni**) and research staff, our on-line registration for Pathways is now live. What’s “Pathways”? Our biggest PhD and research staff career options event, on June 13th and 16th, so big its even got its own page on this blog for advance information.

However, now’s the time to go to our Pathways registration website and book yourself a place. Along with on-line booking, you can also get more information on who’s coming to take part in the question and answer panels, browse their “bubble CVs” (a very condensed form of CV), and find details of the workshops and events on the second day.

As anyone who has organised an event of this size will recognise, information about guests and workshops is still flooding in to us, so don’t be surprised if a lot more gets added closer to the date (still two weeks to go, a lot can happen in that time…)

I’d advise booking now to be sure of a place (we’ve had several hundred bookings already), and checking back just before the event to plan out your day(s) with the latest up to date guest and workshop information. As part of registration, you’ll be asked for details of the career areas and workshops which interest you, but this is mainly to help us make sure the most popular sessions get the larger rooms. You can change your mind on the day – in fact, it will be first come, first served at each session, so making sure you get there in good time for the sessions you really want to attend will be important (yes, I know it sounds potentially chaotic, but last year it went without a hitch, in spite of hundreds of attendees and up to 10 different options to choose from at any one time).

** The only problem with on-line booking is that it makes it more difficult for alumni who don’t work at the university and who want to attend. If that applies to you, you can either contact your former Faculty training team, or ourselves (at and we can sort out your booking. To be honest, if you completed your PhD several years ago, this may not be the event for you, as it will focus on first career steps. However, many researchers don’t fall immediately into their ideal job, and this event may still be of interest to our PhDs who graduated in the last 2 or 3 years.

“Arthur Online” – Writers Wanted!

Every researcher has heard the phrase “publish or perish” – but what if you’re not quite ready to hit those high impact journals with your master work? Then get some practice in, writing about a research related topic for the new venture – Arthur Online. As well as honing your critical skills, this is a chance to try writing for a general audience, rather than a scholarly journal, which will do you no harm at all if you fancy a career outside academia, particularly in a media or communications role.

Why “Arthur”? Well, it’s aimed at residents of the new Arthur Lewis building, so they’re targeting researchers in SOSS and SED. If that’s you, get your virtual quill pens out and start scribbling.

The new editor and driving force behind the venture is current postgrad, Geoff Stevenson. Here’s his message for you :

“Arthur Online is a new on-line research magazine currently in its pilot issue. It is written by and for research staff and students in the School of Social Science and the School of Environment an Development, with the aim of providing a space to write about research related topics to a more general audience. The magazine is currently looking for editors/publishers, as well as contributions for the second issue.

Contributing to the magazine would be a great way to enhance a researchers CV, whether for a future career in academic research or otherwise. In particular, involvement with editing/publishing would certainly be useful for anyone looking for a career related to the media.

If you are interested, contact the editor via the website:

Any PhDs and research staff who are interested in writing or publishing outside an academic environment as a career might also be interested to know that we’ve got a couple of journal editors lined up to attend the Pathways event – including a trainee editor from Nature who was inspired to go out and get her job after attending last year’s event.

Chemistry PhDs – Industry Tours

If you feel you don’t really know what industry is all about but want to use your Chemistry PhD outside academia (or at least find out what that’s like before deciding), the Royal Society of Chemistry has an outstanding “Industry Tour” scheme for its members.

Each year, they organise a number of tours in the UK and other European countries for between ten and twenty 2nd and 3rd year PhDs. They visit a range of contrasting companies (looks like it’s normally three) and get an insight into both research in industry and manufacturing.

It’s an extraordinarily generous package, with accommodation & most meals, and transport between the companies all covered by the RSC. They require a refundable £50 deposit for UK tours, and a non-refundable admin fee of £50 for the other European tours. Obviously, it’s for their own student members, but they even accept applications for membership with applications for the tour.

The next tour is in the UK, from 13-15th July, and includes visits to Botanix, Givaudan and Pfizer (all in the South East of England). Closing date for applications is 9th June. Full details of their scheme are on the RSC Postgraduate Industry Tours web pages.

RSC on Tour at Pathways

If you want to know more about these industry tours and all the support the RSC gives its student members, just talk to one of several representatives who are coming to the Pathways event.

Natalie Mansfield, who is the contact for the next UK tour, will be here on Friday 13th June, taking part in panel sessions (though please note – if you want to get on the next UK tour, you’ll need to apply before this event). Caroline Tolond will be here on Monday 16th June, running a workshop on careers and networking, and one of her colleagues will also be here on Monday in the Employability Zone, to talk about how taking part in activities through a professional society can boost your employability.

Many thanks to the RSC for providing such generous support to Pathways, our PhD and research staff careers event.

Pathways Event – A Whole New Page To Itself

Following on from advance notice of our big annual PhD & researcher careers event, Pathways now has its own page on this site, with an overview of how the event will run, information for potential PhD and research staff delegates and for potential participants who are prepared to share information about their careers so far.

There will be a full, intranet/password protected website in May, where you can book on-line, but until then, have a look at what’s coming up, and learn how you can keep up-to-date with any other Pathways information.

Just click on the Page link above (on the black bar) to see what’s in store.

and there was even a free lunch...

Pathways – PhD and Research Staff Careers Mega Event

I’ve hinted at this before, but we’re now well into planning our annual careers event for Manchester University PhDs, now renamed “Pathways”, expanded to include our research staff and running over 2 days.
[UPDATE 14/4/08: And it’s now got it’s own page, here ]

On Friday 13th June (I know, I know…) we’ll be running Q&A panels and informal “Career Conversations” with as many people as we can find who got their PhD or were university research staff within the last 5-10 years or so. We had over 80 people talking about their careers last year, and we’re hoping to exceed that this year.

On Monday 16th June (assuming no disasters on Friday), we’re hoping to run a series of one-off workshops to help answer the question – “So, now I’ve heard about my ideal career, how do I make it happen?”

Where do you come in now?

  1. If there’s a career you’d like to know about, let us know asap. We can’t guarantee to be able to find someone with a PhD to turn up and talk about it, but we’ll have a go.
  2. If you have any friends who fall into the category of “up to 10 years since I did my PhD or left university research”, please point them in our direction. You might know all about them, but there are lots of other Manchester PhDs and research staff who don’t, so we’d love to hear from them, as the main way we find participants is through personal contact. Law, government roles and NGOs are often difficult areas for us to source, so any contacts from these areas are particularly gratefully received (and they don’t need to be Manchester alumni – we’ll take anyone who’s willing!)UPDATE, 8/04 : See comments on this post for suggestions already made, and add your own requests/contacts if there’s something you’re burning to find out about.
  3. Put the dates in your diary now, and start working on your supervisor/PI to let you attend.

If you want to put in a plea for your ideal career to be covered, leave a comment here. If you can offer a contact, just leave a comment on this post. If you mark a comment “Not for Posting”, I’ll still get to see it but I’ll make sure the details don’t get published on the blog (I can contact you directly if we need to correspond). Otherwise, I’ll publish your suggestions and comments so everyone can benefit from them.

Research into Graduate Careers – Job Vacancy in Manchester

Here’s a vacancy for anyone who’s got engrossed in the graduate job market – how about using your research and project management skills to conduct research into graduate careers?

You might have come across Graduate Prospects which publishes graduate careers info and is based just a hop, skip and a jump from our own Careers Service, just behind Crawford House. The Higher Education Careers Service Unit (HECSU) is the educational charity behind Graduate Prospects Ltd. which funds research and development projects related to graduate careers, and they’re currently advertising for a Research Assistant
NB : NEW CLOSING DATE 25TH APRIL [edited 1st April – no joke, honest…]

They’re looking for a postgraduate qualification and research training, though they say that your first degree subject can be in any discipline. I know this is true because the small team includes the country’s leading postgraduate careers researcher (OK, it may not be a large field, but Charlie’s top banana in the UK if you want to know anything about what PhDs do once the viva and all those corrections are done and dusted) – and he’s an ex-post-doc chemist! If you want to know how you wend your way from the lab to social science research, come and listen to his tale at the Pathways event coming up in June (he does a great turn as a stand up comic, in spite of being a self confessed stats geek).

To get an idea of the kind of mindset you’ll need, have a look at his (unofficial) blog, where today he dissects the stats behind the spin on the job market for newly qualified nurses. If you like to get to the facts behind the headlines and prefer real data to received wisdom, this is one job where your research skills could be ideal, and shows that academia isn’t the only place where your research training can be of great value.

Biosciences Postgrad/Post-Doc Careers Conference

The Society for Experimental Biology is organising another careers conference, Bioscience Futures specifically for PhD and post-doc bioscientists (or those interested in these areas).

It runs at Lancaster University from the 8th-10th April with key speakers including Prof Ottoline Leyser, one of the two most inspirational speakers on careers for postgrads I’ve heard recently – you’d really want her to be your supervisor/PI after hearing her. (The other one? Our own Dame Nancy, of course! If I can get a copy of her slides from the Humanities Research Staff conference I was at last week, I’ll give you a summary.)

There’s some pre-work to do – a poster on your research (but you can just rehash the last one you used), and an MBTI questionnaire. (If you can’t make it to this conference but want to do a personality questionnaire along the same lines of Myers Briggs, go to the Careers Service website for our free on-line version – restricted to Manchester University only though).

Sarah Blackford, who has a great track record in the biology and careers worlds, is organising this conference and has pointed out that with 20 places left, you can still register for the “early bird” fee of £50 for Post-docs and £30 for PhDs until 15th Feb (but if you need accommodation, that’s extra).

However, if you can’t make this, are not a biologist, or want it for free, the PhD Options event which we piloted last year is planned to run this year on 13th and 16th June. It will have a new name, Pathways, a new audience (in addition to all PhDs, early career research staff will be actively welcomed – though quite a lot snuck in last year anyway), even more people with PhDs to talk about their careers (we had around 80 last year, and over 400 PhDs to listen to them) and an added follow up day of workshops. Probably won’t be the last time I’ll be blogging about this, as you might guess…