Pathways Round-Up

Pathways 2011 has now disappeared off into the sunset. Here are a few snippets picked up over the three days:

Panellist Popularity Contest
One of our panellists travelled by train to Pathways – and realised the person sitting next to him was flicking through the list of panellists, putting a star next to the ones he wanted to see. Our panellist was a bit crest-fallen (but amused) to find he only rated a “?” …

Happy ending: Our panellist was telling this story after the final panel of the day, when someone tapped him on the shoulder and pointed out that he was the one who had marked him as a “?” – but he’d stayed to listen to our panellist after all.

Lucky Breaks
If you put together all the tales I heard of “lucky breaks” in the careers of our panellists, you’d wonder if anyone ever got a job by the standard “applied to an advert” route.

We can’t train you to be in the right place at the right time. However, we can tell you, over and over, that the more you

  • do go to the social evenings at conferences
  • turn up to employer events in your department
  • volunteer your time for something you really enjoy

the more chance there is that a social conversation could turn, imperceptibly, into an interview, with a job offer to follow, no advert involved. Our panellists were there to give you real life evidence of all the above to inspire you.

PhD Zone recruiters aimed high
With almost 800 people attending our PhD Zone (the vast majority being PhDs and not just undergrads who took a wrong turning), there was plenty of talent on offer.

However, one recruiter, Complete Group Medical Ltd, aimed for the top and suggested to Vice Chancellor Prof Dame Nancy Rothwell that she had a future in medical writing. I overheard them telling her “you’d be really good”. Sorry guys, she’s taken!

Here’s a taste of who was there – see if you can spot yourself.

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Last Fairs Until Autumn

Wednesday 15th June and Thursday 16th June are our last big Graduate Recruitment Fairs in Manchester until October.

NB. There are different employers coming to each day so check out who you want to see before you set off.

Reasons for going to this fair

a) Get in early
The trend in recruitment over the last year or so has been to open graduate schemes early – some of them now open in the summer rather than in the Autumn – and to close them well before any stated deadline.

Therefore, I’d suggest that even if you won’t want a job until next year, you seriously consider coming along to talk to potential employers now. If they are planning to open their vacancies very early, then you’ll be able to get your application in before most other applicants have even started to browse the employers websites. (And remember, some major employers start to recruit graduates a year before they expect you to start work. Miss out on that autumn recruitment round and the next vacancies they have may not start until 2013!)

b) Gather information to stand out
In this tight job market you need to do everything you can to stand out. Talking to employers or the recent graduates they bring along to the fairs is a great way to gather information about what it’s like to work for them, what they look for, how they treat their new employees, what the recruitment process is and lots more to help you figure out if they are the right employer for you, and to target your application.

If you think that talking to a recent graduate or someone who can’t tell you about the specific technical jobs you want is a waste of time, have a look at the post I wrote for the autumn fairs.

c) Our once-a-year PhD employer fair
As well as over 160 graduate employers, we also have a PhD Career Zone on Wednesday (that’s Day 3 of the Pathways careers event for researchers). We’ll have 15 stands with employers who can talk to you about how PhDs are viewed by employers and how to market your PhD. Some of them will have current vacancies for PhDs, but that’s not the real aim of running this part of the event – it’s more about giving you the chance to quiz them now, so when you do want a job, with them or other employers, you’re better prepared.

d) Careers advice at the fair
We’ll also be there to give careers advice to all comers. Our main careers advice team will be happy to see Masters, PhDs and undergrads on either day. As a special treat, on Wednesday, we’ve also got a team of PhD careers advisers in the PhD Career Zone.

So, come and say hello to me on Wednesday in the PhD Zone or on Thursday in our main career advice area, and make the most of our last graduate recruitment fair until the autumn.

Pathways – Almost There

Tomorrow sees the start of Pathways, our career options event for researchers. I know loads of you already know all about it, as we’ve had over 450 register for Day 1 already. This is an update on what’s on offer, including the latest programmes and timetables.

Day 1 – Friday 10th June, Renold Building (ie. tomorrow – eek!)

You can register from 9.15 onwards.

Introductory talk from Judy Williams and me, to get you warmed up for the sessions to come and get you thinking about your career, what you want and how to find out where your PhD might lead you.

10.45 – 3.30
Q&A panels, with around 70 (depending on who turns up on the day) PhD qualified panellists in a range of careers, academic and non-academic.

LATEST: Download the Panellist Profiles (pdf)

Not all panellists have completed a profile but it gives you a good idea of the breadth of experience you’ll find at the event.

On the day, you’ll also have a couple of documents to help you choose your sessions by showing you:

1. Which panellists are in jobs open to which disciplines (including those open to any discipline)

2. Which panellists are in which type of work ie

  • academic or other university research/teaching
  • business, management, professional services, admin
  • communication, HR, training
  • healthcare
  • non-academic roles in universities
  • project management
  • self-employed/freelance
  • teaching outside a university
  • technical/research outside a university

Several panellists fall into more than one type of work so our materials scientist/cake designer (no, really…) comes under “university research” as well as “self-employed”

Day 2 – Monday 13th June, Renold Building

You can register from 8.45 onwards – that’s important, because you need to choose and sign up for sessions on the day, and it’s first come, first served for some of the sessions which have limited places.

For those who have registered, we’ve sent you an e-mail with details of what you have to do beforehand (there’s homework!). We’d also like you to use the online link in the e-mail to show us which sessions you’re interested in, to help us make sure there is enough support on the day.

LATEST: Download the full programme and timetable (both Word docs)

9.30 – 10.30 Introductory session
Let you know what you’re going to be doing in the interactive sessions coming up, and get you “warmed up” and ready for action

10.45 – 11.45 Presentations, as if at a job interview.
We have 120 places for those of you who want to have a go at presenting your research – in 5 minutes – plus lots more places for observers who can give feedback

11.45 – 1.00 Choice of sessions

  • academic interviews, with 3 different panels (by faculty) of experienced academics, talking about what they look for at interviews
  • group exercise sessions – IBM run group exercise (30 places only); medical communications recruitment exercises (ie suitable for would-be medical writers) run by KnowledgePoint360 (50 places); group discussions – run by us, but with exercises previously used by Accenture in recruitment (50 places)

As an alternative, from 10.45-1.00, you can opt for our practice psychometric tests

2.00-3.45 Practice interviews
This gives you the chance to test out your interview skills from both sides of the desk. In groups of 3 or 4 researchers, you will get the chance to interview each other, be interviewed and observe/give feedback.

As an alternative, from 2.00-4.00, you can opt for our practice psychometric tests

Day 2 has proven to be more popular than we expected, so hopefully we’ll have enough  places for all of you who want to have a go at presentations or the group exercises, but apologies in advance if you have to opt for your second choice. I’m still counting on the suspicion that lots of people will chicken out on the day, as the presentations and interviews need you to do preparation work beforehand. (Details of this have been sent out to all who have registered.)

If there is obviously unmet demand on the day, we can look at putting on similar (smaller scale) sessions in future, rather than just a once a year event.

Then it’s just the PhD Career Zone @ The Graduate Fair on Wednesday, and then I can relax …

So, see you there tomorrow!

Careers Don’t Have To Be “Right First Time”

Sometimes you read a recommendation* and just hear the clear ringing sound as the hammer makes contact with the head of that nail.

I’m always dubious about any article claiming to be “the one thing you need to know to sort your life out” but for some of you,

(click on image for link to US News blog post)

may turn out to be just that.

Why this article is great advice
I’ve seen careers stall and drift over many years because people settle for a “make-do” job on graduation, “just until they work out what they really want to do” or because they don’t want to get stuck in the wrong job. Twenty years later, they’re still there, as the blinding flash of inspiration never hits. They’re reasonably comfortable where they are – but in a career totally devoid of passion.

This article helps you re-frame your first job (or few jobs) as a time of exploration. Think of them as doing R&D on yourself, as you work out what you’re good at, and what energises you. In that way, even doing a job you know isn’t a long term career prospect becomes an opportunity to learn about yourself and the next job becomes the chance to get one step closer to your ideal job.

It’s likely to be an iterative process, and one you may have to repeat at later stages in your career, as the world of work changes – or you do – and you need to re-focus your career in a different direction. Seems like a good idea to get the practice in early.

Transitioning out of research
I think this is particularly relevant to those considering moving out of academia after doing a PhD or post-doctoral work in a university. The outside world often regards you as career changers (to them, you’ve already chosen research as a career) and making a transition to a new field is often not straight forward.

How can you find out how others in your position have explored different kinds of work?

At Pathways, our annual career options event for researchers.

Book your place for Friday 10th June 2011 to hear from over 60 researchers in a wide range of careers, and ask them how they found a “best-fit” career.

* thanks for recommendation from @CareersGroup & @davidawinter

Pathways: Career Support for Researchers

Next month, hundreds of researchers will be milling about the Renold Building, finding out about how to get on in a wide range of academic and non-academic careers. Some of them (the brave ones) will be practising their interview and assessment skills, whilst still more will be hot-footing it down to the Armitage Centre to talk to real employers of PhDs and getting careers and CV advice.

Will you be one of them?

Yes, it’s our annual call for Pathways, our cross-university careers event for researchers.
Booking is now open on our Pathways website.

What is Pathways?
Three separate days focusing on supporting PhDs and research staff in whatever career they want to follow. You can choose to go along to one, two or all three days, whatever suits your needs.

Day 1: Friday 10th June 2011, Renold Building, University of Manchester
We run 40+ career panels made up of current academics and former researchers, now in a range of careers, to help you understand what their careers involve, how to make the transition into your next career – and what mistakes to avoid.

The beauty of this format is that it’s really informal, and you get to hear from real people who’ve been in your position, talking candidly about their careers.

It can be very helpful talking to “employers”, but they all have a vested interest in making their work sound attractive. In this format, you may hear people talk about how much they disliked their previous (or even current) work, or disastrous choices they made, but you can also be confident that they’re not spinning you some corporate line when they say they love their job.

Day 2:  Monday 13th June 2011, Renold Building
NEW this year. We’re focusing on how to get you into the job you want : interviews and assessment. It won’t just be talks – you’ll get the chance to “have a go”.

Depending on the type of career you think you will want, you can opt to

  • hear from academic recruiters about interview panels (and maybe try some answers yourself)
  • do a 5 minute presentation of your research  as if you were applying for a job (very different from presenting at a conference)
  • try being an interviewee, interviewer and observer as you practice your interview skills in a safe environment
  • try a group exercise run by a big name recruiter
  • learn about how to get into medical communications careers
  • try psychometric tests

There won’t be the chance to try all of the above (that would take a two day workshop) but you should be able to prioritise and get some practical help for the kind of assessments you’re likely to encounter in your chosen career.

Day 3: Wednesday 15th June 2011, Armitage Centre
Once again, we’re running the PhD and Researcher Career Zone @ The Graduate Recruitment Fair. This is a dedicated room at our big recruitment fair, just for researchers.

We’ll have a small number of recruiters specifically interested in PhDs and researchers who can answer your questions about how employers view PhDs, some of the kinds of work they do, how PhDs can promote themselves.

We won’t kid you that your ideal employer will definitely be there offering you a job (though they might). Most employers who target PhDs only want one or two a year, so they don’t often come to recruitment fairs. However, there will also be over 70 employers to talk to in the main fair, many of whom will take applications from PhDs.

Who can come?
Any current University of Manchester PhD researcher or member of research staff. If you have recently completed your PhD (up to 3 years ago), you can still come along. If you are a member of research staff without a PhD, you’re very welcome to attend, but you should be aware that there will be a strong focus on what you can do with a PhD.

If you are a researcher at another institution, we’re also offering places for Day 1 and/or Day 2 at a modest cost – try talking to your institution first as some NW universities have paid for their researchers to attend the event in the past.

NB. Anyone from any institution can attend Day 3 at no charge, no booking required (so bring your friends).

As we’ve had up to 500 people attending on some days, it’s really important to book your place for Day 1 or Day 2 in advance. (Otherwise, there won’t be enough lunch to go round – did I mention there was a free lunch? Oh yes.)

Even though we’ve only recently opened booking, we’ve got over 100 people booked on already, so don’t miss out.

More information
I’ll be blogging with more detail on each day as the event approaches and more contributors confirm their attendance. If there’s anything you want to know, just drop me a comment on this post and I’ll answer either in the comments or in a new blog post.