An Academic Career – New Website

Today, we’re officially launching our new website to support aspiring academics:

An Academic Career –

It’s aimed at postgraduates, research or teaching staff (post-docs or others), undergraduates – or basically anyone who isn’t yet an academic but who thinks they might like an academic career.

It’s also open to anyone, not just Manchester students and staff, so feel free to share it with friends and colleagues wherever they are. Here’s what’s on offer:

Is an academic career for you?
This has three different tailored sections, one for undergraduates/Masters, one for PhDs, and one for post-docs (so you get the right sort of information for the stage you’re at in your career).

In particular, it includes two  downloadable resources:

  • one to help you think through what you want from a career – a series of self assessment questions
  • another to help you tackle that tricky, “dark night of the soul” question: “Have you got what it takes?” (Don’t worry, it doesn’t give you a score out of 10 – and it does have lots of suggestions for things you can do to get your academic career on track)

About academic careers
Whenever I’ve been part of an academic careers event with a panel of academics answering questions, I’m always struck by the gulf between what an audience of PhDs, and even post-docs, think academics do, and what academics say they really spend their time on.

This section tries to unpick what life is like as an academic and how to get there. We talked to lots of academics and have included video clips throughout the site to add to the more detailed text, so you get to hear from the horse’s mouth what it’s like. We’ve also included a range of academic career stories, and links to even more examples elsewhere on the web.

There’s also a more detailed section on career issues for those at PhD and beyond, including “What are my chances?“, “Would moving university help my career?” (including links to some excellent non-UK academic careers resources) and “Could I return to academia if I leave?

Finding jobs
This is primarily aimed at finding post-doc, fellowship and lecturer jobs.

I know you’ll all want to go straight to the list of job advert websites (don’t worry, they’re there), but recent research shows that the most common way which PhDs working in academia, 3 or 4 years after graduating, found out about their job was – you guessed it, through their contacts. So, I’ve included a section on ways to uncover your ideal academic job.

Making applications
If you want to know what to put in your CV, covering letter or application form, this section is for you.

We’ve included links to two excellent sites with example academic CVs (aimed at PhDs and post-docs) but decided against trying to invent our own examples.

Why? Well, we received over 30 real CVs from people who had been successful in getting academic jobs, but formatting and even content were all so wildly different that it seemed wrong to say “do it this way”. However, we have discussed all the different items which could go into your CV and given you hints on how to find real academic CVs online, ideally from your own discipline (to see what the competition’s like).

Interviews and assessment
You want questions? We’ve got a whole list of possible questions you can prepare for, plus hints on preparation, questions you could ask and presentations.

To be honest, there’s quite a lot more I’d like to include in this section, so if it’s a priority for you, give us some feedback and we develop it further.

We’ve had some really helpful feedback from postgraduate and postdoctoral users, some of which we’ve been able to incorporate into the initial launch; some of which we’ve added to our list of ways we’d like to develop the site.

If you have any feedback on the site, I’d love to hear from you. You can access the new Academic Careers page on this blog and vote in our poll of what you’d like to see added, or fill in our comments box, or just e-mail us at (or you could always comment here, of course).

Hope you find it useful.


Manchester Jobs Fair – 16th/17th June

Just to remind you that we have our big 2 day jobs fair running at the Armitage Centre, Fallowfield, Manchester, this Wednesday and Thursday.

Last chance until Autumn
We won’t be running another Fair after this until October, and employers don’t visit campus over the summer, so if you want to talk to employers before the next big surge of undergrad recruitment in the Autumn, now’s the time to act, even if you don’t graduate until the end of the calendar year.

Careers advice for postgrads
We’re also offering careers advice to any grads or postgrads who turn up on either day, plus a number of PhD specialist advisers who will be there on Wednesday.

Full details of the fair are on our Careers Service website (including which employers are there on which days – different employers attend different days, so check before you travel). More information on postgrads attending the fair is in a recent blog post.

And if you’re confused and looking for Pathways Day 3 – that’s the same thing as the PhD Zone @ the Graduate Fair.

See you at the Fair!

Pathways Day 2 – Monday 14th June

A sigh of relief as about 400 PhDs and research staff turned up for Day 1 of Pathways on Friday to hear all our panellists and guest speakers.

If you haven’t yet registered for Day 2, you can still turn up on the day (if you’re a PhD or research staff member from the University of Manchester) to hear academics, employers and professionals from a range of fields deliver workshops to help you progress in your career, whether inside or outside academia.

In the meantime, here are a few pictures from Day 1 – before my camera packed up!

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Pathways Starts Tomorrow – Final Call

We’re ready for the off – the boxes are packed, the printing is almost done, the panellists and keynote speakers are all briefed – all we need now is for everyone to turn up, starting tomorrow at 9.00 for registration.

Latest updates:

What is Pathways?
Just in case you don’t know, it’s our big annual careers event for PhDs and research staff, combining the support of all Faculties, academics, alumni, any friends who have a PhD etc. It runs tomorrow (Friday 11th June 2010), Monday 14th June and continues at the PhD Zone at the Graduate Fair on Wednesday 16th June. Loads more detail on the tab above labelled Pathways.

What’s on when?
We’ve had the inevitable cancellations, additions, and changes to availability – we rely on the goodwill of the panellists so we can never be absolutely sure who will turn up until the day. However, we’ve now got the Final (until tomorrow) programmes of panel sessions, panellist profiles (note: not all have completed them though), and workshops.

They are either already on the Pathways website or should go on shortly, and will be available in hard copy at the event, but in the meantime you can download them here:

Day 1 Panels Final Timetable (Word doc)

Pathways Profiles of Panellists (Day 1) (pdf)

Day 2 Workshop Times / Locations (Word doc)

Can I come if I haven’t registered?
If you’re a current PhD or member of research staff at the University of Manchester – YES! (Though we’d still like you to register here, it won’t take a minute.) You just have to promise that if we look like we’re going to run out of refreshments or lunch, you’ll do the honourable thing and leave the munchies for those who pre-registered (in practice though, we normally have loads of food).

If you’re not at the University of Manchester and haven’t already registered directly or through your own university, you won’t be able to attend Day 1 or 2, but you’re all very welcome to attend Day 3, the PhD Zone at the Graduate Fair – no registration required.

Do I have to come to all three days?
No – you can choose to come to any or all of the days (subject to the eligibility above).

Is there a Twitter hashtag?
I’m sure that question’s on all your lips, and of course the answer’s yes! If you’re on Twitter and are coming to the event, just drop us a tweet using the hashtag #pathways10 (go on, I’m feeling lonely, tweeting into the wind…)

Looking forward to a great time – see you there.

Postgraduate Jobs Fair

Well, sort of. The truth is that all our jobs fairs are aimed at both postgraduates and undergraduates, but many postgrads think that they’re just for undergrads – not so.

However, the Graduate Fair (I can see now how misleading that is…) at the Armitage Centre next week (16th & 17th June) does also have a section just for PhDs and research staff on Wednesday 16th June, and both sections of the fair are open to people from any university. Read on for more detail.

What’s the point of going to one of these fairs?

If employers who you might want to work for are going to be there, definitely go. They may have someone who can tell you more about the specific jobs you want, but even if that’s not the case (some of them are more geared towards talking about entry level jobs) you can still get a feel for whether you would want to work for that employer.

Even if the stand is staffed by a recently recruited graduate who barely knows where the coffee machine is, they could tell you about their interview, their boss, the way the employer treats new staff or training opportunities. This is all good stuff for adding to your application or raising at interview to make you stand out above those who have only read the employer’s website – and this year you’ll need all you can get to make yourself heard above all the others looking for jobs.

How do you know who’s going to be there?

Easy, we have an up-to-date list of who’s there on which day – the Graduate Fair runs on both Wednesday 16th June, and on Thursday 17th June and there are different employers there each day. This year it ranges from the largest organisations (IBM, Civil Service, Deloitte, Rolls Royce, Accenture, Teach First, Santander etc) to smaller niche companies and agencies who deal with all sorts of recruiting organisations. Add in a few training providers (like the University of Manchester …) and we have 160 exhibitors in the main fair over two days.

What’s this “PhD Zone” all about?

After the success of last year, this year we’ve organised another separate section of the fair upstairs, aimed just at those people who already have or are currently doing a PhD. This is the third day of our Pathways careers events for PhDs and researchers. This one though, you don’t have to register for (but I’m afraid there’s no free lunch today).

(Note: If you want to talk to someone about starting to do a PhD, this isn’t the section you want – there will be several universities downstairs in the main fair who will be keen to talk to you.)

This year, our exhibitors are:

  • AMEC Power & Process (Nuclear Business)
  • AREVA T&D UK Ltd
  • The Civil Service Fast Stream
  • Doosan Babcock
  • Cambridge Display Technology (CDT) Ltd
  • Complete Medical Group
  • Instrument Design Technology Ltd
  • National Grid
  • National Nuclear Laboratory
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
  • Schlumberger
  • SELEX Galileo
  • SRG
  • Tessella plc
  • UBS

Yes, there are a lot of science and engineering employers there, but the brutal truth is that these are the employers who are likely to need several PhDs a year, rather than the one’s or two’s which other, more humanities-focused, employers look for – and you don’t tend to go to a recruitment fair when you need only one person a year.

However, the Civil Service, PricewaterhouseCoopers and are interested in any discipline, and this year, life scientists are also sought by Tessella, SRG and Complete Medical Group.

You can now download our PhD & Researcher Career Zone catalogue (pdf) before the fair to see what’s on offer (we’ll also have lots at the fair to pick up).

Not all the employers in the PhD Zone have current vacancies (and anyway, not all of you need a job immediately) but all are interested in talking to PhDs. This is a great chance to find out directly from employers how your PhD is perceived, what they look for with PhDs and the types of jobs PhDs end up in.

You can test out your recruitment “pitch” on these “PhD-friendly employers” first and get some feedback. Then you can also go downstairs and test out your marketing prowess with all the other recruiters, many of which are also keen to recruit postgrads – or at least, are happy for you to apply for their “graduate” positions, which is how postgrads with limited work experience often start out.

Getting there

We’ve got our fingers crossed for the weather this year, but it did pour down last year.

One sodden PhD collared me and started haranguing me about how we should have laid on transport for those not on the Oxford Road campus. He looked even more downhearted when I asked why he hadn’t taken the free bus we’d organised (as usual) from Piccadilly Station – full details of how to get to the Fair are here.

Pathways – Workshops Announced

We’ve now finalised the workshops for Day 2 of Pathways: Careers for PhDs and Research Staff (Monday 14th June)

Registration is from 9.30-10.00am, with the talks and workshops from 10.00am – 4.00pm

Just remember to register in advance to make sure you get your free lunch!

The programme of workshops is designed to spur you into action to move your career forward. This is a preview of the workshops on offer – a detailed timetable will be available shortly before the event, for you to plan your own tailored programme.

Plenary Sessions

Keynote Speaker:  Professor Helen Gleeson, on managing her own career

Plenary Workshop: Vox Coaching – Communicating with Clarity
Drama based workshop (no, come back, no role play involved …) to help you get your message across. Vox really understand the world of university and researchers, working regularly with 15 UK universities. They are frequently the “star turn” in any programme – make sure you don’t turn up late and miss them.

There will be the chance to attend up to three workshops – you can pick workshops from any of the three career strands and mix them all together to suit your own interests:

a) Academic Careers Workshops

b) Careers Workshops For Non-Academic Careers

c) Careers Workshops – Suitable for Any Career

Read on for details of all the workshops: Continue reading

Pathways Panels – What’s Coming Up

Pathways - register now at if you want your free lunch!

I’ve just drafted a summary of the panels we’re planning to run for

Pathways Day 1 (Friday 11th June) – our annual career options event for PhDs and research staff

– and I thought you’d like a preview.

What’s a panel?
Each panel generally consists of about 4 people, all of whom have a PhD and are now working in an area which fits with the title of the panel. The panellists give a brief introduction to their careers, and then, with the help of a Chair, it’s over to the researchers in the audience to ask questions. The Chairs will have extra questions if the audience is a little shy or dries up – but frankly that’s rarely a problem.

Panellists are normally friends of the organisers, alumni, people we’ve met socially, academics who’ve had their arms twisted – not recruiters. This means that they’ll give you the real story, not a sanitized marketing view of careers, so come with all those questions you wouldn’t ask an employer directly (apart from “what do you earn?” of course!)

Which panels are you running?
Glad you asked that – I just happen to have a little list. Here goes:

  • Opportunities for Humanities (range of examples)
  • Opportunities for Engineering and Physical Sciences (range of examples)
  • Opportunities for Medical & Human Sciences, and Life Sciences (range of examples)
  • Academic careers for MHS/FLS
  • Academic careers for EPS
  • Academic careers for Humanities
  • Non academic careers in universities
  • Business and management roles
  • Communications roles (including medical writing)
  • Working as a freelance / consultant
  • Enterprise, entrepreneurship and business start-up
  • Careers outside the lab
  • Careers in research management
  • Working for the Government and public sector
  • Museums, libraries and information services
  • Working for the NHS
  • Events, PR and marketing
  • Training and development roles
  • Economics and finance
  • Research-based roles outside universities
  • What’s it like working outside the UK?
  • Teaching outside of universities
  • Managing projects
  • Lecturing and teaching in universities

Several of the panels will run more than once, and guests will generally appear on more than one panel. If you’ve got a specific area of interest which doesn’t seem to be covered in the list above, it’s still definitely worth coming along, as any of the panels could cover topics such as how do you look for work, what’s it like going through interviews, how are PhDs viewed outside academia – applicable to any PhD career.

You’ll be able to cram in 5 panel sessions on the day and we’ll produce a detailed timetable so you can map out your own tailored programme – but now you can start thinking about where your priorities lie.

Register your attendance now – to make sure there’s enough free food to go round!

Postgraduate Allsorts – Something For Everyone

I’m back, after being submerged under a mound of undergraduate marking, so it’s time for a round-up of miscellaneous postgrad careers snippets:

Careers events for all, coming up
Our new programme of events targeted at those due to graduate soon has now been announced. Although it’s branded as our “New Grad” programme (pdf), I know that many of those attending in previous years have been postgrads. This year, starting on 7th June, we’ve got sessions on:

  • Writing CVs, Interviews and Assessment Centres
  • Employer-led skills sessions on “Commercial Awareness” and “Presentation Skills”
  • A wide range of other topics including using recruitment agencies in your job search, staying in Manchester, being your own boss, options for humanities graduates, “options in finance, business, accountancy and management in the current economic climate”, opportunities in the public, voluntary and charity sectors, job hunting for international students and more.

The programme runs until 17th June, but most sessions will only run once – check our calendar of events for full details.

From the Association of Graduate Recruiters Finance employers presentation this week:

  • Don’t believe all the media gloom about graduate jobs; 1 in 4 jobs with these major financial recruiters went unfilled last year

Public Sector
In the public sector, jobs are, not surprisingly, looking much more difficult to find:

  • Holly, our Information Manager, has blogged about Public sector cuts – and vacancies, on our Graduate blog.
  • Looks like you’re OK if you’re already in line for a Fast Stream Civil Service job this year, but no word yet on how Fast Stream will be affected next year. If you’re worried, come and talk to the representatives from the Cabinet Office attending both the main Graduate Fair, and the PhD Zone on Wednesday 16th June – that is, if they don’t pull out…

Mental Healthcare
If you’re interested in healthcare, specifically supporting people with mental health issues, the new Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT)  jobs have just been announced. These are new roles open not only to psychology postgrads, but also to other graduates if you can demonstrate experience in mental health work through a portfolio. There are two types of role with differing entry requirements – Trainee High Intensity Therapists and Trainee Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners. East Cheshire NHS Trust is coordinating recruitment for the whole North West. For more information see:

Did you know we run a Media Club blog for University of Manchester students & graduates? Louise Sethi, one of our Careers Consultants who had her own career in the media, is now posting regular updates, plus we’ve a Twitter feed (@mcrmediaclub) and a page on the blog with lots of info and links on working in the media.

Interested in becoming a (medical) doctor?
You should be thinking about applying for your UKCAT test if you want to apply to one of the 26 universities in the UK which use this as an entry requirement for graduate entry to medicine. Sophie has written a blog post on our Medical Careers blog all about it.

Want to know all about getting into medicine after your postgraduate degree? Have a look at our Graduate Entry to Medicine handout (pdf).

Now back to sorting out the Pathways event for PhDs (you had heard of that, hadn’t you…?)

Latest On Job Market

In the week that the UK jobless total reached 2.51 million, you might be worried if you’re due to graduate this year.

No-one can give you any guarantees, but our latest review of job ads sent to the Careers Service doesn’t give you quite the same picture.

There are all the usual caveats about this measuring “numbers of job ads sent to the Careers Service”, not number of jobs out there (for previous discussions on this, see previous posts on the impact of the recession).

However, since October, this year has consistently kept ahead of last year and even occasionally been higher than our previous “bumper years” of 2006/7 and 2007/8.

Looking at the cumulative picture from September to April, there has been an overall 16% increase on last year, only a 4% drop from the high point in 2007/8.

Add to this the fact that we’ve got almost 170 employer stands now taken for the summer Graduate Fair (16th/17th June) – and 9 confirmed employers for the PhD Zone at the Graduate Fair on 16th June (with more “hot leads” looking likely).

Things are undoubtedly going to get more difficult if you’re looking for a job in the public sector, but outside that area, it’s certainly not a lost cause.

Pathways 2010 – Careers for Researchers

If you’re thinking about your career and you’re either doing a PhD or are a member of research staff, then keep 11th, 14th and 16th June free in your diary.

Our annual Pathways event has to be the UK’s largest career options event for researchers, with

  • 3 days of PhD and researcher careers events
  • over 150 PhD qualified panellists, employers, trainers and advisers
  • attended by over 500 researchers from Manchester and the North West

all focused just on PhDs and research staff.

Day 1 (Friday 11th June) focuses on career options with up to 50 panels of PhD qualified professionals, working inside and outside academia, talking about their careers (no, you can’t go to all of them, but it does mean there should be something there to interest you).

Day 2 (Monday 14th June) offers one-off specialist careers workshops to help you answer the question

“So, now I’ve heard about all these careers – how do I choose and what do I do to make it happen?”

Day 3 (Wednesday 16th June) is our Graduate Recruitment Fair, where we’re planning to have a separate PhD Career Zone with a select group of about 10 employers who can talk to you about what employers look for in PhDs and researchers. (You’ll note the tentative tone there – it’s still a bit tricky out there in recruitment land, so we’ve got our fingers crossed that we can pull this one off again.)

More details

Our official website,, with video footage of last year’s event and on-line registration, is now live – register here.

More informal information, giving you a flavour of what to expect, is on the newly updated Pathways page on this blog.

Just click on the category “Pathways 2010” for any updates as the event draws closer.