Finding a job outside the research world as a PhD

During PhD studies, quite many of us spend time figuring, what will the working life be after graduation. What can you do to improve your chances outside the academia?

Krista has worked closely with the industry in TOHTOS project, which aimed to develop the working life relevance of doctoral training. After getting her own PhD, she went to project management and development work in university administration. She interviewed doctor alumni and several organizations that hire doctors to find out, how can you find a job outside academia.

What did the companies say, what are the most important skills for PhDs looking for a job outside academia?
  • Problem solving and analytical thinking
  • Presentation skills (written and oral)
  • Language skills (especially for the international students)
  • Marketing & financing
  • Ability to apply their research knowledge and skill to other areas
  • Wide expertise in your field
Is there something you can do during your PhD studies to increase your employability?
  • Do not be too narrowly focused with your interests. Try something new and experience!
  • Go abroad, if you have a chance.
  • Take another minor to learn new. It does not have to be connected to your main research interests.
  • Network! The more people you know, the easier it is for you to find a job. You will get to know different jobs and be aware, if there are new openings coming to the organizations of your interest.
  • Be great at what you are doing and develop those aspects, where you are weak at
How did Krista find her way to administration?
Kristiina Väänänen at her new job as a coordinator
  • I always liked to organize and coordinate things. Besides research, I found passion for digital communication and started learning that by doing. I joined a professional organization and worked as a board member, treasurer and secretary. I did a whole lot of career planning. After graduation, I got an opportunity to start developing doctoral education. Started it, loved it, and here I am. I had to learn a lot of new tools, to create several new courses to teach, and I got a possibility to work in a large project. Once the project was over, I was offered a new, interesting position, and I happily accepted it.
Is a PhD degree relevant to this type of work?
  • My everyday work is not at all connected to those areas, I was studying as a PhD student (ecotoxicology/biology). I am now focusing on international academic affairs and participating in several projects/processes to improve the international studies in our university. But I use quite a lot of my researcher’s skills in the job: I gather vast piles of information and compose understandable, clear and short reports out of them to support the decision-making. I use modeling software to test, what are the real-life consequences of different decisions. I present my work to different types of audiences, network a lot and learn new every day. I need to adapt fast, be fluent in English and understand different cultures. It also helps to understand digital communication and IT systems in my job. I am not doing research, but I am learning something new every day!

Text by Kristiina Väänänen