Experiences for Beyond Your PhD

As a PhD student you should always be thinking about what next. In this video I cover four things that helped me beyond my PhD. For me they were: 
1. The PhD itself. My line of work means I need to have empathy with researchers. My PhD helps me do that. 
2. Mentors. From across the range of life and experiences. Family and friends (not in academia) were always helpful. As well as people at my part-time work place (department store). 
3. A Job. Demonstrating that I was employable but also giving me selling skills (I had a role on the sales floor) as well as what it meant to work with "clients". 
4. Networks. I kept (keep) in touch with people from various times in my life and various careers. Its super easy with social media. And it is those networks that help me when I am looking for opportunities (and of course I pay it forward).


So what are the some of the experiences that you can have or that you can focus on as perhaps a PhD student that might help you with your career beyond your PhD? For me, there were probably four things that I think we're really important.

The first and most important was the PhD itself and because of the line of work that I'm in and the line of work that I did immediately beyond my PhD, the PhD itself gave me credibility with researchers they understood that I had done a PhD in that I was perhaps empathetic to the struggles that they were going through and the difficulties that they faced. I also understood what it was like to have to try and publish. I also understood what it was like to have to try, and write grants. The difficulties of being, in my case, in a wet lab. The hours that required of me, and of my collaborators in order to have success as a PhD student and ultimately as a researcher. The mentors that I had provided guidance both in what I should do and what I shouldn't do.

One of the things that I really tried hard to do was have mentors that were not just lab based or not just science or academic based. That was really important to give me a different kind of perspective. I think too often we discount the advice that we might get from outside academia or perhaps we don't even look outside academia. I had mentors that in my case were at Myer. A place that I worked when I did my PhD. As well as mentors that were inside my family. I spoke a lot to my family. They were quite diverse. I'm not talking just about my parents or my brother or siblings here I'm talking about aunties, uncles, extended family, and other people my age. What they had done in their career because obviously as a PhD student I had done a degree and then I went into honours, and continued to study my PhD.

So I'm almost thirty, certainly in my mid-20s, and still haven't experienced life as it were. So mentors that were at my age but at a different stage in life are really important. The next thing that was important or important for you as a student during your PhD would be to get some placement. So get an understanding of what it is to work outside academia to work outside university. I had a friend who ultimately went into the pharmaceutical industry. Her role, her experience was all in pharmacies. She wasn't necessarily providing advice on how to use drugs and certainly not providing advice on how to use drugs that were prescription medicine, but she got to deal with customers deal with pharmacists, etc. So when she went out and actually got a job in the pharmaceutical industry. She had this wealth of knowledge just from being around pharmacists, just from being around prescription medicines as her part-time job that helped put her through university. That was really useful. For me I had a customer service focused role and that provided me with the basis the understanding that you know quote unquote "the customer's always right", but it also helped me understand how to talk to people. How to have a cold conversation. How to read people. This is not in a nefarious way. It's just you know life skills that you'll need beyond your PhD.

Finally and I think these all kind of interrelate was I networked. I made use of family, as well as friends, as well as peers, as well as people I worked with. That was important for a range of things in terms of opportunities, in terms of experiences, in terms of helping people helping me get or giving me advice on how I should look for a job, the kinds of job I should look for. What they thought I would be suited for not just from a perspective of my skills, and experience but also my personality, how they knew me, and how they knew what I liked. So the PhD, my mentors and my placements. The work that I did as well as my network, there were all really important experiences that helped me beyond my PhD.