Five Forgotten Transferable Skills

1. Tenacity: Perseverance through adversity. Not many people stick with one project for a year, let alone three years or more. The ability to stay focused for that long on one thing. On answering one question. That is immensely valuable to potential employers. For some, this could also extend to specific examples within your PhD. These include the number of times you need to perform an experiment in order to have an appropriate sample size. How long an individual experiment takes. The time required to sit at a machine, scope, bench, camera, etc., to record the data you needed.

2. Collaboration: Builds on the oral communication skill listed above. However, recognises that communication is two-way. It is about following orders (also called follow-ship), as well as giving orders (also called management, and sometimes called leadership) . It is about knowing when to challenge an idea, and when to get your head down and work. It is about dividing up tasks to make their completion easier, faster, cheaper or more efficient in some way. We hear a lot about how research could learn a lot from industry. To me, collaboration something that the research sector could easily claim it does much better than the non-research sector.

Tenacity – the least

valued of all of the

transferable skills of a PhD

3. Comprehension: Rapidly finding, assimilating, and interpreting new information. Particularly in the context of an existing system, process or knowledge. Throughout your PhD you have likely learnt new skills, found new information, and developed a new understanding. This ability to update your thinking is valuable to potential employers.

4. Qualitative and/or Quantitative analysis: You’ll need to be good at one or both of these for a successful PhD. Qualitative and/or quantitative analysis are a cornerstone for business decision making. The major difference is the amount of certainty required in order to make a decision. In research, almost 100% certainty is required. In business, you only need to be more certain than your next best option. And therefore an acceptable level of certainty could be lower than 50%. Its also not likely to be called qualitative and/or quantitative analysis. It is more likely to be called business analytics, business decision making, risk analytics or risk planning.

5. Software use: You’ve probably become particularly good at various office-type software packages covering word processing, spreadsheeting, and presentations. For those people entering the workforce direct from their undergraduate training they have not been forced to use some of the more advance (yet time-saving) features of these programs.

Dr Richard Huysmans is the author of Connect the Docs: A Guide to getting industry partners for academics. He has helped more than 200 PhD students, early career researchers, and established academics build their careers. He has provided strategic advice on partnering with industry, growing a career building new centres and institutes as well as establishing new programs. Richard is driven by the challenge of helping researchers be commercially smart. His clients appreciate his cut-through approach. He knows the sector and how to turn ideas into reality.

To find out more, call 0412 606 178, email ( or subscribe to the newsletter. He’s on LinkedIn (Dr Richard Huysmans), Twitter (@richardhuysmans), Instagram (@drrichardhuysmans), and Facebook (Beyond Your PhD with Dr Richard Huysmans).