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"It's easy to become wrapped up in your research during a Ph D, and many Ph D students can suffer from tunnel vision," says Dr Charlie Ball, labour market analyst with the Higher Education Careers Service Unit (Hecsu) and co-author of the What Do Ph D's Do? "But it's worth dedicating time during your Ph D to considering your career seriously. In an increasingly competitive work climate, Ph D students have to stand out from the crowd, and prove to employers that they've got what it takes." Encouraging Ph D students to identify their transferable skills and – more important – how to market these skills to employers, is one of the main objectives of GRADschools.To this end one of the key components of the schools are the career-focused case study sessions.
" When she arrived at Durham, Cora Beth was pleasantly surprised.I also found that it had a positive impact on my Ph D.I went back to my doctorate relaxed, rejuvenated and really positive about my research." Although GRADschools have proved popular with participants, they do have their limitations.Schools take place at various venues all over the country, and range in duration from one to five days in length.But although in theory the intention behind the GRADschools is undoubtedly worthy – to encourage postgrads to tap into their inner talents and abilities – in reality it's easy to be dubious about its merits.She is now an ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham. "One of the best parts of the course was the opportunity to meet other Ph D students from different fields.
It was a really good networking opportunity, and I made loads of contacts across different disciplines.
Run by UK GRAD, a national association responsible for supporting the career and personal development of Ph D researchers, GRADschools are open to research council-funded Ph D students in their second or third year.
The aim of the schools is to help Ph D students to identify their transferable skills, and to provide graduate students with training in teamwork, career planning and personal development skills.
But, though you may not be guaranteed to meet your future life partner, one thing you will gain from a GRADschool is the chance to think seriously about your future career. Less than half of all Ph D graduates nowadays enter academia on graduation and it is estimated that only 20 per cent of Ph Ds will end up with a full-time academic job.
This means that Ph D students need to become more career-savvy.
The knowledge and contacts you gain could prove invaluable later in life.