Whatever job you apply for, having a PhD on its own won't be enough. Whilst employers certainly value a high level of academic ability, they also look for evidence of transferable skills. Although these skills may differ according to the job role, there are many common themes that emerge when you look at what employers say they want from their PhD recruits.
- Personal skills - adaptability and flexibility; commitment and persistence; and the ability to work independently and on own initiative.
- Communication skills - the ability to construct coherent arguments and articulate ideas clearly to a range of audiences formally and informally through a variety of techniques including report writing, presentations, and online media. Skilled in liaising, influencing and negotiating.
- Project management / organisational skills - good at prioritising activities, setting and revising goals.
- Teamwork - across different functions/disciplines, between different organisations, with people from different backgrounds, nationalities and levels.
- Commercial awareness - a general understanding of business and industry including how an organisation generates profit, markets and competitors, global economic issues, experience of securing funding, managing budgets and customer service.
- Problem solving / analytical skills - creativity, being innovative and resourceful, critical thinking.
- Research and technical skills – depending on the industry and role.
Overall, employers who recruit PhDs are looking for - and value - the skills a research degree helps you to develop (such as maturity, lateral thinking, analytical skills and excellent problem solving capabilities) to fill demanding roles. However some employers cite a lack of commercial awareness among researchers, and note other negative attributes including 'narrowness of interest, problems of integration, lack of interpersonal skills and over-expectation in terms of salary and career progression'. Although not all employers feel this way, it's important to be aware of these perceptions so if you come across them, you are ready and able to counteract them.
- Talent Fishing: What businesses want from postgraduates: CIHE report exploring the extent and nature of demand for postgraduates from businesses
- Recruiting researchers: Survey of employer practice 2009: Vitae report