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Top 5 Career Advice from PhD Career Week 2021

Build a network, translate your skills and be specific about why you want a particular career and job. Those were some of the reoccurring advice from the participating companies and PhD alumnae at the recent AU PhD Career Week.

PhD Career Week hosted six career workshop and 17 company presentations. Were you not able to attend all sessions of relevance to you, then do not worry. We summarized some of the key messages for you here. We also encourage you to think about your own key takeaways, and 1-2 actions you can take.  

1. Translate your skills

The participating companies in PhD career week all value your PhD. Besides from your research-specific knowledge, they highlighted their need for skills such as willingness to learn, understanding of complex tasks, critical reading, and project- & stakeholder management. They expect you to have or gain a business mindset, where you can translate knowledge into business value. Be aware of how you develop these derived skills during your PhD and practice how to communicate it well to employers.  

2. Build a network

Several alumnae mentioned that they first came to know about their job through network. A network can make you aware of opportunities, you might not have seen or thought of. You can gain valuable knowledge about the companies, how it is to work there, and how they value PhDs. During your PhD or post. doc., you can build a network through the companies your research group collaborate with, webinars and conferences, alumna network from AU etc. 

3. To call or not to call?

The companies mentioned, that they expect proactivity. So yes, take the effort to call on their job ads. As one of the companies said; “I do not have time to answer your e-mails. If you need to know something, call me”. However, you must be prepared and only ask relevant questions that are not mentioned in the ad or something you are expected to know. Same goes for the job interview. Do not wait too long to call, as many positions are filled on an ongoing basis.  

4. You do not need to know everything to apply!

Your ability and willingness to learn as a PhD is one of the sought-after skills by the companies. You do not need to be able to fulfill every single requirement on the job listing to be considered. Highlight which of the competences you already fulfill, and how you would go about learning the rest. Call the company before you apply to understand, how the different requirements are prioritized. Ask them which training and onboarding activities they have for learning the rest.  

5. CV is your past; cover letter is your future

The CV lists your past achievements. The cover letter explains how you would apply your skills and your motivation. They read the CV first and only get to your cover letter, if the CV is relevant. Be specific. They want to know, why you specifically want to work for them, and why you want the particular job! Explain how you would put your skills to active use and apply them to the job. If you had the job today, how would you perform it? Many job ads mention, that they hold interviews and/or fill the job on an ongoing basis. In that case, submit your application as fast as possible. Otherwise, they may fill the position, before you even get your application in.