Friday, February 13, 2015

The Skills of a Doctorate

One of the things that I find enjoyable about the job application process and beginning my journey after the doctorate is that it has forced me to think long and hard about what my doctorate has given me. And yes, I do mean that horrible phrase 'transferable skills', but I do genuinely believe that many students find it hard to see beyond our academic knowledge and research specialties.

The skill-set that doctoral students, often unwittingly gained and under appreciated, has resonance and value for the non-academic job market. So, what have I gained from my doctorate you may ask? Here is just a brief intro to my initial thoughts on just a couple of areas:

Project Management
While we like to say that we are involved in research, we are in effect working on a long-term project which we have sole responsibility for. While our supervisors/advisors provide support and guidance, the success of the project falls on us. I have timetabled a long-term project, juggled multiple short-term projects (conference papers, journal articles, teaching plans, etc.), sets goals and targets. And while I have been lucky to have been involved in some collaborative projects, for the most a humanities doctoral student will work alone. Therefore, we are great at independent work.

I like to think that this is where the doctorate really comes into its own. Doctoral students will emerge (hopefully!) with incredibly strong communication skills. We should, in theory, be excellent written communicators, evidenced though both our thesis and, ideally, through publications (although I will address the 'publish or peril' issue in a later blog post). For any job that requires attention to detail and written communication skills, we will excel! However, when you think about oral communication, doctoral students may forget how we actually communicate in a number of different registers. There is the academic register, of course, which we achieve through conference and seminar presentations. But a large proportion of students will engage in teaching, which forces us to change our register and communicate in a different manner. In addition, by attending seminars and conferences, we have developed good networking skills and can gain valuable contacts.

Even in the humanities, we should emerge from the doctorate with a reasonable grasp of technology/software/social media etc. MS Office should be a doddle, and depending on your subject or research method, you may be well versed in data collation, management, interpretation, whatever! I also know humanities doctorates who have written their thesis on LaTeX or even taught themselves basic coding. In addition, many of us use social media to engage with fellow students or other academics.

Of course, I am sure that I have neglected others. We are analytical, problem solvers, and self-starters. Without doubt, work experience is vital to supplement certain areas, such as teamwork for example, but the essential skills are there!

But what other skills are derived solely from the doctoral experience? I would love to hear readers views on this!

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