Seven super useful professional skills a PhD gives you

It’s been a few months since I last blogged as I’ve been busy with my first post-PhD job in the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. I’m really enjoying the work I’m doing, and I use my PhD skills everyday.

Since I heard it said during my PhD that it doesn’t prepare you for anything but an academic career, I thought I’d set the record straight here: it turns out lots of the things you have to do to get a PhD are really useful skills in the world of work.

So, for those of you who are worried that the PhD isn’t prepping you for life afterwards, let the next few hundred words reassure you as I talk about seven super useful skills that the PhD gives you, which will serve you well in the world of work – especially in the early days of your new job.

1) Being good at being a beginner
When you start a new job, you are a beginner. For some, that can be really intimidating; however, having done a PhD, you will have already survived being a beginner. Remembering this in the early days of your new job gives you strength and helps you when you have those inevitable wobbles.

Similarly, when you start a job, you will likely feel a bit of an imposter. However, you’ve had that feeling before, and you survived it back then. This too helps you in the early days to keep your calm and poise.

2) Being organised
This is not to be underestimated. When you start a new job, you will likely be responsible for looking after your files and a constantly refilling inbox. Having recently completed a PhD, you will be experienced in keeping tabs on a large number of documents. This will mean that you won’t feel too intimidated by all the new virtual papers and will just start organising as a reflex.

3) Meeting new people
Chances are that during your PhD you will have attended one or more conferences. This means that, on one or more occasions, you will have felt awkward about being in the presence of strangers. As uncomfortable as that may have been, I can promise you, it gets easier. And this means that, when it comes to the world of work, you will have already had practice of meeting new people. So you will have already started developing your coping mechanisms and will be well on your way to being an old hat.

4) Acquiring and filtering information
Come on now reader, surely this is an obvious one? If it’s not, then let me make it clear to you: you are absolutely awesome at this. You can’t get to the end of a PhD without being great at acquiring and filtering information. And this is a great skill in the work place – especially when you are starting out in a new job – because it means you learn the ropes quickly and can retain what you learn.

5) Managing your workload
When you enter the world of work, you might have to do what your line manager tells you, and have your time mapped out minute-by-minute, but it’s unlikely. Much more likely is that you will be responsible for your own time and workload and getting things done. Some might panic at this idea, but not you, for you have spent three plus years becoming a pro at managing your own workload, prioritising and juggling. You defo have the head start over the majority on this: feel smug if you wish – you deserve it!

6) Receiving feedback
No one likes getting criticism, however, as a former PhD-er you will have spent at least three years listening to one or more people telling you that what you have done is not quite good enough (although they hopefully packaged it up as “it’s good, but you could work on this bit”). This means that you are an expert at dealing with feedback from a senior person on your work. And this means that you will be able to engage positively with your line manager when he or she tells you that “what you have done is good, but maybe try this” (or words to that effect). 

7) Being open and trying new things
When you arrive in your new job, you will be joining a group of people who may have been there for some years (or maybe even decades). It’s quite possible that they will be following systems and procedures that have been in place for years. But maybe someone has identified that they could do things better or differently. Or maybe your organisation wants to do something new. If you’re in any of these situations, then you are on to a winner, because not only are you the new person (putting you in a good position to rock the boat – if you are brave enough (and I say go for it!)), but, having done a PhD, you are used to exploring new avenues not knowing where they will lead.

These aren’t the only skills you will be developing in your PhD. You’re also developing a few superhuman skills too (read my post about these here).


seven skills

Pdf here









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