In 2016, Vitae carried out a study called What Do Research Staff Do Next?. The study explored the views and opinions of 856 research staff that had moved away from academic research into a range of other careers. As well as identifying the careers the participants had moved into, it looked at reasons why changing jobs and sectors were challenging. The reasons researchers gave included, identifying transferable competencies and persuading employers of them, choosing what to do instead and difficulties finding new employment i.e. how to job hunt.
This blog will provide research staff with some tips and advice on identifying transferable competencies and persuading employers of them. To begin with, here are a few facts from the Vitae WDRSDN survey which illustrates that researchers possess a range of transferable skills that are useful beyond academic research:
- 90% of people working in roles beyond academic research said they draw on capabilities and skills gained as a researcher either some or most of the time.
- 75% said that communication skills were the most important competency.
- > 50% said independent working, project management and problem solving were the most important competencies for success in their current role.
That is all well and good but how do you identify the skills and strengths that you have developed as a researcher and how do you write about these on a CV in way that will convince employers? Here is one way to do it:
- Start to explore a range of jobs beyond academic research on arrange of websites such as indeed, career jet, simply hired and CV library. Use a variety of search terms e.g. scientist, researcher, writer etc.
- Look at the job descriptions for the types of roles that interest you and begin to collate the names of skills that keep appearing. List both technical skills and soft skills such as relationship building, problem solving etc.
- Start to compile a table of skills which can be used in your CV at a later stage. Name the skill in the first column and then in column two provide evidence of the skill. Ask yourself the question ‘How do I use this skill in my current role as a researcher?’ Collect examples for a range of skills as you explore various job descriptions. The example below shows you how to do this.
- When it comes to writing your CV, you can then insert relevant skills for each job you apply for. Remember that you should only include skills and evidence for those listed in the job description. Anything more is noise and makes it more difficult for the recruiter to retrieve what they need.
Here is an example of how to describe a skill in your CV. Let’s say you are looking at a job description that is for a science policy role, where you will be representing the organisation to a range of stakeholders such as academics, and funders. The job description asks for effective communication skills.
Postdoctoral Research Associate June 2015 – July 2017
The Watson Laboratory, Kings College London.
Research on the solution structure of a bacterial toxin inhibitor protein; study its interaction with a non-cognate bacterial toxin.
- Participate in weekly group meetings, explaining and updating the team on my research findings, often suggesting innovative ideas and approaches.
- Have presented my research at six scientific conferences including a significant talk at the American Society of Human Genetics in the US, attended by 1000 delegates.
You can use the same approach for other skills e.g. problem solving, teamwork etc. A CV for a job outside academia should not be more than two pages long. You can think about addressing two or three of the key skills in each section of your CV. Present more evidence for the most important skills for the role.