Changing your Career

Written by Dr Kathy Barrett 

In my previous role as a careers consultant for research staff one of the most common laments I heard was “I would like to leave academia but I don’t know what else is out there”.  If you have spent all your time in your research environment, socialising with other researchers and forming romantic partnerships with researchers whose friends are also researchers then it is hardly surprising that you’re not aware of the alternatives.  Even if you’re serious about a career in academia it is often useful to keep an eye on the alternatives to ensure that you’re following the path that is the most appropriate for you.

Where do you start?  There are lots of ways to discover other professions.  The one you pick will probably depend on how you like to engage with information and people.  The options are wide-ranging, from browsing through job lists for those who prefer step-by-step methodology to engaging in person with as many people as possible.

You are likely to be limited by time so to make your search more efficient you may find it useful to narrow down areas or job sectors that are of interest to you by following the steps in last week’s post.  That way you can save time by focussing initially on one or two job sectors.  One of the things you have in your favour is that you are currently working in a sector that has generated a lot of information for this express purpose.  Although a large proportion of it is aimed at undergraduates much of it is of use also to career changers.

An approach that I found very popular for generating ideas was to start by looking at the top level of job sectors.  There is a comprehensive set of these on the Prospects website.  Each entry on this site contains an overview so you can get an idea of whether or not it interests you.  If it does you can investigate further by perusing the list of the most common roles available in the sector.  There are comprehensive descriptions of each of the roles and usually a convenient link to related roles so that you can broaden your search.

A lot of employment sectors also have professional bodies, learned societies and trade associations attached to them.  These often have useful information on their websites about careers in their sector and in some cases routes in.  Think Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, Public Relations Consultants Association and Association for Project Management, to name a few.

You can find these and other resources through CareersTagged, an online careers library (use your King’s username and password to enter).  Alternatively, search using the tag “early career researcher” or “PhD” and you’ll come up with links that are relevant to researchers who have a PhD.  Some of these resources are helpsheets that outline additional approaches you can use to identify what the options are, including Vitae.  The Vitae webpages include case studies and research on careers for research staff.  If you’re still struggling, make an appointment to visit our careers consultants as outlined in last week’s blog.

Once you identify your potential new career there is nothing more useful for finding out the realities of the role and routes in than talking to someone who is already engaged in that profession.  In our blog series last month we talked about networking.  Find a networking technique that works for you (you don’t have to be a social butterfly!) to track down someone in your favoured company, profession or role and get in touch.  People generally like to talk about themselves, especially to an appreciative audience, so this approach can often yield great results.  Don’t be afraid to use the King’s connection if there is one!

There are a lot of events around King’s that are designed specifically to provide you with opportunities to meet these people.  You may also find it useful to attend one of our careers workshops.  At these you can find out more about planning your next steps and also meet like-minded people with whom you can collaborate on your search for meaningful employment and from whom you can gain mutual support.  See last week’s blog post for information about our courses and events.  Consider the possibility also that your ideal job might be something that is not research but is still within the university, in which case someone doing that job is probably right on your doorstep.

Finally, we would love to hear your thoughts and experiences through our King’s CRSD LinkedIn Group.