Here we are concerned with how you can raise your awareness of career development opportunities both within your current role and beyond.
Being aware of a career development opportunity means understanding what the work entails, the skills required, the recruitment procedure, potential career structure, training and development facilities, promotion mechanisms, work culture, financial rewards, and how closely the work matches your career needs.
To take advantage of opportunities you need to decide on your career aims and gather information about the skills and experience you need to reach your goal and undertake relevant development.
Degrees of (un)certainty
The amount and type of exploration you will need to do depends on how clear you are about where your career is going.
- You may already be sure about your next career goal and need help to decide on the most appropriate development activity for you
- You may have some ideas, but need more information before making a decision
- You may have no idea and need to invest considerable time exploring the range of options open to you. (If you have not already done so, you could begin with an audit of your current experience, values, interests and skills.)
Your career development options
Your options could include anything from improving as a researcher to a fundamental change of career and life pattern.
You may want to explore options in one or more domains:
- developing in your current role. Strengthen your skills to complete your current research successfully
- preparing for promotion. Understand what the next step involves, what skills to work on. See ‘Developing your career'.
- securing a new job within research. This could mean relocation and personal upheaval. Development could be centred on job search skills and information gathering to help you seek out opportunities. You may also need to fill gaps between your current skills and those needed for the job you want
- moving to a new occupation. This could be related to your academic discipline or could mean a complete change of work and life. Here you may be concerned with gathering occupational information, developing new transferable skills as well as job search and marketing skills.
Investigating your options
You can put your research skills to good use as you explore your options. Sources of information, advice and guidance include:
- your networks. People are the best source of insight into work roles. Look at networking and establishing networks for more help on getting access to the people who can help you. Look also at information interviews for ideas about what to ask your contacts
- career profiles. There have been a number of initiatives to investigate the career paths taken beyond the position of postgraduate researcher or research staff. The resulting career profiles give insight into the wide range of types of work that are open to researchers
- work shadowing and information interviewing. One of the best ways to gain insight into an unfamiliar type of work is to shadow someone doing it. Combined with a well thought-out information interview questionnaire covering all the features of work important to you, this is a very powerful approach.
- careers services. These can provide information, advice and guidance. Many now provide career support to research staff as well as postgraduates and undergraduates. Be aware that careers advisers may not be familiar with your highly specialised research area. They will not TELL you what to do, but will challenge your thinking and give advice on all stages of career exploration through to interviews for new jobs.
- websites. Look at Prospects for occupational descriptions and much more on all aspects of job search. See also Help and support.
When you have gathered your information about the opportunities open to you, you will need to make some decisions. You will have life choices to make: location, demands of the work, financial rewards, work preferences. Think back to your personal audit.
- Does the role meet your career needs and priorities?
- How closely does it fit with your work and lifestyle preferences?
- Are there any significant gaps in your skills and experience? These are your development needs.
- What skills will be the priorities for your development activity?
- Can you identify your long-term goal? Can you break this down into shorter-term development goals?
Career decision-making is a daunting task faced with so much (sometimes incomplete) information and so many variables. Do you usually make decisions by gut reaction or by some more ‘scientific' approach? How reliable are your decisions? Stirling University careers service outlines some common methods that you may find helpful. Further decision tools can be found at Mindtools.
Ready to plan?
When you have arrived at a decision about your career goal and you have decided upon the skills development you need to undertake to reach it, you will be ready to begin planning. Go to ‘How will you get there?' for advice.
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