What employers look for
In 2006 the Association of Graduate Recruiters surveyed 236 employers and found that the following skills and attributes were the most sought after, in order of importance to their business.
- Commitment and drive
- Motivation and enthusiasm
- Oral communication
- Flexibility and adaptability
- Customer focus
- Problem solving *
- Managing learning and career *
- Commercial awareness *
- Planning and organisation
- Time management
- Leadership *
- Cultural sensitivity
- Computer literacy
- Project management *
- Report writing
- Risk taking/enterprise. *
* Denotes skills that the recruiter has difficulty in finding.
Although research training allows you to develop most of the skills listed above to a high level, it is important not to assume that employers will appreciate this. In a job application, clearly translate your experience, for example:
- Thesis = reports
- Research group = teamwork, creativity
- Scholarship = planning, creativity, analysis
- Running experiments, implementing methodology = project management, problem solving
Research in 2002 'Set for Success', in fact, revealed that doctoral researchers are failing to reach their full potential partly because of their inability to recognise and articulate their transferable skills.
But researchers who do manage to convince employers they have what it takes are highly appreciated. In 2004, Vitae (formerly the UK GRAD programme) contacted employers that regularly hire researchers:
'We like PhDs in our business sector - they never take anything at face value. That is a real bonus in a business compliance function. Their philosophical training and critical judgement have direct application in business services, whatever the topic of their research.' Head of Graduate Recruitment, 'Big4' accountancy firm.
‘We don't set out to employ PhD graduates specifically - we take the best candidates available. However, we've found that PhD graduates have a combination of maturity and autonomy that is more useful for our work than engineering graduates with a similar length of experience in industry.' Alan Prior, ABAQUS UK
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