What can I do after graduation?
Students graduating with a research degree have gone on to work in a variety of fields. Some have stayed in academia and research whilst others have moved to various sectors of business, industry and commerce. Many postgraduates remain in the UK after graduating, some finding employment in their local area, whilst others have found jobs abroad.
Early planning can be very useful in helping you to find the right job and make the move from study to employment as smooth and simple as possible. There are many web sites giving general advice on careers and finding work aimed at graduates such as the UHI Career Centre website, The Saltire Foundation (Scotland) and Prospects (UK Graduate Careers). These websites contain information about different careers and training routes, advice on looking for work, application forms and CVs, links to relevant other websites and a job databases.
A career in research or academia
There are also specialist websites aimed at postgraduate students and those considering a career in research or academia such as Jobs.ac.uk and Vitae. Vitae is an organisation dedicated to enhancing the careers of postdoctoral researchers and the website includes information about job shadowing, placements and voluntary work experience and other training to enhance your skills and CV.
If you are interested in a career in research, you should discuss this with your supervisors as soon as you can. Attending conferences and research networking activities are great ways to make contacts and develop collaborations for the future. Your supervisors will be able to help identify appropriate funding opportunities for your discipline and develop grant proposals to apply.
Employment in industry
Employers want graduates with strong academic abilities, but having a good balance of additional transferable skills will make you much more attractive to a wide range of employers. A research degree builds skills such as: time management; organisation; analytical thinking; report and presentation writing; communications and entrepreneurship.
Graduates have gone on to work in a variety of sectors, from finance and law; to healthcare, agriculture and manufacturing.
Whatever your plans after graduation, the Graduate School can offer support and advice. Our online library also has a number of books designed to help postgraduates find the right career.
Specialist careers advice may also be available from your local campus, from the Career Centre or from the University of Aberdeen.
What is career mentoring?
The Alumni Career Mentor Network matches current students (undergraduate and postgraduate level) with graduates who have volunteered to share their experiences of employment, further study and gap years. Being able to speak to a former student who has successfully moved into their chosen career is an opportunity to find out how they achieved what you may be aiming for. You can ask a mentor about:
- a specific career or sector you are interested in
- general insights into careers and how to prepare for life after university while you are still a student
- inspiration about what you could do with your qualification after you graduate if you are still unsure.
Why speak to a mentor?
Alumni mentors are people just like you. They studied at the University of the Highlands and Islands and are now working in industries that you might one day like to join. They can give you a unique perspective as one who has been through a similar experience to you on how they achieved their career goals, and what they might have done differently!
Ask alumni: how can I best prepare for my future career now? What it is really like to work in a particular sector or company? How they can I make myself more employable?
Broaden your horizons and find out about careers that you perhaps didn’t even know existed! Many alumni did not go straight into their chosen career, or perhaps didn’t even have one. Finding out how they made their choices with so many options available can be very helpful.
How does career mentoring work?
Mentoring will usually be by phone or online, although if you are both in the same area, you may wish to have a face to face meeting. Whether you have one or several meetings is entirely up to you and your mentor. Once you have arranged a time to talk to your mentor, make a list of things you would like to discuss and keep these handy.
Find a mentor
Full details of the mentoring programme are described in the Staff Development section.
The university mentoring programme is managed by firstname.lastname@example.org but you should view the detail on the link above before contacting Melanie as the registration process is online. If, after reading the above section, you still have unanswered questions then Melanie is the person to discuss the mentoring programme with you.
Graduate jobs are those that ask for the post-holder to have a degree-level qualification. However, there are many jobs that don’t specify that they need a degree which are still ‘graduate level’, so the most important thing is to find a job that you’re interested in rather than worrying too much about the level. Also remember that there are alternatives - many graduates will start off in something that isn’t a graduate job, in part time or temporary work, or by taking a year out, but they will then work their way up into something of graduate level.
Graduate training schemes
Formal training schemes for recent graduates are run by a number of large employers. A large proportion of these schemes are open to graduates with a degree from any discipline. They often look for students who are highly motivated and tend to require strong leadership and management skills. Entry to these schemes can be highly competitive, with hundreds of applicants for a handful of positions. As a result the recruitment process is often intense and lengthy, requiring several rounds. Typically the rounds will involve an application form, a maths and English test or psychometric testing, a group selection day and several interviews. Details of companies who offer graduate training schemes can be found on Prospects.
Internships and Placements
Internships and placements are fixed term graduate opportunities that normally offer you the chance to work on a dedicated project for a certain amount of time. They may be paid or unpaid, and in return for helping a company with a specific task you get to build up useful skills for future employment. In some sectors, like the media, it is very difficult to get into the industry without having taken an internship first of all. Where an internship is unpaid you should check your rights and think carefully before applying about how you will finance the experience.
If you are interested in internships and placements you may be particularly interested in the ScotGrad programme which is a multi-party programme, including Skills Development Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise, offering placements with established employers or social enterprises across Scotland. All placements are paid a minimum salary of £16,000 pro rata - the perfect way to kick start your career.
If there is a company you are particularly interested in working for then it is worthwhile checking their website and keeping an eye on their recruitment pages.
Supporting your business idea
Do you have the desire and ambition to start your own business? Postgraduate research students who are looking for support to develop a business idea should make contact with email@example.com (Head of Knowledge Exchange) in the first instance to discuss. As a taster of the type of schemes available to support your business ideas, the following links will provide some background information, but there are more avenues to explore, so please speak to Joe for guidance once you are familiar with some of the available options.
Schemes and competitions
CREATE Inverness - The CREATE team, based at Inverness College UHI, helps students, staff and the business community realise their potential through enterprise by providing an exciting and engaging range of flexible programmes, courses, workshops and competitions. Entrepreneurial Staff Development, the annual university Business Idea Competition, Highland Innovation Festival and Enterprise workshops are core activities.
Converge Challenge & Kickstart - Scotland-wide company creation competition (annual) and entrepreneurship development programme for staff, students, and recent graduates of Scottish Universities and Research Institutes. Kickstart is the competition for an early-stage idea for a new product, or service.
Enterprise campus case studies - for some inspiration and confirmation of what is possible, try reading these case studies.
Enterprise Campus - Designed for postgraduates and offering one-to-one business clinics, workshops on all aspects of starting a business, business bootcamps and networking opportunities.
Enterprise Fellowships - Funded by Scottish Enterprise and run to encourage the development of new businesses in Scotland.
Scottish Institute for Enterprise - Works nationally to promote and support enterprise and entrepreneurship in Scotland's students. It's website is a hub of student-focused enterprise activity happening across Scotland, from enterprise competitions to exciting events and opportunities.
SMART Scotland - Initiative from Scottish Enterprise offering funding for research and development projects to Scottish SME's.
Young enterprise - Start-Up programme gives students the chance to set up their own company, as part of their studies, or in addition to them and is aimed at enabling participation in different aspects of business management.
Princes's Trust - Information sessions, workshops, access to business experts. Aimed at 18 to 30-year-olds to turn big ideas into a business reality through a programme of training and mentoring support with funding and resource advice.
Shell Livewire - Free online business advice and start-up awards of £1,000 and £10,000 to young entrepreneurs, UK wide. A monthly start-up grant of £5,000 awarded to one 16-30 year old entrepreneur.
Start-Up Loans Company - A government scheme started in 2012, it offers help providing access to repayable loans and mentorship to budding entrepreneurs throughout the UK
Santander Universities Enterprise Portal - Santander Universities provides funding for scholarships, awards and research, and can provide support to students in their goals of becoming entrepreneurs. Help with funding, mentoring, network building.