Finding a job in this current market can be described as a nearly impossible, and scary, task. Particularly, for us PhD students and postdocs looking to score a faculty position at a research institution. While the number of PhD recipients is on the decline, the number of faculty members retiring, contrarily, is not. So, what do we do?! After all of these years of hard work and training, are you telling me that I may not be able to #SecureTheBag? Well, the good thing about having a doctorate degree is that there are a lot of other potential jobs outside of academia – government, industry, non-profit, the list goes on and on. However, how are we to apply to these jobs when we have spent years of being sculpted for academia? Transferable skills are skills obtained during one job that have the ability to be transferred to others. Recently, I attended a workshop completely focused on teaching and providing tools on how to identify one’s transferable skills.
Before the workshop, I was aware that transferable skills existed, but I was not entirely sure of the methods by which one identifies said skills, yet alone the ones that I “supposedly” had. However, after a few minutes of thinking and finally understanding how to identify my transferable skills, I was able to come up with a good sized “beginners list” of skills that I have picked up during the short duration of my PhD training thus far.
The first task and skill I developed that is translatable (and one that applies to most PhD students) is wanting to throw in the towel on writing my dissertation, but persevering through regardless. I haven’t begun to write my dissertation, however, I have spent many nights, early mornings and weekends at the lab bench and most certainly have been ready to give it all up to get my life back. Nevertheless, here I am still working hard to get great data. The attributes developed during this time are perseverance, patience, determination and confidence. Ultimately, this means that I am self-motivated, determined, not easily discouraged, and dependable in high-pressure situations. Performing assays in the lab is something routine that almost every biomedical researcher will encounter, but this is not something that I would brag about when applying to a government position. Instead I could say that through learning how to troubleshoot different assays, I have picked up excellent critical thinking skills that have made me adaptable and able to find multiple ways to approach a problem.
Ultimately, from this discussion I was able to come up with a substantial list of translatable skills (such as the aforementioned), along with effectively disseminating ideas, communicating science to a non-scientific populations, public communication skills, and many more.
Can you think of a list of transferable skills that would make your applicable for a non-academic position?
Jacqueline Leachman is a student-scientist working diligently to complete her doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Kentucky, “Go Cats”! Her interests include nutritional implications in the developmental origins of cardiovascular disease and obesity, and health disparities. @JackieLeachman