By Manpreet Dhesi, on 2 December 2012
If you have undertaken a Masters or PhD and have decided not to pursue an academic career, you will need to convince employers of the value of your postgraduate qualification.
Clearly if you are entering a profession where such a qualification is expected, such as industrial research and development (with a PhD), that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. But what if you have a postgraduate qualification that doesn’t ‘match’ your career direction? Maybe you loved your subject so much that you just wanted to learn more and gain that MA in History? Or maybe you thought you might like an academic career but after 4 years of your PhD you have changed your mind? Or maybe (tut tut) you just wanted to postpone your job hunt? How can you convince your prospective employer that your Masters or PhD gives you ‘added value’ as an employee?
Consider the following:
- Have you gained any additional skills during your qualification such as research skills, self management, presentation skills and so on? One of the main things that employers look for is the skills that you will bring to the job, therefore if you convince them that your additional qualification also comes with additional skills that may help your case.
- Have you learned anything during your postgraduate qualification that your prospective employer may find useful – did your dissertation include anything relevant? Did your PhD have any commercial value that is relevant to the role you wish to pursue (a favourite question at interview)?
- During the course of your postgraduate studies did you undertake any additional activities that enhance your employability? Did you get involved in any clubs or societies? Did you represent your department in any way? Did you undertake any short courses at university?
- Have your additional student year(s) enabled you to carry out extra work experience? This could be volunteering, work / work shadowing or work within your department such as tutoring or assisting at open days? It may be that the work isn’t identical to the work you are applying for but it may demonstrate your ability to work with members of the public or juggle your time.
- How does the qualification support your career strategy? This is the big question and one that is possibly the hardest to answer.
Employers are keen to know that you have really thought about your career and how they fit in with your ambitions. They don’t want to feel that you have just decided to apply to them on a whim or that they are one of hundreds of employers you have applied to as you are desperate for any job.
You need to give them reasons for why you want the role and the particular company and the research you have done on them. If, for example your career aims have changed during the time of your postgraduate qualification, be honest and explain what made you change your mind. You can also turn the situation to your advantage by using it as an example of how you are not afraid to make difficult decisions.
If you want further support on how you can ‘sell yourself’ to employers, don’t forget to attend our Masters QuickkFix sessions or our PhD careers sessions. We also have a large number of employer-led PhD events which proves the point that employers are actively seeking out postgraduate students. You just need to convince them that you are the person they need…..