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Agency and Networking

in Researcher Career Development

ERASMUS + Researcher Identity Development


Navigating Professional Careers

Building your career

Your first job post-PhD

As they near thesis submission most PhD candidates begin to focus on their future work and career. Many of the research participants who took on professional roles knew from the outset of their studies that they wanted follow particular career paths. These people were often clear regarding their preferred employment sector and the kinds of roles they sought; however, others approaching the end of their PhDs were not so familiar with careers in the public and private sectors. If you are uncertain of your options, the urls below provide an indication of the range of jobs PhD graduates undertake. 


The role of networking in getting a job 

A key aspect of finding the job you want is having a good network that can let you know of possibilities and sponsor you. In this quote, Katherine explains how the network developed during her PhD through internships and volunteer work make her well-placed for a professional position. In her description and in the two that follow, you can see how a long-term investment in networking can produce positive outcomes.


So …my professional network is largely actually not related to anything that I’m doing in my PhD …my interactions with other academics and other people …are around this open knowledge work …[so] in terms of future career moves, I have …an amazing network that’s already been set-up over several years of working with people and a ton of projects that could just be picked up, versus scrabbling around for a postdoc with people that I don’t really know [laughing], so it’s …almost inevitable ….that I [am] heading down that [non-academic] route. (Katherine)


Below you can see below how Hannah’s and Shannon’s second post-PhD positions resulted from networking during their first positions. 


Over the last two and a half years when I was at [my previous organization], I kept in…contact with [individuals at new organization] …through different forums, and …they asked me to present …what I was doing [in my work] at their research strategy group. So they …became gradually convinced that [a similar new role in their organization was] a priority …and the people …involved in trying to initiate it …were asking my advice …so I knew [the job] was coming about. (Hannah)


Last year, I got a call from the head of the organisation I currently work for …who …had done some consulting work for us at [my previous position] …I’d brought them in…soon after I started because we were having some issues …[and I had heard about her] …So, I got in touch with her to say …“would you willing to consider doing some consulting for [us]?” which the organisation then did …so, last year, she called me to say that her Vice President …was leaving and they had started a search, but she had stopped the search when she realised that, actually, I’d be a good candidate for the position.  She called me to see if I’d be interested, and I was (Shannon)


See the links below for suggestions and resources related to networking and job hunting.


How does your present job help achieve your long-term career goals?

Carrying out a regular review of career goals helps you to plan beyond meeting your day-to-day responsibilities. By refreshing awareness of your ultimate career goals you can think strategically and adjust your immediate actions to align with your aspirations. If you haven’t reviewed your career goals recently, we recommend that you complete this exercise and this quiz.


Finding a position: Ensuring you choose the right institution 

Another aspect of seeking a position is to consider the kind of institution where you would prefer to work. The following questions emerge from surprises experienced by research participants. They should help you to think broadly about options that will your situation.



  • How might you investigate what day-to-day life is really like in an institution? Can you use your network to help your investigation? Think about options such as talking with existing or past employees, talking with union or professional membership representatives, arranging an informal visit or asking about student placement options. 


  • Many people accept a position without asking questions that may be important in the long run. Read the following questions and decide which you would like answered  before saying ‘yes’ to an offer of employment:

    • Job expectations: What happens if you don’t measure up?

    • Becoming permanent or not: 

      • If seeking permanence, how exactly will your performance be assessed? On what basis, by whom and when?

      • If on a fixed term employment contract, is extension or renewal possible? How far ahead of the contract end date will this decision be made? On what basis will extension or renewal be granted and wjo makes the final decision?

    • Benefits: Are there any health care benefits, pension or childcare benefits (e.g., family leave, day care)? What support is available for career development and the acquisition of new skills or qualifications?

    • Day-to-day work: 

      • How are new employees supported? 

      • What is the history of people leaving and why? 

      • What does the institution or work group do to support collegiality? 

      • What human and financial resources are provided to support the role??

    • What are the career advancement possibilities for someone accepting the position?


Other resources 

Sites to look for jobs


Networking and job hunting 


Is it time to look for another job?

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Explore the other themes


Researcher Identity Development (2020).

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