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Career Options PhD Skills

Applying your recruitment skills beyond academia.

Recruitment is a career many PhD students overlook. However, much of the skills acquired during the PhD set you up for success for this profession. Here we break down the skills needed for recruitment and things to consider about this career option.

Recruitment is a weird word to throw out there, partly because it feels more disconnected from academia as a profession and/or a skill set. However, you’re likely to have developed expert recruitment skills throughout your PhD whether you acknowledge it or not. Throughout our site, we’re dedicated to highlighting your transferable skills so you can have a more tangible sense of what you’re good at to help you connect dots to careers that you may not have necessarily thought of previously.

The most obvious way to highlight your recruitment skills, or to at least understand that you have them is to think back to the nature of your PhD, and the projects you’ve completed. PhDs are a research programme, so if you’re in the world of developing studies, collecting data from people either directly or in-directly the connection is relatively straight forward. When you’re developing a study for research purposes, that includes human participants, you’ll need to ‘pitch’ or ‘sell’ the research project that might be of interest to them. Here your goal is to get them to register, participate, and give you valuable data you can analyse for your PhD. This entire process aligns with much of the skills you need in the world of recruitment. Being organised, keeping track of who you have and haven’t spoken to, identifying people you could contact (which can be similar to sourcing), managing your time effectively, and communicating clearly to be able to encourage people to apply or participate.

In addition to these core skills that are developed during the PhD, another core skill is resilience and being able to remain dedicated and committed to the goal. All PhD students have a tremendous amount of resilience and know what it’s like to keep going when things don’t quite work out or when you hit rough patches. Similarly, if you’ve recruited for your own research studies, you’ll know how disheartening it can be to get people to participate – but nonetheless you keep going and have managed to complete your PhD. Other skills which we’ve spoken about elsewhere on this site also include being creative and problem-solving. Finding new methods to identify people, attract them to the task at hand, and convert them into recruits, participants, or whatever the context is, will help build your confidence and your competency in the world of recruitment.

But what if you didn’t recruit participants to your own research study during your PhD? Don’t fret. The skills outlined above can be demonstrated through other ventures, you don’t necessarily have to have recruited participants to a study or piece of work to emphasise that you’re cut out for the role or possess these skills. Much of the skills outlined above, and the core skills every PhD student has can be leveraged to sell and communicate your ability to do well and exceed in this type of profession. But is it for you?

Recruitment is an interesting one because it may mirror a lot of the PhD experience to some extent. Having specific targets (which can create healthy or unhealthy pressure), good earning potential as you’re typically commissioned on the number of people you convert into positions (imagine getting a pay bonus for everyone you got into a research study!?), reasonably good additional benefits, like healthcare cover for example, a fast paced working environment (this could be good or bad depending on your personal preference), a lot of independence and autonomy – which again mirrors the PhD experience quite well. On the flip side, the nature of recruitment can have long working hours (depending on the type of recruitment you’re in), varied month on month pay as it’s directly correlated to your work output, a competitive work environment, and of course having to be comfortable to take rejection if someone doesn’t follow through, or something unexpected happens outside your control.

But like most careers there isn’t a one-size fits all. Recruitment for an independent recruitment company will look very different to a recruitment role that is in-house, where you’re recruiting for the organisation you work for, as opposed for a different one. Some human resource (HR) roles also have a blend of HR responsibilities and recruitment. Even some managerial roles, which aren’t even related to recruitment in any way shape of form require some engagement with the hiring and recruitment process – whether that be sourcing potential new employees, contacting them, or interviewing them. There’s a lot of things that may or may not appeal to you.

As with most things, it’s about identifying your life values and identifying what is important to you. Recruitment in some capacity or another might align with your life values, how you want to build your future, or even leverage some of the skills you really enjoy using from your PhD. Similarly, it might sit in opposition to how you want your life to look like. It’s all extremely subjective, but with all careers and skills we discuss on this site it’s not about what you can do it’s about what do you want to do! And remember, knowing what you don’t want to do is equally as important as knowing what you do want to do.


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