Careers Service

Year by year guide for Doctoral Researchers

Building a successful career for doctoral researchers

This resource is designed to help you:

  • reflect on the progress you have made in developing your career;
  • plan your next steps;
  • discuss both of these with your supervisor in your annual Career Development Review.

Which stage are you at in your doctoral programme?

  • 1st year - going into your 1st year, or in the early stages of establishing yourself as a researcher.
  • Intermediate year(s) - any time from the end of your 1st year until you head towards your final year.
  • Final year - from starting your final year until your viva.

In addition, you can explore our 'How to...' guides whenever you need them.

Employability framework

What underpins a successful career?

Recent work we have conducted suggests that those who make a quick transition from university to a satisfying next career step are strong in five areas:

  • Explore - keep their options and their eyes open; stretch themselves by trying things 'outside their comfort zone'; take every opportunity to gain lots of varied experiences;
  • Connect - build their network and maintain contacts (peers and social contacts as well as experienced professionals); use information from their contacts to research jobs and career paths;
  • Reflect - recognise their own skills and can illustrate with examples; differentiate themselves from the competition;
  • Communicate - adapt their communication to different audiences; learn from others how to engage audiences; introduce themselves effectively; practise;
  • Persevere - learn from setbacks and constantly adapt; start their job search early, learn from any knock-backs and approach the next opportunity positively.

You can build this approach into your doctoral programme from day one, to improve your chances of a smooth transition into whatever comes next, whether an academic career, a career using your subject, or a sideways move to an alternative career. This resource will help you to focus on actions you can take at each stage in your doctoral degree.