Career Counselling Advice for PhDs When The Jobs Are Few

PhD Career Career Counselling

We can give you some sound career counselling advice if you are a new PhD.

You have completed your PhD. You are smart, ambitious and eager to contribute to your chosen profession. But what happens when employment doors just don’t open easily for you? Professional career counselling can assist.

Working in research and/or academia can be a tough, competitive road. There are always more qualified postgraduates searching for their niche than positions available.

Here are 3 things you can consider when the opportunity to work in your chosen field is limited.

1. Understand why you do what you do and use that knowledge to inform what else may make you career happy.

Think about what first attracted you to your specialty area: what were the things that you hoped to achieve working in your chosen field?

By way of example, you may have been deeply interested in working in a new research area. But why? Was it because you thought it would be challenging, or because you thought it would contribute to people’s quality of life?

Perhaps you thought it would give you the peer recognition you crave, or maybe because it involves working in a laboratory alone and you like working on your own. There can be many different reasons for why people are interested in working in a certain area. Understanding the reason/s as they uniquely apply to you can help you assess each career opportunity that comes your way.

A useful exercise is to ask yourself the ‘5 Whys’, to understand yourself deeply.

It works like this:
Person 1: Statement – I want to work in academia.
Why? Because I like to educate others
Why? Because I like to share what I know
Why? Because that makes me feel intelligent
Why? Because I like to be intellectually challenged
Why? Because I am happiest when I have a really challenging goal to tackle.

Person 2: Statement – I want to work in academia
Why? Because I want to research human performance
Why? Because if we knew more about human performance, people could be more productive and efficient
Why? Because being productive and efficient is important to me, something I value and something I want others to be also
Why? Because being productive and efficient means people make good use of their time
Why? Because that’s the core of what matters to me – making the very best use of the time we have available in our lives.

You can see from both of these examples that the desire to work in academia is the same, but the real reasons can be very different. If you know this real reason then you can be assessing work opportunities that aren’t necessarily in academia or research, but can still satisfy your goals.

In the case of Person 1 any opportunity that challenges her is her main driver, but in Person 2 it’s more about his need to value and control time. Person 2 may find work opportunities that allow for flexibility of work hours and having control over how he spends his time.

2. Know where you are prepared to work and know whether you are prepared to relocate for work.

Location. Location. Location. It’s not just a real estate agent phrase! Have you thought about how far outside the CBD you’d be prepared to go for the right position? Are you prepared to work regionally or interstate if that is where the opportunities are? And if so how long are you prepared to go for: two years, ten years, permanently?

It’s also worth considering jobs in institutions overseas. They don’t have to be forever and it’s important to reflect on just what you are prepared to do to work in your chosen field, and investigate those opportunities fully.

3. Network like its 1999!

For those of you who weren’t around in 1999, it was the norm for people to meet and speak to each other in person. It was a time before social media, when having professional connections and networking in person were the done thing.

If you start to network in your chosen industry in person you will be ahead of your competition, as people are more inclined to remember, like and want to help people they know personally.

Go to your industries’ meet ups, conferences, alumni and professional groups. Become known! Then when a work opportunity becomes available they are more likely to think of … you.

About Us:

If you need the assistance of a professional career  counselling expert for advice for getting a job (, please get in touch today ( Sessions start at $250+gst per hour.

Let’s Talk Career is a leading Australian career counselling, career coaching and outplacement services organisation. We have coaches in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and Perth. We also undertake video based and phone counselling for clients in Tasmania, Canberra, remote Australia and, in fact, throughout the world.

Visit our website ( to learn more about how we can support you in your job search. We are able to assist you with resume development and refinement, personal branding, LinkedIn, advice on dealing with recruitment agencies, interview technique, advice negotiating flexible work and new job offers – everything you need to get the flexibility you want to work best for your family. We work with those who are just starting in their careers through to senior managers so contact us today.

We would be delighted for you to reproduce our articles, as long as they remain intact and contain the author’s details as follows: Kris Reynolds is Managing Partner at Let’s Talk Career ( in Australia. Kris can be contacted on 1800 284 255 or

Kris has over 20 years executive HR and executive coaching experience in Australian corporates. With a Masters Degree in Leadership, she works with senior executives to both improve their leadership performance and achieve greater career satisfaction.

Author: Kris

Kris has over 20 years executive HR and executive coaching experience in Australian corporates. With a Masters Degree in Leadership, she works with senior executives to both improve their leadership performance and achieve greater career satisfaction.

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