Careers in the time of COVID-19: nine tips for PGRs

PGR Careers Adviser Dr Holly Prescott shares some thoughts on job hunting and working out next steps for PGRs coming towards the end of their PhD during the COVID-19 crisis.

Holly working from home
Holly working from home

Greetings from the spare bedroom, or as it has been for seven weeks now, ‘the office.’ The views definitely don’t rival those of the Westmere gardens. Wherever in the world you are, we hope you’re safe and keeping as well as possible.

These are uncertain times for us all. Will there be jobs? How do I cope? Can I even job hunt right now whilst the kids are at home and I’m struggling to get out of the house for essentials? Just a few of the questions coming thick and fast out of the hinterland of PGR lockdown.

Some voices have told us that a global pandemic might naturally lead some people to reassess their own career ideas; others are keen for Covid-19 to encourage us to consider the responsibility we have towards our communities and social justice in the work that we do. So, whilst I can’t offer a guaranteed blueprint to stay-at-home-job-hunt success, here are a few suggestions to help stay sane whilst considering your next move:

  1. Be aware of making ‘big’ long-term decisions whilst you are experiencing high anxiety and there are so many ‘unknowns.’ Focus on what you can control, and take ‘baby-steps’;
  2. Whilst watching lots of TV news may be detrimental to mental health right now, try to keep up-to-date with relevant information and developments pertaining to financial support for registered students, developments from funding bodies and such. The University Graduate School has a website with key advice, and WONKHE has a COVID-19 info section. Then you know you’re working with the most current information;
  3. If you’d been applying for jobs before lockdown but hadn’t heard back, try if possible to keep in touch with employers or PIs to whom you had applied. Recruitment may be paused right now, but may be picked back up at a later date so make sure they know you’d still like to be considered;
  4. Flexing to the situation: are there ways in which your expertise could contribute to the COVID-19 effort and related issues? Funds are popping up for such projects so try to keep abreast of these and ways to tap into them, including considering collaborations;
  5. If you want to continue in academia, try to keep up a visible research profile during this time. Think what you could contribute to the research community during these times, even if it’s not directly linked to your research. For example, Maria from MDS has set up her own YouTube channel to support other STEM researchers working from home;
  6. Do some research on LinkedIn, jobs.ac.uk, Charity Job and other job boards in sectors that interest you to see who is still hiring in fields that might be linked to your interests and skills;
  7. As an interim option, think if there are any services or contributions you can offer on a freelance basis, e.g. online tutoring or mentoring;
  8. Try to stay connected to your peers in the same situation and share tips, progress and support with each other either by email or over virtual coffee. You might know of a job board or opportunity that one of them doesn’t, and vice-versa;
  9. Remember, whatever you do next won’t be forever: it’s your next step, not your end goal.
  10. (bonus!) The Careers Network is still open to support Postgraduate Researchers during restricted operations. To contact the PG careers team, email careersenquiries@contacts.bham.ac.uk.

Are you considering your next steps at the moment?  Have your career plans changed as a result of COVID-19?  Share your experiences in the comments. 

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