Job hunting is a research project

Following her post back in May, PGR Careers Adviser Dr Holly Prescott updates us on how to keep track of the employment landscape for 2020 job hunting.

A "help!" mug on a pile of careers-related books

Last time I spoke to you on this blog, toilet roll was just making its return to supermarket shelves. Since then, I’ve spoken to many of you who have had job offers rescinded, or have even had to rethink your entire PhD projects. However, I’ve also seen some of you get jobs. So what can you do uncover the opportunities that are still out there?

  • Go back in time. The Way Back Machine lets you look at snapshots of websites taken months or years ago. Type in the job board URLs that you use to see how many jobs were on there this time last year compared with today. For example, here’s how looked a year ago compared to right now: keep your eye on these over time to see how the market may be changing, or whether there are certain aspects of the sector that are cutting back less than others
  • Fill in the details. If you’re interested in a particular sector, use relevant professional bodies, LinkedIn groups and other content like industry podcasts to keep up with how that sector is responding. Follow relevant companies and organisations on social media to keep track of the impact of Covid-19 on their industry
  • Let the experts do the work. Large professional services firms map the impact of social, political and economic upheaval on different work sectors so they can help client companies to respond effectively. This makes them a hive of information on how different industries are faring, such as PwC’s Covid-19 Industry Focus series and Accenture’s Industry Impact reports
  • Identify the need. In times of economic crisis it’s easy to focus on what jobs aren’t out there. In some cases though, some opportunities may have just shifted from where they might usually be during ‘normal times.’ Use the resources above to try to identify:
    1. What challenges your sector(s) of interest are now facing;
    2. What skills and expertise you have that might help them to meet these challenges, that you can emphasise in applications and interviews;
    3. To which areas of that sector (if any) are resources currently being channelled?
    4. Have any organisations in your sector(s) of interest received government funding recently? If so, these may be more likely to have the capacity to hire
  • Trust in your abilities as a researcher. Grayce Consulting note that people likely to manage best in the pandemic are those who demonstrate that they can manage uncertainty, and ‘who are adaptable and able to respond when faced with problems.’ As a researcher, you’re always working within a constantly evolving landscape, keeping up-to-date, adapting when things don’t work and teaching yourself new approaches. So don’t forget: job hunting is a research project. And although the sources, jargon and experts might be different, your research skills can go a long way in helping you navigate the choppy waters.

The Careers Network is still open to support Postgraduate Researchers during restricted operations. To contact the PG careers team, email

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Helen Kara

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