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Working at Oxford University is an amazing opportunity! This section aims to get you thinking about how you want to shape your future career, and show you how to make use of the resources and opportunities that Oxford offers.

Some of you will be aiming for an academic career, some will be planning for a career elsewhere, and some don’t know yet.

If you are looking for an academic career it’s important to understand that there are far fewer permanent academic posts available than there are postdocs looking for them. In recent years the number of people doing doctorates has grown while the number of academic positions has not. The good news is that having Oxford on your CV is a distinct competitive advantage!

Have a look at this diagram illustrating some career routes taken by people after their doctorate. As well as the academic career path there are many others, and it’s worth giving some thought to what you want from your career. See this webpage on ideas for career development for some ideas to help you think about what is important for you.

Whether or not you have decided on your career path, there is much you can do while at Oxford to build your skills, experience and CV to equip yourself for success. In the event that you are unable to follow your first choice career path, this self-development approach will provide you with flexibility and resourcefulness. Treat your professional development in the same way as you would go about a research project.

The rest of this section provides information, exercises and tools to help you do this.

The Careers Service

The Careers Service is available for all research staff in the University and offers lots of advice, support, information and resources. Some examples of the things they offer are:

Build skills

Developing Career Ideas

See a Careers Adviser

Useful Career Resources

Insight Programme - helping with the transition from student to employee

The Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers

The Concordat is a national document that sets out conditions ‘required to create the very best culture for our researchers to thrive.’ It recognises the critical role of research and innovation in the UK, the role that researchers play, and sets out standards by which researchers should be recruited, employed and developed.

World Class Researcher: skills, characteristics and the Researcher Development Framework

Which skills should I develop?

To get you thinking about which skills you need, take a moment to think about and note the skills, characteristics, experience of a world class researcher. If possible discuss the question and compare ideas with a colleague or friend. How might such a researcher form their research questions? How do they communicate? How do they collaborate / work with others? How do they attract funding? How have they progressed their career? What else?

The Researcher Development Framework (RDF) describes the knowledge, behaviour and attributes of successful researchers and is a useful resource to help you track your development. Even if you are not aiming for a research career, the skills and experience listed will transfer to other careers.

You can also look at these checklists:

Self-assessment of standing: download as a Word document

Self-assessment of standing: view as a webpage

Skills needed to become a PI: download as a Word document

Skills needed to become a PI: view as a webpage

Your Career and Professional Development

Important: Research staff in MPLS are entitled to:

Ideas for developing skills and experience

While attending training courses is an excellent way of developing skills, (see below for information about training available to you) consider where and how else you learn. For example you may learn about a particular research technique from your PI or a colleague, about latest developments in your field from attending a conference, or how to present your work by actually making a presentation. Other activities might include coaching, briefing sessions, online resources – see the MPLS Policy for 10 days' Training for more ideas. 

You can also look out for opportunities that will extend your skills. For example see the information on fellowships available.

The People and Organisational Development unit have some resources on professional development.  

The Vitae website has a section on professional development for researchers and a series of advice sheets on doing research. See in particular Taking advantage of opportunities available to researchers and Researchers' responsibilities

Make sure that you keep a record of what you learn – perhaps directly on your CV or by using a learning log or journal.

Training courses  and providers

If you have decided that you need to attend a training course to learn the skill you need, this is what is available to you:

The MPLS Division has a comprehensive training programme for research staff.

See also what is offered by other training providers in the University, particularly the Careers Service.

Vitae's researcher training resource

    Getting started on your professional development

    To get you started on your professional development, choose a skill or particular experience – perhaps from the RDF or the other lists of researcher skills and characteristics above - that you need to develop in the next month.

    • What are you to going to do to develop it?
    • When will you do it by?
    • How will you know if you have been successful?

    Make a note in whatever form will effectively remind you to take this action. When complete, make a note on your CV and/or learning log and plan the next skill or experience in the same way.

    Other resources

    Hints and tips on transferable skills from the website

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