Some time ago, I received the following question:
I want to be a researcher when I get my PhD in Psychology. Any advice on how to get a job in that field now as a student?
First of all, let’s clarify what it can mean to be a researcher:
- Post-doctoral researcher: A post-doc position may be the first option that comes to your mind if you want to be a researcher after your PhD. As a post-doctoral researcher, you would be carrying out research just as you did during the PhD, but would be expected to complete the work in a shorter amount of time, publish from your PhD research (if not published yet), and potentially help out with lecturing or supervision of students.
- Researcher in industry: Another option would be to work as a researcher in an R&D department of a large company. As a researcher in psychology, you may be surprised how many companies have a research team that includes psychologists.
When it comes to finding a job in that field as a student, it depends how you want to orient yourself.
- Orienting yourself for an academic position: If you want to remain in academia, the first thing you need to realize is that a lot of it depends on luck – a position opening at the right time for the right person. Academic positions are scarce, and many candidates qualify. That said, if you want to build a profile for an academic position, any extra experience can help: teaching experience, publications, supervision experience, service work, help with organizing events and conferences… it can all help to build your profile. The big caveat here is that all this extra work takes time, and the top priority should always be you research and your thesis. The rest is just nice-to-haves.
- Orienting yourself for an industry position: If you want to orient yourself towards an R&D position in industry, then networking is key. You may consider doing some freelance work during your PhD years (depending on the conditions of your PhD, your contract, and visa status), or get involved with companies of your interest through industry events, networking opportunities, or by building your visibility online. Networking in the years of your PhD becomes very important: visit company booths during conferences, ask people for advice (ask them to tell their story, the advice comes then from their lived experiences), look for people from your research group who have successfully walked this path, and let your supervisor know about your interest so that they can assist you as well.