When you apply for a position outside of academia, sometimes you may find it hard to market the skills you’ve achieved during your PhD to a company.
There are technical skills you achieve during the PhD: certain experimental techniques in the lab, programming skills, data analysis skills, and similar skills that you can apply directly to any project.
At the same time, you also develop a number of soft skills:
- Presentation skills: You get many opportunities to present your work during your PhD: within your university, to industry, at conferences, and potentially at other events. Certainly, you improve your presentation skills during your PhD.
- Writing skills: Writing skills are crucial in a PhD, as you end up producing a doctoral thesis in the end. In many cases, you will also write reports, conference papers, and perhaps journal papers.
- Dealing with stakeholders: When you deal with input from various sides, you learn how to navigate the interest of different stakeholders. For example, you will possibly receive feedback from a funding institution and your supervisors. Wielding a path through all this feedback is great training for dealing with various stakeholders. Similarly, reviewers with opposing views of your manuscript require careful addressing of their observations; again, great practice for dealing with various stakeholders.
- Teamwork: No PhD takes place in a vacuum. Whether your research directly fits in with a larger project and you collaborate on the deliverables, or if you need to learn to share lab space, you get good training in teamwork.
- Time management: You have many years to write your thesis, so it feels as if you have an ocean of time. Yet, on a day-to-day basis you feel extremely busy. The solution to this conundrum of the PhD student is to learn good time management skills.
- Project management: While often project management is in the hands of the PI, you could consider your PhD research as a project as well. Managing a PhD project, however, is different from managing a project in the industry, as often the outcomes of a PhD research project are not as well-defined as a task coming from a client. Regardless, you do get some introduction to project management skills during your PhD.
Which are the soft skills you picked up during your PhD?