What are your Transferable Skills?

What are your Transferable Skills?

Doctoral studies prepare students for a wide range of professional opportunities. As a USC doctoral student you are undoubtedly expanding on skills that will position you for success both within and outside the academy.  As you continue your career explorations, inventory and examine the various ways you might rethink what you are learning and doing to position yourself for a surprising array of employment options, both expected and emerging.

Cast your career net broadly.  It’s great to explore the possibility of employment as a tenure-track faculty member, but you might also want to look at other kinds of university jobs as well as positions in industry, government, and the not-for-profit sectors.

To qualify for consideration for the widest range of meaningful career options, think about the skills you are gaining, many of which are broadly applicable.  Here are just some of the transferrable skills that doctoral studies provide:

  • The key and central one is that you are an independent researcher. Those who finish doctoral degrees, especially the PhD, know how to create, define, and execute an original research project.  Think how important that skill is to employers across the sectors!
  • Likely you have significant experience in both project design and project management. How else could you have generated meaningful new knowledge for the world?
  • You are a self-starter with a track record in time-management. Without these skills you could not successfully complete doctoral studies.
  • Tout your strong organizational skills. It’s hard to imagine earning a doctorate without them!
  • Though the emphasis clearly varies by discipline, you have lots of experience with data – likely both qualitative and quantitative.
  • You are a risk-taker. Success in doctoral programs is not a given, but you persevered in an uncertain endeavor.
  • Be sure to consider your communication skills. We know you know how to communicate with those in your discipline; be sure to take advantage of professional development programs like the 3 Minute Thesis and others to hone your ability to convey the importance of your work to wide and diverse audiences.
  • Many of you are completing the equivalent of a draft manuscript. Don’t forget to highlight your writing skills, highlighting any expertise you may have in technical writing!
  • You have experience managing up and down. Remember, finishing your degree requires working with both senior faculty and the undergraduate students you taught, no easy feat.
  • Many of you are collaborative team players whose success results at least in part from group endeavors. (If you are from a field where “sole pursuit” is the coin of the realm, be sure to take on small and discreet projects in partnership with others so that you can make this claim, too.)
  • You have some experience in managing a budget, even if that means figuring out how to survive on very little as you pursue your doctorate. Be sure to consider your ability to leverage resources.
  • Most USC doctoral students have extensive teaching experience. Imagine ways this could be translated to training and other settings.
  • With your extensive experience presenting to classes, colleagues, and conferences, be sure to highlight your presentation skills.
  • If you have developed expertise using social media and a range of technologies, claim your tech savvy!

Dr. Jessica Elfenbein is senior associate dean in The Graduate School and professor of history at the University of South Carolina. She is a champion for graduate students and committed to ensuring ample professional development opportunities to prepare them for a variety of careers after degree.

Questions? Comments? Ideas? Contact Dr. Heather Brandt at hbrandt@sc.edu.

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