Career guidance and career paths for doctoral candidates
Roughly a third of those with a doctoral degree are employed by universities at the start of their career. However, only approximately 10 per cent of all doctors ultimately craft an academic career at university. Others find their place in public administration, the business world or the third sector. Universities of applied sciences also offer teaching and research opportunities. The purpose of this guide is to instruct doctoral students in their career planning, which is supported by thesis supervisors, the doctoral school and the career services at universities.
The primary goal of this guide is to make postgraduate studies a natural part of the career path of doctoral students, i.e. to serve as a tool to make it possible to achieve the desired career path after the defence of the thesis. The guide operates as a tool for supervisors for the implementation of career planning for doctoral students.
The purpose of this guide is to encourage doctoral students to think about the following question at the start of their studies together with their supervisor:
- Why have you decided to write a thesis (why do you need it in terms of your career)?
- Which skills and qualifications must you acquire to achieve your career goals?
- How and when are you planning to acquire the necessary skills and work experience to reach your goals?
It is an aim of The University of Turku Graduate School (UTUGS) that all UTUGS doctoral candidates have the opportunity to have an annual career and review discussion. The career and review discussion between the doctoral candidate and the supervisor and/or administrative supervisor are to be held in February–March. The discussion can be arranged as part of an annual advisory/follow-up committee meeting. The main objective is to discuss the doctoral candidate’s career goals in a stimulating atmosphere. The discussion is based on the doctoral candidate’s annual progress report. In addition, the UTUGS review and career discussion form filled by the doctoral candidate can be used to support discussion during this meeting.
1. The doctoral candidate schedules a meeting for the discussion with the supervisor(s) attending.
2 The discussion is based on the doctoral candidate’s annual progress report. The annual progress report can be found in the UGIS portal. The UTUGS review and career discussion form can be used to support discussion. The doctoral candidate fills in the review and career discussion form, and adds the contact information of the supervisor in the form.
The system automatically either sends the supervisor the form as a pdf file or a link to the filled form. Supervisors with UTU credentials will receive the link, others will receive the form as an email attachment. The supervisor familiarizes him/herself with the materials beforehand.
3. The doctoral candidate and the supervisor have the review and career discussion.
4. The doctoral candidate writes down the agreed goals during the discussion. If the UTUGS review and career discussion form is used, the form contains questions marked "to be filled during the discussion". The doctoral candidate and the supervisor save the document for the next round of review and career discussions.
If the job requirement level of a doctoral candidate in an employment relationship (salary) with the University needs to be changed, the assessment has to be done with the electronic Personec HR system after the career and review discussion. If the demand level will change, the personal performance needs to be evaluated at the same time. If the administrative supervisor is not present in the career and review discussion, the doctoral candidate and the supervisor can send a written statement to the administrative supervisor describing the reasoning behind the new evaluation.
According to a definition by Jussi Onnismaa, who has studied guidance work, guidance is providing time and attention as well as respecting the thoughts of the supervisee on a general level. The supervisor must provide the supervisee a space where they can talk about their thoughts, hopes and dreams. The supervisor wants to and knows how to listen to a person in the way that that person wants to be listened to.
In guidance situations, in particular, people hope to and ask to be understood correctly. Good guidance does not assume anything or make life decisions on behalf of the supervisee, but it gives the supervisee time to express and process their thoughts and feelings. If a person is not seen or heard, the guidance has failed.
Career guidance to support decision-making
In the field of guidance, career guidance focuses primarily on the transition to working life and career planning. The core goal of career guidance is to support the supervisee in building a career that is meaningful and important to them. The process is always based on confidential interaction founded on cooperation.
Career guidance should support the development of the self-knowledge of the supervisee, the mapping and wording of career hopes and opportunities, as well as the planning of career options and the future of work and career-related decision-making. The process is about shared expertise; the supervisees are experts in their own lives and the supervisor is an expert in the guidance process.
Career guidance may contain various methods and techniques in addition to discussions, which are used to develop the career management skills of the supervisee. In an ideal situation, career guidance is an individual process that starts at the beginning of studies and links with lifelong learning, the personal study plan (HOPS) as well as study planning in general.
Planning the future
From the point of view of the individual, the need for career guidance is often born out of a simple need to plan one's own future and a willingness to form a concept of one's own skills and opportunities in terms of work. The need for career planning is also fuelled by the requirements of working life, which are focused on the individual and which lead to more pressure on graduates to be able to plan their career and seek work independently and proactively.
The career guide must have sufficient prerequisites to identify the significant questions and entities in terms of the supervisee, the ability to engage in natural and realistically encouraging interaction, as well as the ability to support the supervisee in setting and achieving their own goals. Indeed, career guidance is about assisting and listening to the supervisee to a great degree.
Top three questions for the supervisee to consider:
- What do you want to do? Why?
- What holds you back from achieving your goals?
- What are you going to do to find a solution?
Guidance, advice or distributing information?
Not all guiding discussion falls under actual guidance, but advice and distributing information occur alongside guidance. As concepts, these three can be differentiated from each other, but in practice they are entwined. Distributing information is naturally about providing students with information on matters that interest them.
Students often ask for information themselves on an issue they are thinking about, but the supervisor may also provide information independently on study or work opportunities, for example. The supervisor must ensure that the information is sufficient and correct, but today, supervisors are often expected to manage and provide information correctly by guiding students to utilise information efficiently.
In addition to seeking information, students may have the need to distinguish between information that is relevant and irrelevant to their situation, which means that in addition to distributing information, supervisors must also provide guidance and advice. Advising someone involves more interaction than distributing information, and the purpose of advice is to support students in decision-making. Indeed, the primary goal of advising someone is not to provide information but to present them with different options from the point of view of an expert. Too many pieces of advice can hinder the empowerment of the supervisee in making their own decisions.
Conceptual differentiation between guidance, advice and distributing information. (Table after a version by Jussi Onnismaa (2007).)
Ethical principles of career guidance
In 2014, the Association of Career Counsellors and Instructors (Uraohjaajat ja -valmentajat ry) drafted ethical principles for career counsellors, which are intended to support instructors in their ethical behaviour in their work. The following is a version of these principles, amended for these purposes:
Career guidance is provided to people in various stages and situations in life, and the guidance should consider the life situation of the customer comprehensively. Career guidance is forward-looking and supports the lifelong learning and development of the supervisee.
The counsellor shall treat the supervisee individually and equally, while observing various backgrounds and starting points.
The starting point of career guidance is to support the actions based on the autonomy of the supervisee, and to strengthen the active participation role of the supervisee.
Confidentiality, respect and independence
Career guidance is always based on the customer's goals, respect and confidential interaction, and the entire process must always be owned by the customer. The supervisor must inform the supervisee of any factors affecting the cooperative relationship.
Development and well-being
The quality of career guidance depends on the expertise of the supervisors. Expertise, professional development and ensuring professional development as well as personal well-being are core prerequisites for operating as a career counsellor, performing the work and growing professionally.
Guidance in general is all about professional interaction that primarily contains the same elements as any other form of communication between people. However, unlike everyday conversations, guidance has clear goals. Career guidance deals with issues related to working life and employment, but it is often more comprehensive than that, because it is usually quite impossible to completely differentiate employment issues from other areas of life.
Here we have compiled general counselling skills that are useful to be aware of, and to continuously maintain and develop. It is important to remember that despite what the supervisee may want, questions about career guidance rarely have straight-forward answers. When supervisors provide advice, they must be acutely aware of ensuring that any decisions made by the supervisee are their own and are generated as a result of an independent thought process.
The key skills and techniques of career counsellors can be categorised as follows:
The supervisor is completely focused on the supervisee, observing their verbal and non-verbal communication. Active listening also contains actively showing an interest in the issues of the supervisee through eye contact or questions, for example. It is important to communicate understanding.
Clarifying the narrative of the supervisee
Clarifications must be focused on the inaccuracies and contradictions in what the supervisee is saying. The supervisee may express their uncertainty about what they feel or want. During clarification, the supervisor adds their own ideas to the thoughts of the supervisee, but those ideas must follow the thought of the supervisee in some way. It is important to widen the perspective of the supervisee in order for them to be able to better distinguish between their feelings and thoughts, and maybe find some new perspectives on things.
Repeating what has been said
Listening can be expanded by repeating what has been said in a manner that clarifies the message to the speaker. Good repetition focuses on the significance of what has been said, dispels vagueness and contradiction, or makes them more apparent. By repeating what is significant, the supervisor helps the supervisee to explore the issue in more depth.
Summaries divide the guidance into manageable sections. They help visualise what has been discussed and where the guidance is going, where the supervisee is, and what is left for future discussion. Summaries can be used to bring out ideas on the issues being discussed. Visualising the guidance path and core issues is a useful method. Sometimes the significance and sensibility of events is only clarified during the summary.
Posing questions that have not been predetermined
Supervisors should avoid posing questions that are too direct, because they can only be answered in a limited manner. It is important to ponder the reasoning behind actions with the help of "why" questions asked by the supervisor, but these questions may sometimes prove too difficult or threatening. In these cases it might be more helpful to ask "how"; "How did you come to this solution?", "How would you act in a similar situation given what you now know?"
It is important to keep the questions comprehensive. You should try to phrase questions so that answering them requires choices and, on the other hand, so that they lead the person to self-reflection. For example: "Could you tell me about your work history?", "Have you thought about…?", "When you compare…", "Could it be that…"
Identifying the skills and expertise of the supervisee
On average, students are not very well equipped at identifying their skills – especially if they have very little work experience in their "own field". The supervisor should then guide the supervisee to describe what they do and focus on identifying the skills highlighted by the supervisee from the outside. It is important to identify skills, and it may help the supervisee to recognise their own potential.
Clarifying values and valuations to the supervisee
Reflections on values and skills go hand in hand. When the supervisee talks about their successes and positive experiences, the supervisor may help them to identify which values they hold dear. Through identifying values, skills and expertise, a language is born with which a person may communicate their hopes and goals in terms of work to others in an understandable way and give credible grounds for them. This is one of the most important tools for increasing efficiency when seeking employment.
Supervisees often want concrete information that helps them move forward when looking for a job or in terms of any other work-related issues they may have. Information should be distributed, of course, if it is available and can benefit the supervisee. But you should be very careful when giving advice and tips as a career counsellor so that the guidance does not become advice given by a teacher to a student.
Ensuring that the supervisee feels that the right issues are being discussed
In career guidance, the supervisee is the highest authority because their thoughts and feelings must take precedence. That is why the supervisor should check from time to time that the supervisee feels that the discussion is going the right way. A discussion always contains interpretations from the point of view of the discussion partners. In career guidance, the interpretations of the supervisee must be respected.
Settings tasks and encouraging the supervisee to complete them
The goal of completing tasks is to inspire the supervisee to actively do or think about things that are significant in terms of their career planning and job-seeking. The tasks may be independent contemplations written down on paper or created online. They can also include "reality testing", such as
- information interviews (a brief interview with a person working in the field that the supervisee is interested in),
- short work experiments (if possible),
- data collection on various career and work options,
- mapping networks,
- discussions with friends and family,
or anything that might help with either clarifying goals or moving closer to the desired reality.
The list of theories and schools of thought related to career guidance presented here is not exhaustive, but it includes those that are most familiar to supervisors in Finnish universities. We have attempted to give a brief explanation of the basic idea. If you are interested, you can read more about the theory later.
John D. Krumboltz: Happenstance Learning Theory
HLT or "Planned Happenstance" highlights the role of happenstance in building your career – keeping in mind that you can allow for happenstances with your own actions. Even though the future and the consequences of your actions may be difficult to predict, you can increase the chances of things going your way through being active and seizing opportunities. The theory is centred around curiosity, tenacity, flexibility and optimism – being truly open to new and active ways of doing.
The four core steps of this method of thinking can be determined as follows:
- Clarify ideas: identify your interests
- Remove blocks: think more in terms of "how can I…" rather than "I can't, because…"
- Expect the unexpected: be open to opportunities offered to you by chance, unexpected meetings and discussions, new experiences
- Take action: learn, develop your skills, seize opportunities
Schein: Career anchors
Based on his longitudinal study, Edgar Henry Schein has identified eight different career anchors that define a person's relationship to work. Career anchors are formed over the course of several years of work, when a person has received feedback on their work or has been able to reflect on it otherwise. Even doctoral students may think about their career anchors, especially if they already have some work experience. Using the anchors provides an interesting way of trying to define your work-related values and personality. Schein has identified the following career anchors:
- Security/Stability: A wish to become financially secure and stable. The stability and benefits of the job are very important. People like this tend to possess the virtue of planning carefully for the future.
- Autonomy/Independence: It is important to be able to control your own actions in all possible ways. People who find this anchor important oppose any kind of restriction of their freedom.
- Technical/Functional Competence: The development of special talents or skills is emphasised. A person like this craves plenty of challenges, which may make them reach for the best in a niche field.
- General Managerial Competence: This anchor is focused on general leadership skills, which are required in the managerial tasks of any organisation or part of it. People who identify with this anchor often define themselves through the success of the organisation.
- Entrepreneurial Creativity: Earning money is one of the values associated with this anchor, but it may not be a goal in itself. The need is to create something from within, a desire to develop business, products or services.
- Service/Dedication to a Cause: People with this career anchor see their career as a tool for the realisation of a core value. This is often accompanied by a desire to improve the world.
- Pure Challenge: People who find this anchor important work best in a competitive setting. They enjoy tough situations and are constantly looking for new challenges.
- Lifestyle: People with this anchor are especially looking for a good work-life balance. In principle, they are ready to compromise on their career ambitions if meeting the needs of loved ones requires it.
Norman E. Amundson: Hope-Filled Engagement
This approach is about "active engagement", which emphasises an active take on counselling and the significance of commitment. HFE aims to meet challenges that have increased according to Amundson: customer diversity, multiple problems, difficulty of positive self-reflection, hopelessness, motivational issues. The uncertain and quickly-changing job market confuses both clients and counsellors and generates a "crisis of the imagination", which makes viewpoints shrink and situations seem hopeless, even though they aren't. As a model, HFE strives to increase diversity and hope.
Mark L. Savickas: Life-Design
The central statement of life-design is that the current professional career guidance is based on a linear model, where the characteristics of a person are compared to the requirements of a profession. In today's world, this kind of thinking is outdated, because the nature of work has changed significantly. Life-design is not based on the requirements of work, but the person's own process of building a significant job and a life. It constructs and deconstructs a person's micro stories, which leads to a new story depicting the person's professional identity, which then inspires action.
Carl Rogers' customer-oriented theory
This approach starts with the individual, who is able to make decisions about their own career based on processing their internal "data". These decisions are far more valid than any advice given by other people.
R. Vance Peavy's socio-dynamic school of guidance
Guidance is seen as a method for planning and building cultural paths. This approach also observes inter-cultural and multi-cultural guidance. Socio-dynamic guidance is based on constructivism and it incorporates the ethics of authenticity, responsibility and care.
The school of narrative guidance
This approach focuses on strengthening the narrator's own action, their own narratives. Creating a story is seen as a temporal entity framed by meanings; a thought tool, which is used to bring order to chaos. Giving meaning is seen as the basis for meaningful learning. The attributes connected to narratives include curiosity, openness, influence through questions, not knowing, not categorising and not evaluating. The meaning is the responsibility of the narrator.
The career triangle model was originally developed at Florida State University. It is intended to illustrate the scope and focus areas of career guidance for students who are planning their careers. The triangle presented here is a more pragmatic model adapted from the FSU model by Career Services at the University of Helsinki, and it also incorporates a section on job-seeking skills.
The triangle is divided into four sections that interact with each other:
1. self-knowledge (own expertise and skills, skills and strengths, values, interests),
2. knowledge of working life (knowledge of own opportunities and interesting career options, employer expectations, and expertise requirements in working life),
3. making decisions, choices, plans and schedules (choices related to studies, making action plans, scheduling) as well as
4. learning job-seeking skills and developing.
The triangle can also be seen as a division of career planning from another point of view: the base of the triangle is focused on knowing and the two top layers are focused on taking action. The underlying thought is always that the doctoral student who is thinking about their own future is able to make their own plan regarding their career by examining and combining the various sections of the triangle.
Moving on to actual job-seeking, it is beneficial here to acknowledge the close connection between self-knowledge, knowledge of working life and effective job-seeking. Job-seeking skills include, e.g. drafting customised CVs and application letters for each position, finding potential jobs, having the ability to present oneself well in job interviews, and highlighting one's expertise in a natural way. Job-seeking is a project that requires goals and motivation.
Choices and decision-making
When the student has a good knowledge of working life and themselves, it is time to move on to the decision-making phase; from increasing knowledge to taking action. Here, the student should be able to identify factors affecting decision-making and be able to limit options, prioritise actions and schedule them. Itemising interests and setting realistic goals can help maintain motivation while job-seeking, which may at times be taxing.
Knowledge of working life
Knowledge of working life refers to familiarising oneself with the job market in a field of interest. Limiting your opportunities and interests involves active knowledge-seeking and requires time. In order to look for work effectively, you must do your homework. You have to look for information on potential employers and try to network with people in the field, online and/or otherwise. Once you identify common and field-specific expertise requirements on the job market and are able to reflect them on your own skills, you are better able to find work opportunities. Working life, the job market and specific fields keep changing constantly. That is why it is good to keep an eye on interesting fields and jobs.
Self-knowledge may be the single most important area of career planning. It is impossible to focus on the right aspects when job-seeking without self-reflection. Self-knowledge is the awareness of your own operating methods and the values and motives that guide your actions. It is related to identifying your own goals and hopes but also your own strengths and development areas. Through developing self-knowledge, people are better equipped at analysing their own skills and resources. A person that knows themselves well is able to see their opportunities, trust themselves, know how to move forward and better manage the uncertainty of the future.
Talking about your own skills
Employers may not have any reason to employ a doctor instead of someone with a Master's degree or other qualifications. When seeking work outside universities, doctors must be able to emphasise the special characteristics of their degree, unless someone with the highest possible degree is sought in particular.
Doctors that hope to have a career outside the academic world should try to consciously think about the interest their research subject may garner among potential employers, but also develop general working life skills. Social skills, the ability and willingness to network as well as working together with various professionals are important in nearly all professional positions. Talking about your own expertise is currently cited as the most important factor influencing employment in career monitoring performed by Rekry.
Finding your skills
You should invest time in determining your own expertise before starting your job hunt. In addition to personal characteristics and experiences, doctors with researcher training often have academic networks and an understanding of the operation of universities and the operational logic of science.
The attached Employability lens summary by Vitae (www.vitae.ac.uk) can be used when thinking about any skills doctoral training has brought on. This material also includes other tasks for mapping your expertise independently.
One useful method is to answer questions that reveal something about your skills, such as:
- What do people admire about you? What would your colleagues say about you?
- In what kind of situations do people turn to you? What are the matters your acquaintances ask you about?
- What do you do when you get to choose what to do? Which things are really enjoyable for you to do?
- What are you very good at? Where is your "comfort zone"?
- How would you respond to the following request in a job interview: "Describe your three most important strengths."
- Describe an accomplishment that makes you very proud. What did it take to achieve?
Doctoral students should use a very different CV when looking for work outside academia than when applying for university work or research grants.
The researcher's CV template can be found on the website of the Finnish National Board on Research Integrity (TENK) www.tenk.fi, and it is also attached here. It is very useful for research grant applications or when looking for work in the academic world – when it is very important to cite all research comprehensively. For other purposes, you should draft your CV quite differently.
Working outside universities
When you want to attract the interest of employers outside the academic world, your CV should give a very comprehensive representation of your skills and characteristics in a very compact format. There is no one correct way to draft your CV, but it should be quick to skim through, easy to read, and it should highlight the right things. What these right things are must be determined by the person writing the CV on a job-specific basis.
Education and work experience are typically the most important sections of a CV. You should really focus on writing these sections so that they convey relevant and interesting information in terms of the job. For example, doctoral students must think very carefully about what to highlight from their time as doctoral students and how. Employers outside universities may not know, even on a general level, what writing a doctoral thesis and doctoral training actually entails. It is the applicant's job to find and convey anything that might interest the employer in their application and other documents.
List of publications attached to the CV
A list of publications rarely interests an employer outside of the academic world. Some research may be mentioned case-specifically, but even then, their relevance must be clearly stated in writing, not simply listed. However, the list of publications may and should often be attached to the CV. If there are very few publications, they may fit under their own heading on a two-page CV.
A longer list will usually require a separate sheet to support the CV. In this case, the reader may examine them if they wish, but they do not bulk up the CV too much, thus keeping it simple to browse through. Legibility is important because you want to highlight the things you feel are important, and not bury them in too much text.
The career services team at your own university will provide you with expert help on drafting your CV. Generally, a good CV conveys the things that interest the employer in a clear and easily readable manner.
Drafting a CV that encourages the recipient to read it is not always easy. In order to increase the probability of this, some background work and research is required of the applicant on what may be interesting in relation to the particular job.
(This section may be accompanied by the researcher's CV template and a CV template that the university's career services may have drafted)
The purpose of the application letter that often accompanies the CV is to convince the employer to invite the applicant for an interview. The application letter is a one-page letter focusing on the key matters related to the job being applied for. Its most important tasks are to show motivation for the job, highlight relevant expertise in a concrete way, and link one's own experience with the requirements for the job.
There is no single sure-fire template for applications. In most cases, the structure of a successful application consists of three parts:
- Interest in the role: why are you applying for this position and what especially interests you about the company/organisation? Motivation must be spelled out.
- Skills related to the role: How do you meet the requirements of the employer? What are your strengths in terms of the position? Why? You must provide tangible reasons.
- Your persona and your goals: What are you like as an employee/colleague/person? What are your long- and short-term goals? What are your thoughts based on?
You should look to employ positive and active language. You should also try to view the letter from the point of view of the employer: what may interest them and how could you talk about this in a convincing way. You should not repeat the information from your CV in your application letter – instead, you could go into more detail and provide background to your skills.
A doctor/doctoral student should usually provide examples of the kind of expertise they have accumulated through completing their degree that the employer may find interesting. You can look for inspiration in the attached Employability Lens classification, for example.
(This section may be accompanied by a CV template the university's career services team has drafted)
LinkedIn is currently the most popular professional networking platform. It can be used in many ways for finding existing and new contacts, as a platform for professional discussions, for following companies, for looking for job advertisements, or participating in or monitoring discussions in its internal, professional groups. Tom Laine, who has in-depth knowledge of LinkedIn, has written a guide to using LinkedIn professionally and it can be downloaded at www.linkedinopas.fi.
Finding hidden jobs
Hidden jobs are jobs that are not advertised even though new employees are needed, or new employees may not be needed currently, but potential candidates can be kept on reserve, because positions do open up. According to a 2017 study on working life conducted by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, less than one quarter of respondents found their job by replying to an advertisement.
It is generally thought that roughly 70–80% of all vacant jobs are hidden. A significant reason for why the recruiter and the applicant do not always get to meet is that applicants often rely too much on advertised jobs, whereas employers usually first try other ways of finding a new employee before they advertise.
For the employer, the recruitment process based on an advertised job is usually time-consuming and costly. If a suitable person is found inside the company, through a recommendation or within the employer's own network, the company can avoid the lengthy process of getting to know the applicants. That is why networking, sending open applications and direct contacts to employers are recommended.
Hidden jobs are easier to find if you put in the effort to do background work. According to the career triangle, you should first determine where you want to work and what you want to do. Then you should map any potential employers and contact or monitor them. You can try to predict future recruitment needs by looking for information on any new appointments in industry magazines – organisations that have lost their expert may be needing someone new.
Tips for finding hidden jobs:
Mapping and expanding your networks
- friends and friends of friends
- previous employers
- acquaintances from current and previous training
- visiting trade fairs and events, and meeting potential employers in your field
- looking for discussions and contacts on social media
Looking for recruitment needs, such as:
- Magazines like Taloussanomat and Kauppalehti
- Talouselämä magazine (50 growth companies)
- company websites and blogs
- newly-founded business premises, public institutions and projects
Entering your information into CV databases
- on company recruitment pages
- on recruitment company pages
Doctoral studies are generally considered to provide a good background for tasks in research, development and innovation. Employers are often interested in a command of research methods and especially experience in applying them in practice when it comes to applicants who are doctors. However, it is very common for recruiters to emphasise the whole – versatile expertise, interaction skills and experience from outside the world of universities are in demand.
Companies may view doctoral studies as an added bonus to a Master's degree, or an "academic licence". On the other hand, sometimes those with the highest degree are considered over-qualified, which is not considered useful outside of the academic world of research. There are employers who may even consider a degree to be a hindrance – the basic premise of doctoral studies is to train people for academic research.
Itemising your skills
You can prepare for these attitudes by presenting the general skills that doctoral training provides you with, such as professional data collection, understanding the benefits and restrictions of theories and hypotheses and their fact-based testing, as well as a command of critical, systematic thought.
A practical example of this could be a clearly reasoned ability to divide complex research questions into smaller, correctly defined problems, that are used to hone in on the ultimate solution piece by piece. Employers may be interested to hear more about a concrete skill like this.
For doctors who want a career outside universities, the most relevant thing is to identify the strengths they have gained from their doctoral training compared to a Master's degree, and learn how to communicate them in an understandable manner that suits the position they are applying for. Job-seeking skills are significant, but unfortunately they are rarely taught at universities as such. You must be able to communicate your own expertise when you are looking for a job, otherwise it is very difficult to appeal to employers.
Employers want the whole package
Education alone is rarely the deciding criterion. When asked about recruitment, employers often say they are looking for the whole package, which includes work experience and personal characteristics in addition to education. One-sided expertise is always a risk, especially for companies, even if the expertise is profound.
Companies – especially SMEs, where tasks are often more comprehensive than in larger companies due to a smaller number of employees – need an understanding of business and clients developed through varied experiences as well as an ability to apply data in practice, in addition to research and method skills.
Contacts with the corporate world gained during studies are ideal and will ease your transition into working life outside the university, but reality is not always as straightforward as this. That is why doctoral students should also map their opportunities to participate in events organised by the university, where they may meet employees of companies. These could include mentoring programmes or courses and workshops intended for building contacts into the corporate world.
According to the latest statistics, a little more than one-third of all doctors works in universities, roughly 20% work in the private sector and roughly the same number are employed by local authorities. Research institutes employ approximately eight per cent of doctors. Others end up as entrepreneurs or work for the government.
Employment is currently primarily growing in the small and medium-sized enterprise sector (Taloustutkimus 2017). The number of doctors working in business is on the increase; according to Vipunen, the share of doctors working for private companies rose by 26% between 2010 and 2014. Academic entrepreneurship is also on the rise (the Federation of Finnish Enterprises, 2016), but on the other hand, it looks like every time recruitment in the private sector decreases, academic entrepreneurship increases.
Employment of doctors in various sectors by field of study 2014:
Current information on the job market can be found from the following sources, among others:
- Statistics Finland (stat.fi), e.g.
- The Labour force survey and other statistics under the topic "Labour Market"
- Employment (under "Population")
- Transition from school to further education and work (under "Education")
- Statistics published by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment
- Akava.fi -> Työelämä (Working in Finland) -> Akavalaiset työelämässä (highly educated people in working life)
- Töissä.fi – graduates from higher education in working life
- Employment surveys from institutions of higher education, e.g. data on graduate employment by the career services team at the University of Turku
Help with career planning
You should find out what the career services at your own university can offer you. The University of Turku, for example, offers the following services:
- The eight steps of career planning
- What can I do? – Map your skills
- Career stories from alumni
- The career planning section at Aarresaari
- Töissä.fi (information about the working life of graduates from the universities and the universities of applied sciences throughout Finland)
- The Urapolulla (on the career path) tool (best suited to younger people with little work experience)
Links for job-seeking
- (here, too, you should check which career services your own university offers)
- Job-seeking links at Aarresaari
- Ammattinetti - information on professions and fields (In Finnish and Swedish)
- Rakennerahastotietopalvelu (the information service of Structural Funds) – all ongoing and upcoming projects with EU funding
Each university has its own career services team of varying sizes. Their task is to further the employment opportunities of students. Career services typically organise events and opportunities that increase knowledge of working life in various fields and employment opportunities for students throughout the year. All operations are usually open to all graduate level students, but there may be separate services for doctoral students, e.g. career planning courses.
Career services can often also offer the services of career guidance experts who doctoral students can have meetings with or whom thesis supervisors may contact in relation to career guidance.