What Do You Want?

Before you get started, you need to make sure your career ladder is leaning against the right wall. Have you stopped to consider what you really want? And whether there are any limitations on what you can realistically pursue?

There are three key factors you need to address:

  • Yourself: what you want from life, as well as your capabilities, attributes, expertise, and potential
  • Careers: what types of jobs and roles are available to you
  • The Wider Picture: how the economy, political, social and technological climate impact on career opportunities

adapted from The Career-Wise Researcher (Vitae)

Career satisfaction lies at the intersection of your interest, skills, and opportunities.


This Career Priorities questionnaire from Vitae will help you think in more detail about what you need from a job. It’s an interactive PDF, so you just need to download and complete it on screen (or you can print it off).

And the Profiling for Success website offers a number of tests you can take to find out more about your personality type. (Sussex researchers can find login details on the main Careers website)

There are a number of broad paths you can take with a PhD:

  • Academic
  • Employee beyond academia
  • Consultant
  • Freelancer
  • Entrepreneur

Take a look at this Widening Horizons chart to get an idea of the sectors you could try, both within and beyond your current research area. You can also download a template to experiment with your own ideas.

Nearby Still close A little further Away from research Anything goes
Legal or patents Any graduate-level job

·  Accounting

· Law

· Marketing

· Production

· Admin

Government lab Teaching in schools / colleges HR/Personnel
Research Fellow Museum/gallery Scientific/public policy advisor Private sector
Technical support Research institute Government desk researcher Not-for-profit sector
Research staff – new contract Lecturer Research Council, charity, private company Publishing Self-employment
Administrator Small or medium enterprise, research & development Research Councils Small or medium enterprise
Entrepreneur Consultancy firm or independent consultant Clinical advisor Large organisation
Your own spin-off business Pharmaceuticals Service sector
Production manager Manufacturing
Technical sales / marketing Government
Consultancy Start your own business
Narrow horizon – known and safe but secure A little wider – but still university based Still research but transferring research skills into another setting Using knowledge and understanding, but not research Using transferable skills rather than specific knowledge

Next Steps

Follow these links to find out more about the different paths:

You might want to attend the workshop Where are my strengths? Identifying values and talents to make satisfying career choicesCheck the events listings to find out when it’s next running.