Last year Laura O’Brien won the chance to attend the Life Beyond the PhD conference, below is her account of the conference and why you should enter the competition this year.

Life Beyond the PhD Conference 2016

During the last week of August I was very fortunate to be able to attend the ‘Life Beyond the PhD Conference’ at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park.  This conference lasted from Tuesday to Friday and consisted of a variety of workshops, exercises and lectures which were both useful and enjoyable.

As a final year PhD student I have been spending a good deal of time considering my career options once my study is completed.  As a distance learner it is difficult to access the university’s careers centre from so far away and therefore when the opportunity arose to attend a conference focussing entirely on this topic I was very eager to attend.

I found the conference to be useful in different ways. The first positive I encountered at the conference was meeting other PhD students from different universities pursuing different areas of study.  It was very interesting to meet and discuss PhD work from fields of study vastly different to my own.  This gave a whole new dimension to my understanding of the advantages and benefits of completing a PhD and how these can span across the spectrum of subjects.  It was nice to share experiences and ideas with other students particularly for me as a distance learner.

During the conference I had the opportunity to take part in workshops designed to improve my understanding surrounding applications for academic jobs.  One workshop focused entirely on CV’s.  This morning session really helped me to understand the differences expected between CV’s for academic teaching posts and research posts.  By preparing our own CV’s in advance and swapping with others in a group, I was able to examine and discuss ways in which to enhance my CV to ensure it is as effective as possible, individual for each job specification.  I found this session to be very informative and useful for future job applications.

In addition to workshops there was also a group of lecturers who visited the conference to discuss their careers inside and outside of academia.  These lectures were very interesting as they provided a really insightful look into daily working life in different fields.  I had begun the think solely about a career in academia after my PhD however by listening to different speakers from a wide range of backgrounds, I feel that I will spend more time researching work outside of academia as I now understand that a PhD carries many skills which can be used in a variety of working contexts.

I would recommend attending this conference for any PhD student who is approaching the end of their studies.  It is suitable for students studying in any discipline as the guidance given is universal.  The conference provided me with a clearer appreciation of the different career paths available and the opportunity to debate these options with other PhD students.  I have very pleased and grateful to Exeter University that I was able to attend the conference this summer.

Written by: Laura O’Brien- PhD Education

To be in with a chance of winning one of two places for this year’s Life Beyond the PhD conference, please tell us in 300 words or less how attendance to the ‘Life Beyond the PhD’ conference would contribute to your professional development-