HDR Career Conversations

Supporting research student career development and employability at UOW

February 8, 2018
by saryan

Join the HDR Career Conversation

This is your space to share information, comment and ask questions, discuss and exchange experience related to career development or employability.  It’s a space focussed on HDR careers for the University of Wollongong (UOW) HDR community: HDR students and alumni, academic and professional staff, employers and the Careers Central team.  Blog topics will include alumni career experience, the HDR graduate market, key messages from HDR career related events and anything else career-related of interest to HDR students – all with the aim of supporting HDR students with their career development and employability.

What themes would you like to see covered on the blog?

Would you like to contribute?

Comment below or email directly careers@uow.edu.au  

Your careers team

Graduate Career Development and Employability, University of Wollongong

This blog is provided by Graduate Career Development and Employability at the University of Wollongong, Australia. Regardless of your institution, we welcome all interested HDR (higher degree research) students and graduates, university staff, employers and alumni to subscribe, read and engage in our HDR career conversations.  However, some of the services, events and resources included in blog posts may be restricted to the UOW community.

August 3, 2020
by whitneys

Research Consultancy – the why and how…

Intro: Tim Cahill is a UOW PhD graduate with a wealth of experience in consulting in the public, private, non-profit and higher education sectors.  For those of you who were around then, he was a keynote speaker at the Careers Central/ Graduate Research School ‘PhD Career Futures’ conference in 2014.  As part of his work for ‘Research Strategies Australia’, he has developed a number of short videos highlighting the opportunities for researchers in consultancy.  Thank you to Tim for giving us permission to share this video on the HDR Career Conversations blog.  In such an uncertain time in the job market, Tim argues you should think about consultancy as a career option, either full time or as a side hustle – here’s why…

Subscribe to Tim’s YouTube Channel: ‘Research Strategies Australia’ for more videos. 

Tim Cahill

Dr Tim Cahill is a UOW PhD graduate with 15 years experience working with stakeholders in Australia’s Research & Development sectors to maximise the benefits of publicly funded research.

He has held executive roles in the public, private, non-profit and higher education sectors, including as: Director of R&D Advisory practice for KPMG Australia; Director of Australia’s national university research evaluation, Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA); Chief Data Scientist at The Conversation Media Group; and Director and founder of Research Strategies Australia.

His thought leadership has appeared in the AFR, The Australian and The Conversation, and his work has significantly contributed to the shape of Australia’s higher education research policy, including research evaluation and industry-university engagement.

He is an international expert in research evaluation, higher education policy, scientometrics, research commercialisation and research collaboration across sectors.

Connect with Tim via LinkedIn and listen to his Podcast: ‘Research Strategies Australia’

August 3, 2020
by whitneys

Missing the Monkey: The Post-PhD Blues

Intro: I have known Dr. Conor West, as a HDR student, a project collaborator and now we are lucky to have her as a UOW colleague at Learning, Teaching and Curriculum.  I love this honest account of her experience and feelings when finishing her PhD and working out what to do next. I think most readers will relate in some way…

Like many of us, the doctoral-shaped monkey on my back seemed to gain weight as the years of my PhD passed by. By the end, it was only my innate stubbornness and fear of disappointing others that kept us together.

I spent much of those four years riding waves of passionate curiosity and troughs of seething disappointment. Not that it mattered, as regardless of how I was feeling, my monkey always required something from me. Time away from it filled me with guilt. I convinced myself that a break could wait until the tables had been re-formatted, a new article annotated, or the next page of feedback was applied. Life happened in the space it left; I always gave my monkey the attention it screamed for. Until, unceremoniously, my monkey was gone.

Photo by MESSALA CIULLA from Pexels (license)

It was an ordinary Tuesday, working alone from home when I realised the monkey had run out of tasks to throw at me. I had suddenly found myself looking at a submit button, with my full dissertation attached to the box above it. I clicked submit almost as a reflex, akin to accepting terms and conditions. I messaged family and friends and posted about my almost-completion. In silence, I got up to wash the dishes and heard the ping of an automatic email from HDR administration with their congratulations and estimates for examiner feedback. It was all very underwhelming, as I knew my monkey would be back.  Continue Reading →

November 7, 2019
by whitneys

Leave your comfort zone & expand your horizons: Create an internship through the APR program

Introduction:  The Australian Postgraduate Research (APR) Internship program offers HDR students the opportunity to carry out a 3-5 month research internship with industry.  Advertised internships at the APR internship website tend to fall into STEM research categories.  However, the scheme is open to HDR students of all disciplines.  So how can research students from other disciplines take advantage of this great opportunity?  Here Amy Montgomery, a PhD student in Nursing, shares her (sometimes scary) experience of initiating an industry partnership and creating her own internship under the program – Well done Amy!

I started my PhD with ideas bigger than Ben Hur. I wanted to research and change everything in the world of Delirium Care. I think most PhD candidates can relate to me here. So, as all PhD journeys start, I spent time fine-tuning and condensing my idea.


Once my idea was developed, I tested it on a ward in a public hospital. The same public hospital I have work for my entire nursing career. The intervention worked and the results were positive!

THE END…well not quite. Continue Reading →

September 2, 2019
by whitneys

Solving real-life problems and learning from industry – UOW STEM Hackathon

Guest Post by Terence Vu

Introduction: Careers Central recently co-ordinated the inaugural UOW STEM Hackathon as part of the UOW STEM Careers Expo in early August.  Here Terence Vu, a PhD researcher in the Faculty of Engineering & Information Sciences, reflects on his participation, what he learned and how he developed his skills. 

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels (license)

The STEM Career Expo has been traditionally received by researchers like myself with much enthusiasm – a once-a-year event for students to meet up with representatives from various organizations from a wide range of industries and sectors. To know more about the companies and what to expect from the job –directly from the staff– is a rare opportunity. For the first time this year, I found another career learning opportunity to be excited about: the UOW STEM Hackathon.

Teams of UOW students came to UOW STEM Hackathon for a chance to solve real-life business problems. Continue Reading →

August 22, 2019
by whitneys

Combining the job search, your PhD and a move overseas!

Guest Post by Dr. Jo Khoo

Introduction:  A question that can haunt many PhD students from the beginning of their candidature is, “what will I do after I’ve finished?”  Jo Khoo recently completed her PhD at the University of Wollongong, researching the private health insurance system in Australia and its role in supporting patients with chronic and complex needs.  All job searches can be daunting, but Jo’s had the added complexity that she was moving overseas!  Here, she shares her experience of planning her post-PhD career path and how she secured her current position as a Senior Analyst in Clinical Informatics at Clarify Health Solutions, a health data analytics company based in San Francisco.

For many people, the post-PhD job search can be almost as daunting as the process of thesis completion itself! It is intensely personal, as research has become part of the candidate’s identity, and as a result, the process can be really isolating, particularly if you are going into less familiar territory and looking for a job outside of academia (which is the reality for most PhD candidates).

Continue Reading →

May 22, 2019
by whitneys

Are you career ready?

Introduction:  UOW Higher Degree Researcher Amy Boyle first wrote on this topic as part of her online reflections for the zero credit point subject Career Ready Learning for Higher Degree Researchers CRLH900.  Her proactive and organised approach and examples of career development activities were too good not to share more widely, so I asked her to rewrite her experience as a piece for the blog.  Though we can’t all be so naturally organised, I am really impressed with the incremental approach Amy is taking to her career development activities and her ability to find opportunities as she progresses.  

Coming into a PhD, I think a lot of people are so focused on their research that they forgot to think about what comes after. Having a PhD doesn’t necessarily get you a job in your field, but with a little bit of planning you can increase the likelihood. Your supervisor’s main focus is your thesis work and they may not have the capacity to help with your career. Consequently, I participated in the HDR Careers workshops last year as part of the optional careers subject CRLH900: Career Ready Learning for Higher Degree Researchers. I was in the first year of my PhD and the learning acquired through these workshops was incredibly useful to rewire my thinking into approaching my PhD as an apprenticeship, rather than just another stage of study.

My participation in these workshops encouraged me to take initiative for my career development, develop long-term strategies and be cognizant of the changing workforce, specifically: Continue Reading →

April 11, 2019
by saryan

From PhD to Public Service: What can I expect?

Guest Post by Dr. Josip Matesic

Introduction: Following on from a recent post focusing on the public service recruitment process, Dr. Josip Matesic gives us an insight into what you can expect as a new PhD graduate in the public service and how to prepare for that.  

I have been working in the public service at the Department of Social Services for a little over two years now and enjoying it so I wanted to write today a bit about the differences you  can expect moving from working on a PhD or Masters to the public service. Now while everyone’s experience is different, I want to touch on some of the differences you may experience, and in particular the differences that I did not expect. Continue Reading →

April 10, 2019
by saryan

From PhD to Public Service: The Recruitment Process

Guest post by Dr. Katia Alferova

Introduction: Research on the career outcomes of research graduates show approximately 6% are working in the government sector after graduation*.  Public service recruiters recognise the added value that a Higher Degree Research graduate can bring and actively welcome applications.  Dr. Katia Alferova applied successfully for a government department role in 2018 – here she shares her experience of the recruitment process. 

Considering various opportunities to apply my skills and knowledge in practice, I was determined to find a job that would allow me to use my analytical capabilities and research experience while performing day-to-day professional duties.  This opportunity arrived with a position of a policy officer in the area directly connected to my research domain and the responsibility to provide advice to the government and inform its decision-making process. I would like to share my experience with those researchers and PhD graduates who are interested in careers with government agencies, with a focus on the recruitment process. Continue Reading →

February 20, 2019
by saryan

Confessions of an Early Career Researcher: lesson one – “showing up”

Guest post by Dr Rachel Loney-Howes, Lecturer, Criminology, School of Health and Society, University of Wollongong

16:03” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by marksdk

Introduction: In recent years, career development researchers have focused on the role of chance and luck in career development.  They’ve found that, although on reflection we have a tendency to ‘reframe’ our career success in terms of luck, there are certain behaviours and attitudes that contribute to taking advantage of ‘chance’ events.  Dr Rachel Loney-Howes a Lecturer from the School of  Health and Society here at UOW was ‘lucky’ enough to start an ongoing academic position 6 months after her PhD (yes – 6 months!) In this blog post, she talks about one of the behaviours that helped make that happen.

I still can’t believe my luck. Six months after graduating from my PhD from La Trobe University in Melbourne, I was offered an ongoing position here at the University of Wollongong as lecturer in Criminology in the School of Health and Society. Six months. I was under the impression that I would be casually or contractually employed for at least three – maybe even five years – before I would be gainfully employed, as so many of my friends and colleagues were and currently are. At an HDR Panel for post-graduate research students in the School of Health and Society, which ran in October 2018, I was asked to speak about how I got so lucky. What was it about my experience as a post-graduate research student that made me a competitive candidate for my current role? And what pearls of wisdom could I share with emerging ECRs that might help them as they enter the academic job market. In this blogpost, I discuss some elements of that “luck” I encountered during my candidature as a PhD student – most of which came about because I literally “showed up.”[1];[2]  Continue Reading →

January 9, 2019
by saryan

You are getting a PhD, so what’s next?

rnolReflections from School of Health and Society Research Student Careers Event 

Introduction: As HDR Careers Counsellor I recently contributed to a career development event at the School of Health and Society (HAS) which included a panel discussion followed by some interactive career exercises. You guessed it – we asked for a volunteer to write a blog piece. Faysal Kabir Shuvo, a PhD researcher in HAS volunteered to share his learning from this event co-ordinated by the Head of Postgraduate Studies, Associate Professor Xiaoqi Feng.


Dr. Iain Butterworth (far right) sharing his career story, pictured alongside Dr. Rachel Loney-Howes and some of the HAS research student audience.

The objective of this workshop was mainly to guide post-PhD career planning. The workshop was an excellent mix of professionals sharing their career journeys. Dr Iain Butterworth is the Head of professional services in the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute. Dr Rachel Loney-Howes, has recently been recruited as Lecturer in the School of Health and Society. And finally, we had Ms Sarah Ryan, our on-campus resource for all matters HDR careers. The workshop was nicely moderated by Associate Professor Xiaoqi Feng, Head of Postgraduate Studies, School of Health and Society. Motivated by my participation in the Careers Central Career Ready Learning for Higher Degree Research (CRLH900) subject, I have started to explore a range of post-PhD career options. Therefore, personally, I was intrigued Continue Reading →

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