How could the Careers and Placements service help me ? Part 2: Individual Careers Advice

In part 1 of this blog, I explained how Careers and Placements could support research students with their career planning through information about career options, events and fairs and work experience opportunities.  This time I will explain more about the individual support available, and when and why you might find it helpful.

Research shows that doctoral students frequently cite their supervisor as their key source of careers advice, and report that they are typically strongly encouraging of academic research careers but that they are sometimes less able to help students who wish to consider alternative careers (Roach & Sauermann, 2012; Souter, 2005).  This is not surprising – I would expect that students considering an academic career would find support from their supervisor and their research community, but that careers outside academia would be less familiar to many. What does surprise me is that only 36% of York students who completed the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) in 2019 stated that they had received advice on their career options.  

With a challenging labour market it’s always a good idea to explore your options early and have back-up plans. You might need to prepare for a career that includes time in academia as well as  other sectors, or a portfolio career in which you undertake more than one form of part-time employment at once.  Careers consultants have good labour market knowledge so we are ideally placed to help you plan your next steps, particularly if you are exploring options outside academia.  Here are some things you might not know about us:

  • The information and advice we offer is impartial and confidential – we will not try to persuade you in a particular career direction or talk to anyone else about you without your permission.
  • We hold professional postgraduate qualifications in career guidance, and specialise in offering careers information, advice, guidance and coaching; we have knowledge of the graduate labour market and regular contact with employers; we are skilled at supporting students through applications, interviews and other recruitment processes.

It’s a common myth that you need to have a career plan before you can book an appointment, but that’s not true. Helping you to generate ideas and formulate a plan is one of the key things we can support you with, but it’s helpful if you can do some thinking first. For example – reflecting on your skills and strengths, what motivates you, what demotivates you, what interests you, what’s important to you in your career and how work fits into your lifestyle. Our careers web pages will help you to get started.

 You can book an appointment at any stage in your PhD – there is no right or wrong time. Some researchers come in the very early stages because they want to ensure that they are making the most of opportunities to develop their skills and experience alongside their research. Others come at later stages of their research, depending on when they want to focus on their career plans. At any stage you might need help in figuring out how to promote your skills and experiences to an employer, need advice or feedback on applications, or support with interview preparation. You might be trying to decide between different options or need some help in developing a career plan.

You need to be aware that there are a few things a careers consultant can’t do. 

  • We can’t tell you which career is right for you, or tell you what choices to make, but  we can help you to make those decisions. 
  • We don’t know everything about every possible career option, but we can help you to find the information you need.
  • We offer feedback on CVs and applications but we don’t write/rewrite them for you
  • We can’t offer specific UK visa/immigration advice but there is information on our website

So if you’re feeling worried or stressed about career issues, or just feel its time to start planning, don’t put it off, come and talk to us. In response to a questionnaire about their experiences of careers support at York, many PGR students stated that individual careers advice  and support with applications and interviews had been valuable, with some reporting that it had boosted their confidence and eased anxiety (Simpson J, 2019). 

I offer 30min careers advice appointments specifically for research students, but you can also access other types of appointments – find out more here. They run all year round, including vacation periods, and at present are all being offered online. Remember that access to career support continues after you graduate.


Roach M & Sauermann H, 2012, Science PhD Career Preferences: Levels, Changes, and Advisor Encouragement, PLoS ONE 7(5):e36307

Simpson J, 2018, Summary of Research in to Postgraduate Students’ Satisfaction with Employability Provision at the University of York, unpublished

Souter C, 2005, EMPRESS: Employers’ Perceptions of Recruiting Research Staff and Students, RCUK

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