On October 18 and 19, 2018, I had the honour of attending the “Journées de la relève en recherché” in the University of Sherbrooke, thanks to an ÉTS scholarship. The event was organized by ACFAS, a non-profit organization contributing to the advancement of science in Quebec and the Canadian Francophonie. ACFAS’s mission is to promote research and innovation as well as the scientific culture in the French-speaking world, by contributing to the dissemination and promotion of knowledge and the scientific approach, with an emphasis on improving the quality of life in our society.
These two days, entirely devoted to promoting skills needed to be acquired at the Ph.D. level, gave me a unique opportunity to review my strategies and actions in order to be more prepared for my future career.
Take the bull by the horns
During the event, I came to understand the main causes that weaken the efforts of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in developing their skills and positioning themselves in the job market. In general, during their studies, researchers are so involved in their thesis that they miss golden opportunities, even when they are right in front of them. In other words, success is built on a set of factors that are not always directly related to our field of research but can ultimately lead to tangible and valuable results.
Marcelline Bangali, a professor at Laval University, has informed us that her research team have conducted almost 100 interviews since the fall of 2017 with Ph.D. graduates and employers who either hired or did not hire these top-level academics. Preliminary results indeed confirm the prejudgment against graduated Ph.D. students by employers. Firstly, being perceived as overqualified for working in the industry, and secondly, they would probably leave the proposed job after a short time. However, it should be also mentioned that it was not true in all cases.
Actions that can have numerous advantages
Here are some practical actions that both Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows can implement to successfully facilitate the transition from university to the workplace:
- Analyze the link between your research topic with industry and employers in that field to learn about its possible potential in the job market.
- Focus on your research topic while devoting a good portion of your time to various personal development activities, whether related to the research profile or not (conferences, symposiums, seminars, student clubs, etc.).
- Volunteer your time (student associations, community centres, etc.) to learn new skills required in your future career.
- Participate in various competitions (ACFAS’ My thesis in 180 seconds, etc.).
- Search companies in your field and suggest solutions to improve their products or procedures. Explain to employers that they can also benefit from university-industry collaboration grants.
These types of events are well designed and targeted to guide graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in taking charge of their professional careers, demonstrating the added value of their profile and facilitating their entry into the job market. Although an academic career looks more appealing (professor or other), you should know that about 80% of graduates must shift to the industry because of the limited number of positions in higher education institutions. As more and more universities offer graduate-level job-readiness programs, this is also an avenue that should not be overlooked.
Fadoul Souleyman Tidjani
Fadoul Souleyman Tidjani, is a postdoctoral fellow at the École de Technologie Supérieure (GREPCI laboratory). He specializes in artificial intelligence for smart grid and power quality application.
Program : Electrical Engineering
Research laboratories : GREPCI – Power Electronics and Industrial Control Research Group