When I received a fully-funded scholarship to do the PhD in the UK, the decision to move to Sheffield did not take long for me to make. The salary was enticing, and with it the promise from my sponsor of supporting the research and all of its expenses. I spent the first year of my PhD care-free when it came to money, the only difficulties encountered were the usual ones that come with studying at this level.
However, in my second year things changed. Due to the financial difficulties of my sponsor, my scholarship was drastically cut, privileges and perks were taken away, and I was no longer compensated for expenses, many of which I had already committed to and now had to pay for myself. So I decided to start looking for a part-time job. I was already involved in several paid opportunities, such as lab demonstrating, or participating in outreach events. But the reason why I was doing those things was not for money, but to enhance my skills and add new things to my CV. Plus, they weren’t that regular or enough to support me financially.
I applied for a few part-time jobs that seemed to fit my area of study. When I did not receive an email back, I applied for some more (after I realised how to write better applications!) Then, after reaching the interview stage a few times and still being unsuccessful, I learned how to make a better impression in the next ones. The good thing about this whole experience is that it gave me a preview of what life after a PhD will be like. It has given me the chance to understand how employers really view my postgrad qualifications, what kind of experience they are looking for, and where there are gaps in my CV.
In the end it was time well spent, and I ended up landing not one but two part-time job in the university. I’m still learning how to juggle the responsibilities between my PhD, part-time work, and personal life commitments. It’s not easy to work while studying, but I was fortunate to have a very flexible working hours. The university is a great student employer and understanding of study commitments.
Many postgrads envision their free time as something they have to forgo for the sole purpose of getting their degree. However, this attitude could mean you miss out on opportunities for professional self-development, some of which are in the form of part-time jobs. Getting work experience does not only make you showcase your skills and enrich your CV, it also helps to bridge the gap between studying for PhD and starting your dream-job.
Tareq Omairi, PhD student (Molecular Biology and Biotechnology)