Postgraduate students


Develop a skills portfolio

  • Identify your skills
  • Research skills
  • Transferable skills
  • Project management and organisation
  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal and leadership skills
  • Self-management and personal development

As you advance through your postgraduate studies you will be developing and adding to your skill set probably without much conscious acknowledgement of the process.

These skills will include research related skills that can be specifically applied to research projects in your related field of study. You will also be developing transferable skills, which can be applied in a wide variety of work areas. Throughout your research it is a good idea to keep a record of the skills you are developing, along with specific examples to illustrate or demonstrate these skills.

Why bother?

Outside academia employers think in terms of skills and achievements rather than educational qualifications. The public and private sectors in NZ, Australia, the UK and most European countries will expect you to be able to articulate your skills both in a CV and in a behavioural/competency style job interview. In this type of interview skills are grouped and questions are designed to elicit these skills. Answers require relevant examples.

For academic positions, even though your academic research, publication record and teaching experience are your main selling points, being able to articulate your skills will add strength to your application and is, of course, essential in an interview. In addition to helping to prepare for employment, when students/graduates have a good understanding of their skills and can write and speak articulately about them, it vastly increases their self-confidence and motivation.

Identify your skills

Consider the postgraduate skills checklist below. This has been summarised and adapted from a number of postgraduate career-related resources.

Please note that the skills suggested are really just to get the ball rolling. Feel free to add any you are able to come up with. For example, innovation and creativity weren’t mentioned above but are a big part of research. Also note that none of these are any good without concrete examples. Everyone says they have good time management and attention to detail but you must be able to demonstrate it.

Finally- recent studies in Australia, the UK and NZ have shown that what non-academic employers say they are looking for are candidates with good communication skills, a flexible attitude, project management ability and leadership experience/potential. If you are interested in a particular area of work but are not developing the necessary skills through your study alone, you may have to look at extra-curricular activities - sports teams, voluntary work etc.

Never underestimate the importance of working on and demonstrating your communication skills. It is always number one with non-academic employers and while academic employers require a strong research and/or teaching track record, all say they also look for "fit"- i.e. someone who will be collegial and get on well in the department.

For assistance with identifying skills and developing a skills portfolio please contact a Career Development Consultant.

Postgraduate students can also attend IT literacy training workshops through CLEAR.

Postgraduate CVs and cover letters

The CV is crucial to marketing your skills, experience, qualifications, extracurricular activities and interests to prospective employers in a condensed and easy to read format. Never underestimate the value of a good CV in finding a job that is right for you.

The academic CV format is very different to a CV you would use for a non-academic position. If you are in doubt, it is best to have both an academic and non-academic CV.

Use the academic CV for tutoring, lecturing, and university research positions, and for scholarship applications.

Use the non-academic CV for any industry or government positions.

There are five example CVs on this page, but please remember that your CV has to be adjusted and edited before you send it to anyone. Different employers and different jobs require different skills and abilities from you, so your CV therefore needs to be targeted to the job you are applying for.

Use these CVs as examples only. If you need help identifying your skills and writing your CV, contact Career Development and Employment Services.

CV and cover letter examples

Further resources

Prospects, a UK site, has useful career information relevant for postgraduates including example CVs – a skills based, a traditional and an academic CV.

Vitae's mission is to lead world class career and professional development of researchers. This UK website has sections such as networkingdeveloping your careermarketing yourself and effective CVs.

Social media for academics

Increasingly academics are using social media to collaborate, network, raise their profile and job search. Ask in your department what sites other postgraduates and academics use.  Examples of possible sites include:

  • ResearchGATE – network dedicated to science and research
  • Mendeley – free reference manager and academic social network
  • Academia.edu – share research, monitor impact of research, track research of other academics
  • Postgraduate Forum – brings together students, postdocs, lecturers to discuss issues relating to postgraduate study
  • Ning – platform where you build and cultivate your own community
  • PhD Forum  – a  UK Twitter group to share success and support with others

Further information on the use of social media by postgraduates