Support for Research Students

You've embarked on a new stage of your studies. However, we recognise that it may not always be clear where this will take you in the future.

We’re here to help you on your journey, providing both 1:2:1 support and a range of resources. We also collaborate with Aston’s Graduate School and you'll find further information in the Careers and Employability section of the Researcher Development module on Blackboard. Career management workshops are also run as part of the Graduate School Training Programme.

Steps to aid your career development

Aligned to DOTS model of career planning, we’ve identified four main areas of activity that you may find helpful to explore. These aren’t time-bound, so you can dip into different sections at different times, and even re-visit some as your situation changes or your career ideas develop. We also appreciate that while some research students may have come directly from previous study, others may have accrued experience outside of their studies, for example working in industry. Consequently, you may feel that some sections have more relevance to you than others.

You can find Careers Planning for Research Students support sheets within the Careers and Employability section of the Researcher Development module on Blackboard, which complement these stages:

  • Self – Developing an understanding of yourself and your professional identity, including starting to develop your network. This focuses on you developing self-understanding of what you can offer, what motivates you, your skills and more, using a range of tools.
  • Opportunities – Understanding the labour market and career options as they relate to you. Includes investigating post-PhD careers, building internal and external networks, and using research student training opportunities.
  • Decisions – Helping you to weight and prioritise your choices.
  • Transitions - Telling your story and making strong applications, focusing on the application process. CV and LinkedIn profile development to optimise your networking, preparing for interviews and assessment centres, explaining your research, reviewing job performance in applications and using mentoring support.

We’ve identified some resources below to support each of the sections. However, the list is by no means comprehensive – it's just there to get you started.


Choosing a career can be daunting. Follow the processes we’ve suggested to break things down into manageable sections. You might also find it helpful to view this short video from Tal Ben-Shahar, focusing on career planning for research students, centring on setting meaningful goals and finding meaning.

The Vitae has a great section on understanding yourself and the National Postdoctoral Association in the US has very helpful Career Planning Resources, presenting a range of tools to help you develop a better understanding of what matters to you, in your career.

Five challenges faced by PhD students - By undertaking Doctoral research, you'll likely come across many obstacles along the way - so prepare for life as a PhD student by discovering how to overcome these five potential problems, which will provide you with coping mechanisms invaluable in your future career.

Networking is a crucial skill to develop throughout your PhD and beyond. This article from TARGETjobs on networking tips for graduate job hunters may prove helpful.


The Vitae website also offers some excellent material to complement our career planning resources. Check out:

Life as a researcher – a real-life insight into the day-to-day experiences of a PhD student and their career considerations.

Your PhD – what next? – this article from the Prospects website helps you to discover what PhD jobs are out there and how to find a suitable career.

Networking is a crucial skill to develop throughout your PhD and beyond. This article from TARGETjobs on networking tips for graduate job hunters may prove helpful.

The internet is a Pandora’s box of opportunities. If you’re looking for advertised opportunities, the following websites are just the tip of the iceberg and, of course, we would also encourage you to look regularly at the opportunities on Aston Futures and also to look at our Advice by Career and Subject Area for links for specific industries:


Check out these decision-making resources:


If you’re going to impress employers, it’s imperative not only that you know yourself, but that you can articulate this knowledge to prospective employers, identifying why you’re suited to their opportunity.

Postgraduate mentoring - the Postgraduate Mentoring Scheme supports the integration and student experience of newly arriving postgraduate students by matching them with more experienced postgraduate students who act as peer mentors.

CVs, Applications and Interviews - you need the right tools to make a strong first impression. We’ve got all the information and support you need to create a tailored approach.

Example of an academic CV for PhD researchers – from the Prospects website, this is complemented by this article on creating an effective CV as a researcher, from Vitae.

Of course, if you’re going to impress an employer, it can help if you already have already started planning to succeed in your career.

The immigration toolkit for international PhD students – a useful e-book resource from the team at, for PhD students from outside the European Union who want to stay in the UK to look for work, start work or set up in business. 

Take a look at these blogs from PhD graduates, focused on explaining your research and its relevance to an employer.

Book an appointment with a Careers Consultant

Once you’ve started to look at the resources, you may find it helpful to discuss them with a Careers Consultant and reflect on how they may be tailored to your personal career circumstances. You can book a meeting of up to one hour at any time – up to 3 years after completion of your studies, in fact! Meetings can be used to help you explore options after your research studies, identify potential employers and opportunities, develop your application skills, and prepare for interviews and assessment centres.

To book, email: Jim Reali