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Showcasing your skills to employers

  • Demonstrate your skills
  • CV Ideas

Prosper has worked with postdocs and employer stakeholders to provide some concrete examples of how postdocs might more explicitly showcase their skills to employers.

Below are some suggestions of how you may have developed or demonstrated the skills employers have told us they are looking for, along with some ideas for how you might write about this on your CV. 

These are intended to inspire you to think about the many experiences you have that will be valuable to employers. They are by no means exhaustive, and there will be plenty of examples from your own research experience that you can use in addition to these.  

See developing a skills-based CV for more general advice and tips on developing a CV for roles beyond academia. 

“It’s quite normal to think ‘I don’t have any skills for that position, when you read the job description […] Please embrace opportunities: often employers will be nice and understanding, especially if you are passionate or motivated about the work and team. You have done a PhD and postdoc, so you are qualified as a hard-working individual. Don’t hold yourself back”

Dr Lan Hoang, former postdoc, Research Staff Member, IBM Research.

Adaptability/responding to change

When you might have developed this skill

  • When reconfiguring your work practices in response to COVID-19, e.g. by reprioritising outputs and utilising appropriate technology to progress research projects while working remotely. 
  • When responding to institutional reorganisation and departmental restructures, ensuring that project deadlines aren’t affected. 

How to write about it on your CV

Positive approach to change, adapting working practices to conduct case-study interviews via online video conferencing platforms after COVID-19 made planned face-to-face sessions unfeasible. 

“Knowing the fundamentals and being adaptable to apply it to other things, that’s what I’d be looking for if I was looking for somebody, not saying, ‘You have got fifteen years’ experience in this particular niche, thing or product that we’ve got.’ If you’ve done something similar on a different platform with a different technology, and you’re adaptable and you’re curious and you like to learn, it wouldn’t take you very long to move across and pick something up.”

Malcolm Lowe, Head of Information Services, Transport for Greater Manchester    

Analytical skills 

When you might have developed this skill

  • When analysing and interpreting quantitative and qualitative research data from laboratory experiments, field research, focus groups, questionnaires etc.
  • When peer-reviewing journal articles and other academic publications. 

How to write about it on your CV 

Expert analytical skills used to interpret data from a nationwide survey of more than 500 farmers and landowners after the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak, resulting in the creation of new livestock transportation guidelines.

“One skill that I learned in academia that I think is valuable anywhere is being able to tell a story with data […] In the job I do now, although I don’t do experiments, I don’t gather data in the way that I used to before, what I do is work with people to understand what their needs are. The information-gathering is kind of the same and we still use it to tell a story”.

Dr Meera Vijayaraghavan, Former postdoc, Senior Innovation Associate at the National Innovation Centre for Ageing 

Collaboration/team-working

When you might have developed this skill 

  • While working with local, national and international colleagues to co-ordinate academic conferences.
  • While collaborating with those outside of academia, such as industrial partners, enterprise initiatives or local authorities. 

How to write about it on your CV 

Strong team-working skills developed via frequent collaboration with industrial partners [include specifics], resulting in the commercial application of a new drug testing technique.

“I think a collaborative approach and open-mindedness to collaboration. Sometimes it might be that you’re going to have to work with colleagues or departments you’ve not ever worked with before. There might be new territory there. I think that ability to embrace change and new ways of doing things is really important.”  

Angelica Vanasse, Lead for Young People and Adults – Learning and Participation Team, National Museums Liverpool

Commercial skills 

When you might have developed this skill 

  • When negotiating costs for services or consumables that you use in your research project.
  • When developing budgets or negotiating contracts for research grants.

How to write about it on your CV

Commercial mindset, having lead on the contract negotiation for a multinational research grant worth [insert details].

“the first thing, for me, is that it’s vital for anyone I employ to have a commercial mindset. I need people who can understand the market application of what we are doing. I need someone who can identify opportunities and act on them in a timely way.”

Andy Chaloner, CEO, Stream BIO   

Communication (verbal)

When you might have developed this skill 

  • While giving conference presentations to disseminate the findings of your research. 
  • While teaching PhD students and undergraduates. 

How to write about it on your CV 

Confident public speaker with experience of communicating complex subjects to diverse audiences, as evidenced by 15 international conference presentations and speaking engagements in local schools to promote careers in STEM subjects.

Communication (written) 

When you might have developed this skill 

  • When writing funding applications and research project outlines. 
  • When writing articles for peer-reviewed academic journals and other scholarly publications. 

How to write about it on your CV 

Produced effective writing for a variety of audiences, including 12 peer-reviewed journal articles, 2 co-authored book chapters and regular blog posts for a broad audience that communicated research breakthroughs and increased public awareness of the project. 

“I think communication is very important; being able to build those relationships with the researchers and the clinicians so they want to share the information with you and you can work closely with them.”

Martin Bottomley, Regional Translation Lead, Cancer Research UK   

Leadership

When you might have developed this skill 

  • When recruiting and co-ordinating project volunteers and community partners to assist with your research. 
  • When supervising PhDs, masters students and those on summer placements, managing their workload and directing their day-to-day activities.

How to write about it on your CV 

Supervised a team of 12 volunteers from the local community, directing their activities in order to collect audio material for an oral history project, resulting in an online archive of more than 1000 publicly accessible recordings. 

“[A] key skill I learned in both my postdoc at Harvard and the University of Leicester was people management. In 2018, I was promoted to Head Curator at the museum, where I manage and oversee the work of a team of archivists and curators. As a postdoc I was able to gain my first experience as a line manager and supervisor.”

Dr Geoffrey Belknap, Former postdoc and Head Curator, National Science and Media Musuem

Negotiation and influencing 

When you might have developed this skill 

  • When representing the interests of your research team at departmental board meetings. 
  • When negotiating and agreeing terms of contracts (e.g. for provision of services or equipment) with external suppliers. 

How to write about it on your CV 

Effective negotiator able to advance organisational objectives, sourcing web-design services at a reduced cost in order to develop the online presence of my research team. 

“I think that people skills – like being able to persuade and influence – are highly sought-after.”

Andy Turner, Water Resources Manager, Environment Agency   

Problem solving/creativity 

When you might have developed this skill 

  • When responding to unanticipated results in your experiments. 
  • When trouble-shooting problems related to availability of personnel, equipment failure or sample transit. 

How to write about it on your CV 

Innovative problem-solver, responsible for co-ordinating the temporary relocation and storage of temperature-sensitive laboratory samples during an extended power disruption. 

“…the ability to define a problem, as well as the ability to research and formulate solutions, have been useful in all the jobs I have had post-academia. These skills have been applicable to automotive manufacturing, smart and sustainable cities, and in consulting where I work with a range of clients in different sectors.”

Dr David Amienyo, Former postdoc and Senior Sustainability Consultant at Sphera Solutions 

Project management  

When you might have developed this skill 

  • When prioritising your activities in order to keep research projects running to an agreed schedule and deliver agreed outputs. 
  • When co-ordinating conferences and other events; collecting registration fees and ensuring invoices for venue hire, catering etc. are paid on time. 

How to write about it on your CV 

Organised a postdoc career development conference, liaising with marketing staff, catering companies and sign-language interpreters and tracking expenditure to successfully deliver a three-day event for more than 75 attendees within budget

“As a researcher, you are a project manager. You’re managing a research project from an idea on a piece of paper, right through to a conclusion, a deliverable or a book or a patent or whatever it is depending on the field in which you work.” 

Dr Chris Humphrey, Former postdoc, Project Office Team Leader, Triodos Bank UK Ltd 

Relationship management 

When you might have developed this skill

  • When meeting with project funders and research bodies to discuss your project work. 
  • When collaborating with groups outside of academia to increase the impact and awareness of your research. 

How to write about it on your CV 

Maintained excellent relations with diverse stakeholders, working in partnership with museums in the north-west to improve community access to heritage materials, resulting in a 10% annual increase in visitor numbers. 

Time management 

When you might have developed this skill 

  • While juggling multiple activities to meet deadlines for research project deliverables. 
  • Conducting day-to-day work on your research project and simultaneously writing and revising journal publications. 

How to write about it on your CV 

Managed time effectively, meeting tight research project deadlines while simultaneously preparing and revising 3 peer-reviewed journal articles and 4 conference presentations. 

Training and developing others 

When you might have developed this skill

  • When demonstrating how to use laboratory equipment, specialist software, and information sources to other team members. 
  • When teaching undergraduates or supervising PhD students. 

How to write about it on your CV 

Confident instructor responsible for the inductions of new starters, ensuring that they complied with health and safety guidelines, sample handling procedures, and data-processing agreements.

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