Opening my eyes to a wide range of options outside of academia

Trainee Patent AdvisorTim Gilbert
Swindell & Pearson Ltd
Dr Tim Gilbert
PGR Careers Case Study

Introduce yourself by providing information about your research and current role

I studied the aerodynamics of high-speed trains, using experimental and computational methods, graduating in 2013. My current role is patent advisor (trainee) at Swindell & Pearson Ltd, a firm of chartered UK and European patent attorneys and trade mark attorneys.

How has your PhD prepared you and given you relevant transferable skills for your current role?

  • Attention to detail
  • Communication skills
  • Technical knowledge
  • Resilience

Was it always your goal to pursue a career outside of academia? If not, at what stage of your PhD journey did you decide not to build an academic career?

I went into my PhD with an open mind about what I would do next. However, I decided in my second year to explore options outside academia.

What support have you had to help you make the move from your PhD to your job? For example from Careers Network, mentors and academics?

I worked for the Careers Centre [as was] on a part-time basis throughout my PhD. The training, skills and insight I gained through doing so was invaluable to me. The experience I gained as a CV adviser showed me the importance of preparing for life after university very early on.

My role in organising the Careers Conferences gave me the opportunity to use and develop a wide range of transferable skills, and this helped me to understand what I could bring to a workplace outside of academia. Talking to alumni and other professionals at the Careers Conference opened my eyes to a wide range of options outside of academia, one of which has since become my career path.

The staff at Careers Network were extremely helpful when I began applying for jobs, and gave me very constructive and detailed feedback on everything from speculative applications to telephone interviews and final stage interviews. I believe that the Careers Network advice and wider support was absolutely crucial to my success firstly in finding the right career path for me and secondly in securing my highly sought-after training contract in an extremely competitive industry.

My PhD supervisors gave me very detailed and encouraging advice about my prospects in academia, but were nonetheless kind and supportive when I eventually chose to take my career in a different direction. I was also fortunate enough to find a contact working in recruitment who was kind enough to give me mock telephone interview and some very helpful feedback.

Please add any tips or advice for researchers considering a career outside of academia.

I am a trainee patent attorney, working with high-tech and automotive inventions. It is a very challenging career path which requires good technical knowledge, very strong communication skills, attention to detail and resilience. There is a lot of competition for training contracts, and the first few years of the job are tough. You have to be very well organised and committed to meet all of the requirements of the role. The time pressure on trainees is immense, as are the demands which the work places on your skills, and you must meet these requirements while also preparing for and sitting up to 14 very challenging exams outside of working hours.

If you have a STEM degree and the idea of taking on such a challenge excites you then I highly recommend finding out more about the career path – it is certainly not for everybody, but I find it extremely rewarding and am very grateful to the Careers Centre for introducing me to it.

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