“What Do I Do Now and After A Ph.D.?”: A Guide From A Well-Known Expert

Authors: Ali Othman Albaji (PGSS FEE), Chan Fong Chi (PGSS FABU), Izzat Naim Shamsul Kahar (PGSS FCEE), Musa Adam Eya (PGSS FABU), Wong Chang Koon (PGSS FCEE)

JOHOR BAHRU, Sept 21. Choosing what to do after a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), and how to prepare for it, are common questions among current or future Ph.D. holders. On 21st September 2022, Postgraduate Student Society of School of Chemical and Energy Engineering (PGSS SCEE) with the collaboration of UTM School of Graduate Studies has invited the Director of UTM Centre of Engineering Education, Ir. Ts. Dr. Zaki Yamani Zakaria, to be the speaker for the webinar entitled, ‘Ph.D. Career: What do I do After a Ph.D.’

Limited Paths For PhD Holders? Not True

It is not easy to be recruited as an academician. The director shared that perseverance, excellent research, and soft skills, professional engineer status are the important criteria to be considered. Besides, likable personalities and good reputations could bring one further. He also shared about the requirement of being a researcher. 

Ir. Ts. Dr. Zaki Yamani Zakaria has clarified that this stereotypical thinking that academicians and researchers are the only options for post Ph.D. career. He also shared the possibility of exploring the field of entrepreneurship, consultation and even starting your own business, using their research interest and expertise. 

Improving Yourself, Starts Now

In responding to the question by participants, he shared that most of the candidates are less competent, despite the many opportunities in post-Ph.D. careers. 

Referring to the 21st Century Learning Requirement, the director shared that the foundation literacies are no longer sufficient to excel in a post-Ph.D. career. Soft skills, especially the attitude of approaching complex challenges and environment has gradually become the main ingredient for success. 

He suggested current Ph.D. pursuers to start being active, staying focused, marketing and empowering themselves now, regardless of level and year of study. Particularly, he strongly encouraged building networks and referrals that could help to expose and market themselves to the public, instead of spending more time on perfecting their curriculum vitae.

PhD is Not The Only Thing in Your Life

“Manage your PhD life”, Ir. Ts. Dr. Zaki said. Improvised from the Four Burner theory, he shared on his Zaki’s Life Theory, 2021, where career, family, community and special interest should be balanced. Life is not only about Ph.D. 

Regarding the need of studying Ph.D., he suggested that they understand what you want to be, and it is not necessary to study Ph.D. for the career advancement in industry. Doing Ph.D. because of the unpreparedness to work in industry, is highly discouraged by him. He added that everyone should face the reality and problem of working courageously, regardless of what you are working.

Take-Home Message

Ph.D. holders should always have a backup plan. Be mentally and emotionally prepared for unforeseen circumstances after receiving a highest academic scroll. The most important thought about Ph.D. is to improve one’s employment prospects, gaining transformatory skills, and making original contributions to knowledge. 

It is worth noting that just because you decide on a path outside of academia, it does not mean that your years of study have been for nothing. In fact, the opposite is true – in completing your Ph.D., you’ll have built a set of skills and knowledge that are highly sought after by many employers. In sum, it is undoubtedly an interesting, informative, interactive session by Ir. Ts. Dr. Zaki Yamani Zakaria.

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