Let talk about your unique skill set
Published: November 10, 2021
your unique skill set

“In most western countries, the number of PhD graduates in the life sciences has increased by around 50% over the last ten years. As the job market, in both academia and industry, has been largely flat in most countries, this PhD glut is creating undesirable patterns of employment — and unemployment. Some academics are calling for ‘academic birth control’, but the academic system itself profits from the resulting endless supply of cheap labour.

For PhD holders, this means being exposed to an increasingly competitive labour market: often hundreds of applications are received for a single position. Standing out from the crowd is more important than ever.” (Bodewits & Gramlich, 2017)

But how do you stand out from the crowd? Or in other words… how do you pimp your CV for the outside world while being at university… The answer: do stuff outside of the normal curriculum! 

With this list we´d like to give you some ideas about what you could do during your studies to get some interesting lines into your CV. But not only that, if you only do these activities for this one reason it´s unlikely that it will be fulfilling for you. Try to find activities from which you also learn relevant skills, which let you grow your network and which you enjoy doing!

  • industry collaboration (check future supervisor´s funding structure before applying)
  • internship
  • organising “stuff” (e.g. conferences, excursions)
  • mentoring programmes
  • science communication (e.g. popular science articles, ScienceSlams, science cafe, blogging, outreach to e.g. schools)
  • social media (mange your own science page or manage the pages of your research group)
  • extra tasks at uni (teaching, instrument responsibility, order processing, budget responsibility, student supervision)
  • collaborations
  • intercultural experiences (e.g. welcome week for new students)
  • language
  • writing grant proposals: own travel/ material grants or offering help to supervisor
  • external stay
  • join/ set up journal clubs
  • join academic committees (e.g. as student representative member)
  • join professional organisations
  • (PhD) student/ postdoc representative council work
  • job/trade fair
  • peer-to-peer exchanges (about job market, interview training, application documents…)
  • expert interviews
  • volunteering
  • industry workshop/ summer camp
  • freelancing (e.g. editing)
  • advanced training courses


If you want to dig deeper into this topic, you might be interested in our workshop PhD, and next? Career options, skills and orientation for scientists or our talks Years not lost: How to stay attractive for industry while working in academia? or Essential Skills for a Career in Industry.

See our full Workshops and Talks programme for more topics.