In April 2019, the Cambridge SPIE student Chapter organized an interdisciplinary networking event focussing on post-PhD career options at the Department of Chemistry (Bristol-Myers Squibb Lecture Theatre, Cambridge, UK). Five speakers from different sectors (industry, academia, start-ups, consulting) who received a doctorate in an optics-related field were invited. We asked them to share their experiences in working in their respective sectors and to give advice and recommendations to the audience how to best utilize their PhDs and apply/proceed in their working field. Every speaker had a five-minute long introduction talk to give details about their career path and their current working environment. Afterwards, a 1-hour panel discussion took place, which gave the audience the opportunity to ask questions.
In terms of some takeaways, the panellists seemed to be split in regard to whether or not one should participate in many extracurricular activities (or even internships) during their PhD, for advancing future career prospects, but everyone was in agreement that the connections and networks they had built during their time in Cambridge had been invaluable for later successes in both securing and being successful in their professional endeavours. Milan and Hannah also spoke about the importance of mental health during the later stages of one’s PhD, emphasizing the importance of not being afraid to talk about it and seeking help when necessary. Hannah pointed out that one should not rush into something else straight after their PhD, and take the opportunity to reflect and perhaps take a break (if possible) before embarking into something new.
The event closed with a wine and canapés reception giving the audience the possibility to directly network with the speakers and with other people from the audience. The feedback from both, the speakers and the audience, was very positive. Due to advertisements on social media platforms, on posters, and emails within different departments, the event has been very well attended. A lot of questions were asked by the audience and audience and speakers interacted closely during the networking session. Almost everyone stayed until the event closed at 9pm.