Early Career Event: What next? Careers in soil science

On the 19th June delegates from all over the UK attended Cranfield University for a 1 day Early Career Researchers (ECR) event detailing careers in soil science, what to do next post-PhD. The joint SEESOIL (@sesoil) and IAgrE (@IAgrE) event was well attended and saw professionals from different sectors present their own experiences, along with two interactive sessions on CV writing, and interview skills.

Professor Dick Godwin presented first detailing how he has used his soil science background in agricultural engineering, drainage and irrigation management. Spanning many years he detailed how he used this in the UK and abroad, how to go about getting funding, and projections for the future…

“There is not a big market for soil scientists, but crucially, demand outstrips supply. Soil science needs you!”

Emma Garfield (G’s Growers) explained how soil science is used in the agriculturaEmma Garfieldl and agronomy sectors. Ranging from how perceptions of farmers has changed, to precision farming and using soil data, Emma explained how soil science linked with agronomy is an ever changing, constantly improving science which companies such as G’s Growers need to stay connected to for better business and environmental management.

Laura Hathaway-Jenkins (Tim O’Hare Associates) detailed how her PhD in soil science set her up foLaura Hathaway-Jenkinsr a career in consultancy. Although it was not what she expected to be doing pre-PhD, she said that she loves the variety of project work which only consultancy can offer. Reinforcing this point she ran through the work which Tim O’Hare Associates did for the construction of the Olympic Park, London; everything from soil survey and soil budget analysis to landscape design and soil handling management. Her PhD gave her the necessary skills which enabled her to do this work.

Jacqueline Hannam then began a session on staying in academia, detailing her work from PhD through to her job now as Senior Research Fellow in Pedology at Cranfield University. In particular Jack reinforced how networking enabled her to get where she is now as it allowed her to understand other industries where her skills gained at PhD could be applied.

The first of 2 interactive sessions was held by Helen Dalling (Cranfield University Careers) who went through the process to CV writing. She explained how a CV needs to be unique, and should avoid cliché words such as ‘team worker’. Helen reinforced Jack’s points about networking saying how social media can also have a major impact on how people perceive you and in the recognition you gain.

After a networking lunch delegates were exposed to the worlds of ‘professional development’; in particular chartership. Chris Whetnall from IAgrE detailed the importance of chartership in industry…

“Registered engineers and scientists earn more – it sets you apart – and employers increasingly demand it”

Chartership through IAgrE involves getting a mentor to guide you through the processes of bDick Thompsonecoming a Chartered Engineer (CEng) or Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv). To add to this, Dick Thompson (BSSS) detailed becoming a Chartered Scientist through BSSS, and the IPSS/BSSSWorking with soil’ training courses which provide the minimum requirements for soil scientists working in industry.

The second interactive session was providClaire Maguireed by Maria Smith and Claire Maguire (Cranfield University Careers) who went through key interview questions which focus on the transferable skills gained in a PhD. Particular focus was given to the STAR framework for answering competency questions in an interview.

All in all, it was a well-attended, informative day which gave delegates an insight into their options post-PhD provided by people who have already lived through those decisions.

Good news is that the options seem to be endless!

Author: Alex Cooke (@ACooke_Soils)