The Odyssey Programme UCC

The Odyssey Programme UCC

UCC has introduced a new programme to enable research staff to pursue rewarding careers beyond academia.  The programme is called The Odyssey Programme as it is a career journey. The programme launched as a pilot in July 2018.  Since then 156 of UCC's Researchers and PhD students have participated in the 2 day programme in transformative training.

The programme is designed to enable researchers in UCC to adapt, integrate and expand on their existing expertise to prepare for the many diverse career choices ahead of them.  It also highlights the significant differences and/or advantages to the many workplace cultures that exist beyond academia.  In a time of increasing career complexity, researchers must pursue professional opportunities not only in academia but also in industry, government, non-profits, and entrepreneurship. **

The content of the  modules are:

  1. Organisational cultures beyond academia
  2. What are the metrics for success in organisations beyond academia
  3. The numbers - the facts about careers in academia
  4. Fear and personal change
  5. Changing your perspective
  6. Career opportunities available to researchers in a range of work environments
  7. Specific research skills valued by organisations beyond academia
  8. How applications are won and lost
  9. Using research skills resourcefully to move beyond academia
  10. Discover the skills you already have!
  11. Develop a career action plan
  12. Speakers who have successfully transitioned from academia to other domains

It also includes:

  • Meeting with participants individually prior to the programme to explain the programme and get to know them and their career expectations
  • Meeting with participants individually after the programme for individual CV Clinics
  • Tracking the careers of those who completed the programme for 2 years (with their permission of course!)


For further information on the Odyssey Programme please contact Mary O'Regan HR Research Manager UCC email: 


The Trainers

Mary O'Regan HR Research Manager University College Cork

Dr Jay Chopra from Making Shift Happen

Dr Anne Gannon HR Wellbeing & Development Manager University College Cork

Fionnan O'Sullivan Oliver Mall

All the trainers are experienced in working within a university environment (Research or Academic) and provide expert knowledge of organisational culture and practice in business/industry/non-profit work environments.  They also bring experience of career and professional practices in work environments beyond academia.

Of the 214 PhD students and research staff from all disciplines who completed the programme:

• 38% have pursued rewarding careers beyond academia.
• 30% have remained in UCC in the same role or have been promoted.
• 29% are completing PhD’s.
• 3% have moved on to other universities globally in research/academic roles.

The 38% who have moved beyond academia hold roles such as:
Environmental NGO Project Member, Medical Affairs Officer, Senior Metabolic Engineer, Global Scientific Communications Associate, Regulatory Writer, Information Developer, Clinical Trials Associate, Associate Scientist and/or Associate Research Scientist, Operations Manager, Clinical Biochemist and many more
Since June 2020 and as a result of COVID 19 this programme has been successfully transitioned and repurposed to online live sessions.


Testimonials from Participants on the Programme

"I just wanted to let you know that I  have been offered a job with [Name omitted for privacy] Pharmaceuticals as a Medical Science Liaison which is the job I really wanted when I  sat down with you to do my CV last year. I signed my contract with them and will be starting next month so I am very excited. I just wanted to say thank you so much for the amount of help you gave me through the Odyssey Program and with my CV! I am indebted to yourself and Jay for all your advice and help and I won't forget it. I have been an advocate of the Odyssey Program since doing it and I think it is an amazing initiative that post-docs and phds need to do to see their value and their options beyond academia."


"The interview went fantastic. I was actually offered the job. The Odyssey programme really did wonders to help me reframe my skills. I think the interview went really well because of it, other post-docs and PhD students should have the same opportunity." Jessica Cawley, PhD Postdoctoral Researcher Department of Music University College Cork

"I am more than my lab work and now I can articulate that in a way that makes sense to others"

"The whole workshop felt like an awakening on the potential for my career"

"I am leaving feeling empowered and in control of my career - the programme helped me realise I am a lot more skilled than I ever thought..."

"This was really useful as it helped me to identify actions that will enable me to proceed"

"I am surprised at the extent of what was achieved in such a short time"

I feel a lot more confident about the non-academic job options”

“The programme was informative, inspiring and actionable. It is rare to find something that ticks all three boxes and I believe its teachings will keep working on us as we progress our careers. ”

“It really inspired me to think of my skill set in a new and more positive way”

“I gained new clarity around my skills and unique contributions, as well as the difference between what I can do and what I actually enjoy doing. The programme helped me understand what a PhD is actually good for in the job market, how to best develop my skills and proactively direct my career efforts to where I want to go. I am happy with my new competency-based CV and Linkedin profile and feel more secure in how I portray myself to potential employers.”



The reality is that pursuing a career in research today is very different to how things were 30 years ago. The professional outcome for researchers within academia has altered dramatically and studies[1] demonstrate that a faculty job has become the alternative career. [2]The fact is the current system is producing too many researchers for the jobs available to meet their expectations of remaining in academic research.” The Odyssey Programme addresses this and also the “disconnect” between the training currently provided to researchers in Europe and the skills that they will need to access successful careers beyond academia. 

Universities are critical to the provision of a highly educated and relevant workforce which answers the demands of industry and academia and contributes to the improved scientific and technical skills of our current and future workforce[3].  However, perversely, the underlying culture of academia can devalue the contribution to be made by those who wish to leave academic employment.  The Odyssey programme encourages the participants to overcome this challenging issue and embrace the concept that careers outside academia must be encouraged and not seen as a compromise. 


[1] Nature Editorial





Before the launch UCC held a number of Focus Workshops - the objective of the focus workshops was to:

  • Set the context - why introduce The Odyssey Programme?
  • Some concepts for the Programme
  • How it builds on existing UCC Programmes
  • A forum to discuss the proposed materials for the programme
  • Identify the best means of implementation
  • Get feedback from Researchers and PI’s



Odyssey Programme UCC - Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Participants will be enabled to apply the change in perspective encouraged in this programme to willingly explore and progress new career prospects.  Researchers and PhD's will gain a deeper awareness of the variety of interesting and challenging career options that exist beyond academia.  They will be in a position to analyse and appraise the current job market and the many opportunities available to them.  They will be able to appreciate the cultural differences and different metrics of success in organisations beyond academia, enhancing their potential for future leadership and impact in multiple sectors. This programme complements the Employment and Career Management Structure for Researchers and the wide-ranging programmes already provided to UCC’s researchers in programmes such as the Post Doc Development Hub, Researchers towards Industry, Research Skills Training and Professional Skills for Research Leaders.

Current training at UCC focuses on transferrable skills and research skills training.  This is our next step and builds on what is already being provided to our researchers in UCC.  It envisages that these researchers will become “academia to beyond academia” ambassadors creating pathways to and from third level to other high performing organisations. It also embraces the principles of the HR Excellence in Research Award  which highlights the need for new and pioneering initiatives which support career development programmes for today’s researchers and PhD's. 

To evaluate the effectiveness of this pilot programme HR Research will monitor the progress of the participants over a two year period to determine the career outcomes of the pilotee’s. An analysis of the specific characteristics of this pilot will be compiled inclusive of detailed feedback from participants (including before and after interviews and questionnaires) leading to a more enhanced programme highlighting areas for improvement and development. We will work to improve the programme using the research and learning gained from the pilot to better achieve programme objectives when it becomes available mainstream.   

Further one to one assistance is provided by CV clinics and  career action planning facilitated by HR Research for the participants in the programme to encourage participants to put this programme to use. 


Department of Human Resources - HR Research

Ground Floor, Block E, Food Science Building, UCC