The Odyssey Programme UCC

The Odyssey Programme UCC

UCC has introduced a new programme for research staff called The Odyssey Programme.  The programme launched as a pilot in July 2018.  Since then 85 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!
  4. Changing your perspective
  5. Opportunities available to researchers in a range of work environments
  6. Specific research skills valued by organisations external to the university
  7. Skills needed to shine in these different environments
  8. Using research skills resourcefully to move beyond academia
  9. Fear and Personal Change
  10. Discover the skills you already have!
  11. Next steps towards a rewarding career
  12. Speakers who have successfully transitioned from academia to other domains


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




The Trainers

Dr Jay Chopra from Making Shift Happen

Dr Sean McCarthy Hyperion

Fionnan O'Sullivan Oliver Mall

Mary O'Regan HR Research Manager University College Cork

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.


Feedback from Participants 

"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"


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