The UK gov’t takes a helpful role in training postgrads to prepare them for the successful completion of the PhD process and even more of the life post-graduation. The Arts and Humanities Research Council hosted a funded, two day seminar giving ideas about issues–primarily, thoughts on making you more appealing to future employers. None of the sessions themselves were outstanding, but the combination of them all and the group discussions were very good. Overall, they didn’t tell you much you didn’t know, but it was great to remind you of those things that also really matter beyond the thesis. The thesis is the sine qua non but you have to be proacitve about these other things that determine your employment afterwards.
One article that they gave us to read (Matthew Eddy, “Academic Capital, Postgraduate Research and British Universities”, Discourse, Autumn 2006), spoke about the need for these three things in particular: 1) publications, 2) teaching experience, and 3) networking.
Publications. While those that really count would be those in peer-reviewed journals, we were encouraged to start with book reviews to build relationships with journal editors (and get free books). Doing conference presentations are also good ways to get feedback on your position in order to have a better honed argument for a journal. These are important in US and UK, but especially so for the UK*.
Teaching experience. This is relatively straight forward, but additional things noted are integrating technology (particularly, a class website, etc.). It was recommended that you keep a portfolio of syllabi, student feedback, etc. for the classes/modules that you work with, to give to potential employers.
Networking. Get out there and meet faculty and other students in your area. Attending conferences and doing presentations there are one of the best ways to do this. Personal relationships are the key to so many things, so go make them.
* Each 5 years each academic program is rated by the UK government in the RAE (Research Assessment Exercise). Each department faculty is rated, primarily on publications, and this in turn determines their funding for the next 5 yr cycle. So obviously, it behooves them to hire people that can boost their rating.