Posts Tagged ‘academic career’


The Bridge to Somewhere

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Reflection

Let’s say you’re one of those people who has decided to start looking for work outside of academia. You’re either trying to develop a Plan B in case a tenure-track job doesn’t open up, or you’re really just tired of the academic game and want a life change. Maybe you’re kind of a Type A personality who wants to set some plans in place before you make the leap, or maybe you’ve got hefty loans or a family to support and you need to move cautiously. The good news is that making the decision to find a nonacademic career does not necessarily mean living through a period of unemployment. There are some ways that you can move gingerly towards a nonacademic career, steps you can take that will bridge your academic and post-academic life. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Start your post-academic career exploration while you’re still in grad school. Commit a certain number of hours each week to job hunting/career development stuff like information interviewing, going to your campus career center for a transferable skills analysis, or reading books on résumé writing. In my own case, there was a five-month period between the submission of the final draft of my dissertation and the actual dissertation defense. During much of that time, I was finishing up my teaching and doing some thesis revisions for my committee members, but I was also cranking up my employment-seeking machine: I applied for a handful of summer teaching contracts, registered with a temping agency, started reading job ads, and did some networking that led to my first post-academic job.
  2. Another way of bridging the post-academic gap is by using the skill that you already know you have — research — in a nonacademic setting. Think tanks, market research firms, policy institutes, consultancies, social service agencies, professional associations, unions, broadcasters, documentary filmmakers, public administration (aka government bureaucracy) — all of these organizations require researchers. Sure, some need people who know how to run stats or have a particular area of expertise, but a lot of them need qualitative researchers or generalists. Some of these positions pay well, well enough to be a long-term position rather than just a bridge to your next gig. For others that aren’t as lucrative, being a paid researcher at a nonacademic organization can give you a taste of what the nonacademic work environment is like.
  3. Take another skill set you know you have, like teaching. There are more ways to teach than in a university classroom. And no, I’m not even necessarily talking about teaching ESL classes or high school or elementary school. The skills you have as a teacher are transferable to jobs that require a lot of working with the public. You know when you go on a museum/state park/art gallery/Graceland tour and a guide tells you all about the artifacts, and they’re really good at captivating your attention? Or you know when you buy something in a store and someone effectively tells you all about their products? Or you know when you go to an information kiosk for help? Or you know when you go to a public lecture? Or you know when someone shares information at a meeting or conference? They’re using the same skills you use teaching in a classroom. Think laterally about those skills, and you could hit on your bridge to somewhere.
  4. I’ve had people ask me if I think doing a postdoc can also be a good bridge to post-academic labor. I do think it can be, because postdocs typically have enough flexibility for you to make the time to dedicate to researching nonacademic jobs/careers. If the postdoc pays you enough to be able to buy time for a year or two, it can be leveraged as part of your career transition.
  5. Finally, adjuncting is something you can commit to for a year or two as a way to pay the bills while you build up your nonacademic contacts. And if you do find a job halfway through the semester, don’t hesitate to quit. After all, there are plenty of other adjunct teachers in line behind you who’d be happy to pick up your contract.
  6. Depending on your interests, freelancing is something you may be able to do during grad school, adjuncting or while doing a postdoc. If you’re interested in moving into a field like journalism, web design, or broadcasting, doing some freelance work won’t take up a huge amount of time while also allowing you to build up your contacts, get some experience and make a bit of cash on the side. I did my first freelance radio piece for Canada’s public broadcaster right around the time I defended my dissertation, and it was a fun, eye-opening experience that helped show me the world of post-academic possibilities.

There are ways of moving slowly and gradually to post-academic work that might appeal to those who don’t have much appetite for a radical change. They provide enough security to help you build confidence, while still moving you toward a satisfying postacademic career.


The Versatile Phd

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Reflection


Are you a graduate student in the Humanities and Social Sciences? Are you worried about your future or wondering about nonacademic careers? Help is on the way.

The Versatile Phd Pitch

A new resource called The Versatile PhD is now available to you that demystifies nonacademic careers for humanists and social scientists. It can show plausible career paths and provide robust support should you decide to prepare for a possible non-academic career. You can:

  • Read first-person narratives written by real humanities and social science PhDs and ABDs who have established non-academic careers, describing how they did it and sharing their advice from experience
  • Join a thriving, supportive web-based community where you can dialogue with “Versatile PhDs” in and outside the academy

The service is completely confidential.  No one at any university will know you are using this website unless you tell them.

Access to The Versatile PhD is password protected to insure that only authorized members of the Syracuse University community take advantage of these key resources. Once you click the link below, you will be prompted for the proper user name and password (your netid and password). Once entered, you will find links to a number of resources that will help you to with your non academic career search. Questions about how to make maximum use of these resources may be directed to Rosanne Ecker, Graduate Student Associate Director at Career Services.

The Versatile PhD is a web-based resource for graduate students, Ph.D.’s, alumni, and postdoctoral fellows interested in exploring non-academic careers. The site can be accessed from any computer and is confidential. The Versatile PhD is currently mainly for those in the humanities and social sciences, BUT, a second forum was created this year for science, technology, engineering and math students.

 Continued Versatile Phd Pitch

While many areas of the site are open to everyone, UW-Madison is now a subscriber, which means that current students, faculty, staff and recent alumni get access to the high-quality Premium Content Area of the Versatile PhD site. Here’s what you’ll find:

  • A thriving and supportive web-based community where you can participate in discussions and network with actual “Versatile PhDs”, or just listen and learn
  • Examples of successful resumes and cover letters that resulted in humanities and social science doctoral program graduates getting their first post-academic positions
  • A collection of compelling first-person narratives written by successful humanities and social science PhDs and ABDs, describing how they established their non-academic careers, and including their actual application materials
  • Successful CV-to-resume conversions that resulted in a PhD or ABD getting hired into his or her first non-academic position
  • Archived panel discussions featuring PhDs working in non-academic fields who describe their jobs and answer questions from members


The Versatile Phd: Another way to look at it

This morning I received a message from my university’s career center informing me that they now subscribe to a pay-for service called “The Versatile PhD” which has:

* Examples of successful resumes and cover letters that real PhDs and ABDs used to get their first post-academic positions

* A collection of first-person narratives written by successful non-academic PhDs and ABDs, describing how their careers have developed after grad school until now

* Archived panel discussions where PhDs and ABDs working in specific non-academic fields describe their jobs and answer questions.  Past topics include Federal Government, Policy Analysis, Freelance Writing and Editing, Higher Education Consulting, Management Consulting, and University Administration.

In an effort to understand this service (after I determined that my university login was not working to get me access to the site), I went to their website and learned that it’s geared especially towards the Humanities and Social Sciences, “to help humanities and social science PhDs identify and prepare for possible non-academic careers. We want them to be informed about employment realities, educated about nonacademic career options, and supported in preparing for a range of possible careers, so that in the end, they have choices.”  It’s a laudable goal, and I commend the Versatile PhD service and my uni’s Career Center for providing options for all of us unemployable PhD-types.  But it seems to me, that such stories are available in many places online, such as in Bethany Nowviskie’s open-source (i.e. free) book “#alt-ac: Alternate Academic Careers for Humanities Scholars.”

Call me cynical, but it seems to me that the Career Center could better serve its Humanities constituents by giving them the skills to search the web and become digitally literate in open-source offerings rather than offering canned content about possible careers from a proprietary service.

Do you agree?



We’ve mentioned the WRK4US listserv maintained by Paula Chambers, which is pretty much the best-known online resource for Ph.D.-types transitioning to work off the tenure-track.  Well, the listserv is in the midst of metamorphosing into The Versatile Ph.D., a website that still does all the things WRK4US did, but with more new features and a more accessible online interface.  The confidential email-delivered discussions are now happening on message boards, so you can participate at the website and opt out of receiving email updates if your inbox (like mine) is too cluttered.  Nonetheless, the discussions are still confidential, since you have to be a member of the Versatile Ph.D. community to participate.  If anything, networking and taking part in the good vibes of the helpful, supportive discussions are probably easier in this format, since there’s a list of participants and a search function for members on the website.  Basic membership is free and only requires some info about yourself.

It’s now also easier to access information like job postings and events, since they are tabbed at a menu at the top of the page.  There are more new projects in the works at the site, including a premium content area geared towards institutional members who can subscribe and gain access to non-academic job search info for their grad students.  Check it out for yourself, whether you’re a WRK4US veteran or a curious newbie looking for something to browse while you procrastinate from dissertating.