Science Careers Blog

February 18, 2011

Guiding Ph.D.s Toward Non-Academic Careers

It has become something of a cliche that professors and PIs ought to encourage their grad students and postdocs to consider careers outside of academe and even to help ease the transition.  But how can academics who has spent all of their working lives on campus be helpful in a process they have not themselves experienced?

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Julie Miller Vick of the University of Pennsylvania's Office of Career Services and Jennifer S. Furlong of New York University's Office of Faculty Resources offers some practical advice.  "Letting students know that it's OK" to think about careers outside of academe is the key, they say.  To do that, departments can take such steps as posting information about alumni in off-campus careers on bulletin boards and inviting some of these people to give talks about their work.  "It helps if the department strongly encourages, or even requires" attendance at these events, Vick and Furlong note.  "Having the department play a role in organizing or publicizing the events can go a long way in legitimizing nonacademic career possibilities." 

Other things faculty members can do, according to the authors: Help students and postdocs analyze how their skills can be applied in non-academic settings, and refer them to information and resources about careers and job-hunting techniques.  (To do so, of course, the professors first have to take the time to learn about such resources themselves.)  The article mentions books and Web sites where this search can begin.

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