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Beryl Lieff Benderly

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.” 

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.

One comment on “Guiding Ph.D.s Toward Non-Academic Careers”

  1. Krista says:

    A note that I would like to add here is often times, PIs are more interested in pursuing their own interests and dont direct/encourage post-docs to develop what they are good at. It is more of a case of what they want and how the placements of their post-docs as faculty will adorn their own tiara. Also, sometimes they are disinterested in helping post-docs build their own career trajectory – these factors dont help post-docs much in defining themselves.

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