Transition Q & A: Kara Santokie

My friend Kara worked as a professor in Bangladesh for a year after earning her PhD in political science, then returned to Toronto — she did her PhD at U of T — and found a job managing programs for a local nonprofit organization. Since then, she’s been promoted to executive director. Read her story in the latest Transition Q & A post on University Affairs.

What are your favourite parts of your job?

My favourite audiences are high school students, although I hardly speak at high schools. When I do get the opportunity, their ideas are always really interesting! I also really like getting stuff published in the newspaper! I think that more people have read my work in one year than at least 10 years of academic life would have produced.

The full Q & A is here!

Book review: The Unruly PhD

Are you looking for more stories about life after a PhD, and about the experience of graduate school itself? There’s a book for that! In my latest post for University Affairs, I reviewed The Unruly PhD.

This book provides a fascinating glimpse into the work and lives of people who’ve pursued PhDs in humanities disciplines (and one in neuroscience). The stories will resonate with readers pursuing graduate degrees, or considering doing so, and those who’ve moved on after finishing (or not). I found myself at turns dismayed and delighted by the tales. It’s hard for me to read about Josephine, the adjunct who’s sacrificed so much for her education and is now dreaming of a tenure-track job. It’s frustrating to learn that Derek, who got himself a tenure-track job in the perfect-for-him location, cancels a class every semester so he can go surfing (“It’s just one of those things I do”). But there’s enough variety in here to cover a wide range of experiences and reflections, and that’s a good thing.

Read the full review here.

CFP: Beyond the Professoriate, 2 & 9 May 2015

Were you at Beyond the Professoriate last year? No? Well, you can come this year! The Call for Panellists and Presenters is now out. We’d love to hear from you if you’d like to talk about your career trajectory (be a panellist on 2 May) or deliver a presentation to help PhDs in career transition now (on 9 May).

Read more at “Info on the 2015 Beyond the Professoriate” conference over at University Affairs. And check out our next website.

Transition Q & A: Michael Ryan Hunsaker

How does someone with a PhD in neuroscience wind up working as a special education primary-school teacher? Here’s one part of the story:

Interestingly, actually getting the job was fortunate. The principal read the information in my application and was incredulous that someone with a PhD was going to be willing to take a part time (27.5 hours.week) job for $9.01 an hour. Further, there was no way this type of person would stick around for any amount of time.

When I arrived for the interview, the principal asked me outright why I was there. He had literally only given me the interview so he could see if I was for real.

Ha! Read the full Q & A over at University Affairs. It’s a wonderful piece, inspiring and full of good advice for PhDs (and others) changing careers. Thanks Michael!

Tips for surviving the academic job search season

Are you on the market now? I’m sorry. It can be a very difficult time of year. Here are some things you can do to help you cope with the stress of uncertainty and near-certain rejection. Doing these things helps me, and I suspect the list will be more a reminder of things you already know than a list of things you never thought of before!

On Tuesday evening I spoke at an event on imposter syndrome organized by Grad Minds, a student group at the University of Toronto. One audience member asked about how to keep her spirits up at this time of year, when academic hiring is in full swing. Or, should I say, academic rejection is in full swing! The vast majority of applicants for any job won’t be asked for an interview. Rejection is the norm, and it can be very hard to take for so many reasons.

Here are some ideas to help you cope:

  1. Assume you didn’t get the job. This advice come from Alison Green, the woman behind the wonderful Ask a Manager website. If you do get contacted for an interview, it’ll come as a nice surprise. Easier said than done, but it’s a helpful attitude to cultivate in any job application situation.

For the other 9 tips, head over the University Affairs to read the full post! Let me know if there’s anything that works especially well for you.


Do you know what career path to take?

Happy new year! Here’s looking forward to a great 2015 for me and for all of you. Here’s my first post of the year, over at University Affairs. It begins:

“When did you decide to leave academia?” This question, or some version of it — “How did you know that you didn’t want to be a professor?” for example — is one I’m regularly asked. It comes up in conversation, on Twitter, or when I’m on a careers panel. It’s a fair inquiry, and the questioner tends to ask because she is wrestling with making a decision about her own future. But it’s a question that I can’t answer. There was no one moment when I knew the tenure-track wasn’t for me, and there wasn’t an easy process to come to that decision either.

To read the rest, head over to UA. Let me know what you think! What metaphor do you like to use?

Reflect back to move forward

Here are some questions to help you clarify your priorities, goals, and action steps for 2015. And I even answer them myself! Let me know if you find them helpful. Thanks to one of my current clients for letting me try a few out on her earlier this week. She inspired the post.

Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I’m going to reflect back on what I did and didn’t do this past year, and explore how I feel about those things. Those reflections will highlight things that are important to me, and suggest future priorities and action steps. Here are some questions to help you do the same:

What are you most proud of from the past year?

What’s your biggest achievement from the past year?

What was your biggest disappointment?

What surprised you most about yourself this year?

Four more questions and my responses and thoughts in the full blog post over at University Affairs.

Are you hoping instead of acting?

This one goes out to all of us who’re shying away from exploring our options in hopes that our current activities will be enough to sustain us, long-term. (Does that make sense?) I recently realized I was hoping instead of acting. What about you?

Read the post over at University Affairs, and let me know what you think!

Transition Q & A: Melissa Dalgleish

This is one you’re definitely going to want to read! Melissa Dalgleish is a regular contributor to Hook & Eye, an ABD in English from York University, and a research officer in the Faculty of Graduate Studies at same. Here’s an excerpt:

What do you do now?

I’m a research officer at York University, one of about a dozen (including Jamie Pratt, who did a Transition Q&A for you a couple of years ago). However, my job is a bit different from that of the dozen other research officers at York, because I support graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in research-related activities, rather than faculty members. I coordinate all of our scholarship and fellowship competitions, develop applications for major grants and awards, oversee graduate research that requires ethics approval or intellectual property agreements, and coordinate graduate research and professional skills events and programs, including the Three Minute Thesis competition and our Graduate Professional Skills (GPS) program.

Read the full Q & A over at University Affairs.