Transition Q & A: Nicholas Dion

How does a religious studies PhD wind up working as a senior coordinator at the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario? Read this week’s Q & A over at University Affairs to find out! Nick spent months exploring his options beyond academia, and was proactive in his job search toward the end of his degree.

Before the interview, I prepared as best I could. I milked my contacts for anything they knew about HEQCO. I spoke to my friend’s mom – the one who sent me the ad – to see what she knew about them. I reflected on my grad school experience and did some research into Ontario’s postsecondary challenges and policy priorities. When I got to the interview, I learned that, unbeknownst to me and unannounced in the ad, they had been thinking about hiring two interns – the traditional research intern and another intern who could move into an editor role. They had never had an editor before but had been increasing their rate of publication recently and wanted someone who could create and manage a consistent process. My work on the journal, together with my research experience and my experience working with academics made me a strong candidate. So I’m fond of saying that my first job was technically one for which I hadn’t even applied.

Read this rest of this interview here.

Transition Q & A: Daveena Tauber

Rutgers English PhD Daveena Tauber is forging a career for herself in higher education, but from the outside. Read her transition story over at University Affairs. An excerpt:

What do you do now? 

At this point, I am an established writing consultant who specializes in working with graduate programs and graduate students. The first part of my mission is to help graduate programs increase retention and diversity by supporting the full range of skills required to produce successful academic work. The second part is to support graduate students through direct consulting services. You might say that I facilitate excellent working relationships between universities and their students.

Very cool!

Striking for a better now, and a better future

This week’s post for University Affairs is my contribution to the debates about the strikes happening here in Toronto, and especially the situation at the University of Toronto, where I do my PhD in the Department of History. I quote from a marvelous open letter written by an English professor, and from a memoir I read on the weekend, written by a tenure-track professor who lost his job. I think it’s a good post. Check it out here. An excerpt:

It is often extremely difficult for new PhDs to secure meaningful, full-time employment that pays a living wage. This is true for academic and non-academic jobs. Recent graduates may spend years teaching courses on short-term per-course contracts, often for multiple universities at the same time, or moving far from friends and family to take up a one to three year postdoctoral fellowship or visiting assistant professorship position. (“Visiting from where? you might ask. From nowhere.“) Those of us who “leave” academia may find it takes four to five years to settle into a new career. To pay graduate students a pittance, sell them (if only by implication) on the merits of a tenure-track position, then offer them little assistance on the transition to secure employment . . . well, it doesn’t sit right with me.

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.