What follows is a long list of resources for academics figuring out life and work beyond the tenure track.
Not sure what to do after your Postdoc? I created this handout, “From Postdoc to ____?” to help others reflect on what’s important to them and learn about new jobs.
Karen Phoenix (PhD, University of Illinois) compiled this fantastic handout, “Sources for Alternative Careers for Historians.” It’s aimed at an American audience, but Canadian and international readers will find much of value here. And same goes for non-historians: humanities and social science grads will similarly benefit. Karen relied much on Alexandra Lord’s Beyond Academe website, so shout out to her, too!
Heather Steel wrote a great booklet entitled “‘What Can I Do with a Graduate Degree in History?’ A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding a Post-Academic Job.” Heather left a PhD program at York University ABD and never looked back. Here she offers “tips and tricks” and a whole lot more. Don’t let the title stop you from reading it: The information and advice applies broadly to humanities and social science grads.
Download Heather Steel’s “‘What Can I Do with a Graduate Degree in History?’ A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding a Post-Academic Job.”
Many thanks to Karen and Heather for sharing these wonderful resources.
Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius, “So What Are You Going to Do with That?” Finding Careers Outside Academia (3rd ed., 2014)
The best guide to figuring out your life post-PhD written by two humanities doctorates who’ve been there, done that. Includes many profiles of fellow (former) academics who’ve transitioned to careers beyond the tenure-track.
William Bridges, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes (25th anniv. ed., 2004)
Think you’re taking too long figuring out what’s next? You aren’t! In the pre-modern world, the transition—a psychological process as opposed to simply a change—was understood as a crucial part of life; not so nowadays. But to successfully navigate a transition, an individual has to experience an end, go through a period of nothingness or neutrality, and finally make a new beginning. No part of the process can be skipped or sped through. There are no shortcuts. (Bridges can relate to being post-PhD or on the alt-ac track: He’s got an ivy league PhD and was an English professor until going through an important transition of his own.)
Alyssa Harad, Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride (2012).
An English PhDs lovely memoir of discovering the wonders of perfume and embracing who she really is. A story of how one intellectual got back in touch with her feelings, a crucial step on the road to post-PhD happiness and fulfillment. Read an excerpt over at the Chronicle.
Peggy Klaus, Brag: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It (2004)
In my experience, PhDs are excellent at not tooting their own horns, for lots of reasons, good and less-good. Here’s how you can talk about yourself appropriately in hopes of moving forward in your career. Great book.
Richard N. Bolles, What Color is Your Parachute: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers (updated yearly)
If you read only one book on how to get a job and change careers, make it this one. Bolles has an idiosyncratic writing style but his advice is spot-on.
Melanie Nelson’s useful guide is aimed at STEM PhDs who already know where they’re headed. She earned a PhD in the biosciences and has worked as a hiring manager in industry for over a decade.
Susan Britton Whitcomb, Resume Magic: Trade Secrets of a Professional Resume Writer (4th ed., 2010)
This was the book I found most useful when I was researching how to write a good resume (as opposed to an academic CV).
M.P. Fedunkiw, A Degree in Futility (Friesen Press, 2014)
I started to read this novel one day and just couldn’t stop until I finished. So many feelings! The main character defends her dissertation (history of science, U of T) at the beginning of the book, and the story ends a few years later. Fedunkiw has drawn on her own post-PhD experiences to write this wonderful book about a group of three friends navigating life, love, and work in and out of academia. Do read it.
Don. J. Snyder, The Cliff Walk: A Memoir of a Job Lost and a Life Found (Little, Brown and Company, 1998)
A marvelous memoir written by a former tenure-track professor at Colgate University who was suddenly let go. This is the story of his journey through unemployment. You will relate. What’s neat is to look up what he does now — but do read the book before you do! I quote from the book in this post.
Kathleen Miller et al. (eds), Moving On: Essays on the Aftermath of Leaving Academia (2014)
Featuring an essay by your truly and many other contributions. By the women behind the now-defunct site How to Leave Academia.
Rebecca Peabody, The Unruly PhD: Doubts, Detours, Departures, and Other Success Stories (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)
Read my review here.
Remember to check out your university’s online resources, particularly ones hosted by your faculty or school or graduate / postdoctoral studies, or career services. I’ve not included university websites in this list.
“#Alt-Academy takes a grass-roots, bottom-up, publish-then-filter approach to community-building and networked scholarly communication around the theme of unconventional or alternative careers for people with academic training.” There is a wealth of great information here.
“Alt-ac Advisor offers practical how-to advice and resources for humanities and social science PhDs exploring alternative careers outside of academia.” Yup! A new, most welcome addition to the post-PhD web. Written and curated by Josh Cracraft, a Brandeis PhD.
The website for the Berkeley conference of the same name, but useful too because of all the extra resources. Here’s a direct link to the BA blog.
Advice and inspiration aimed directly at history PhDs, but of interest to others, too. Site creator Alexandra Lord: “I created Beyond Academe because I was deeply concerned about the narrow ways in which our profession is defined. Beyond Academe also grew out of my desire to assist historians who are looking for work. Having been unemployed and having struggled on my own to find a job which I would enjoy and which would enable me both to live where I wanted and to support myself, I wanted, very much, to help people who are dealing with these issues as they look for a job.”
Particularly for folks in the biological sciences. Webinars, blogs, and other resources. “The missing manual for bioscientists.”
Anna Trester is a PhD in linguistics who’s committed to the practice of her field beyond the academy. Her website features informative, insightful posts. Aimed particularly at linguistics graduates, but broadly applicable.
Cellular and molecular pathology PhD Ryan Raver’s site includes fantastic long posts on networking for graduate students and PhDs, soon to become a book. Start with Part 1, “Grad Student Advice Series: How To Network and Add Value To Yourself and Others,” then read parts 2 and 3. (Don’t worry if you never networked while in school: you can start now.) Have a look around the site for other useful posts.
Chris Humphrey, a PhD in medieval studies, offers “positive & practical support for PhD careers outside academia.” Regular posts provide just that.
Great blogs and resources, particularly for humanists. This is a fellowship program as well.
Nadia Jaber’s career exploration and job readiness program that you and your friends can take yourselves through for free. The website gives you all the instructions you need, plus links to a bunch of useful resources to help you make it through. Nadia is a PhD candidate in molecular and cellular biology, and the program was designed with STEM students in mind, but it’s broad enough to be useful much more widely. Watch her TEDx talk.
Michelle Erickson‘s website features the stories of a handful of diverse PhDs who are successfully working beyond the tenure track. A wonderful resource.
David Gitner’s website features commentary and profiles of PhD scientists working in industry.
Wonderful forum for support and information about all things beyond the tenure track.
Nathan Vanderfort’s great site of PhD career profiles. Features a wide variety of disciplines and jobs. Nice complement to the Q & As.
Beyond the Professoriate, the annual online conference for PhDs in career transition. Brought to you by yours truly and Maren Wood, PhD. See also the website blog for good info and stories. 4th Annual Beyond the Professoriate took place 6 and 13 May 2017.
The Scholarpreneur Podcast, hosted by Scott Rank, PhD.
Rock You Research podcast, hosted by Chris Jones, PhD candidate.
GradSquare Radio, hosted by Marco Altamirano, PhD. Find episodes on the GradSquare blog.
Recovering Academic podcast, hosted by Ian Street, Amanda Welch, and Cleyde Helena.
David J. Drysdale’s compilation of resources.
Katina Rogers’s Resources
“People frequently ask me for recommendations of resources and background reading on graduate education reform and career paths for humanities scholars. Here are a few of the things I often suggest.”
Anne Whisnant’s varied list of great suggestions. “This page includes a mix of sites that discuss larger issues involved in converting graduate training in the humanities or social sciences to a nonacademic career, and sites that include job listings.”
Lee Skallerup’s CV to Resume Resources
A great compilation.
Laura Mitchell compiled this list of resources, especially for Canadians.
Another Google Doc with links to “I’m leaving academia”-type posts and articles.
My friends and colleagues, including fellow coaches as well as professionals who offer different sorts of services, all aimed at PhDs seeking — or at least curious about — non-academic employment.
Mary Beth is, along with Hillary Hutchinson, the author of How to Become an Academic Coach: What You Need to Know. Formerly a biology professor, she now coaches students and academics 1-on-1 and in groups. She’s particularly interested in coaching faculty members to get their writing done and meet their other productivity goals, and is experienced in working with academics who have ADHD and related challenges.
Fatimah William Castro, PhD. Let Fatimah be your partner in the transition from academia to a career beyond the tenure track. Fatimah also works with professors who want to launch side businesses as consultants or the like. Cool! Read her articles on her website and on Chronicle Vitae, where she shares good advice for PhDs. Fatimah has a new book out called Be Bold: Launch Your Job Search or Career Change with Confidence.
Julie Clarenbach, PhD. Julie’s site was one of the earliest I visited when I was first exploring working outside a university setting. I remember it back when it was a blog; later, she transitioned into a website for her new coaching business! She took a break for a while but is now blogging and coaching again! Welcome back, Julie.
Kate Duttro, PhD. Kate is a veteran career educator and counsellor. She hosts the Versatile PhD meetups in Seattle. Check out Kate’s website for a variety of resources.
Heidi Scott Giusto, PhD, helps individuals and businesses succeed when the stakes are high. A Certified Professional Resume Writer and Certified Employment Interview Professional, Heidi guides clients through all stages of the job campaign process. She routinely helps academics from all disciplines transition to industry. Services offered: coaching and writing for resumes, CVs, cover letters, LinkedIn, networking, interviewing, and website and marketing material. My clients have told me great things about Heidi’s work!
A sociology PhD based in the UK, Ania coaches doctoral students and early career researchers. She works in an alt-ac position by day at a university, and loves working 1-on-1 with clients in the spare time.
Cheeky Scientist is an industry training platform for academics who want to be confident and successful industry professionals. Cheeky Scientist Consultants and Associates have strong academic background in the medical and life sciences, as well as first-hand experience in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries. Cheeky Scientist’s mission is to help academics receive the industry training they need to transition successfully into the industry position of their choice while helping to provide them with a positive academic environment to work in until they transition. Founded by Isaiah Hankel, PhD, author of Black Hole Focus. For more information on industry positions click here and mention Jennifer Polk referred you for a free resume review.
Jobs on Toast’s Chris, a medieval studies PhD who now works as a project manager at an ethical bank in the UK, now offers consulting services!
Hillary Hutchinson, MA, MEd. Hillary was my post-PhD coach! She loves working with academics, from graduate students up to senior administrators, as well as those of us who decide to build careers elsewhere. Hillary is a great champion of her clients’ intuitive wisdom, and she’s also fascinated by brain science, always researching ways to apply scientific knowledge to coaching situations. A self-proclaimed extreme extrovert, Hillary’s positive energy is infectious . . . in the best possible way!
Karen Kelsky, PhD, has gathered up a handful of “Out-Ac Experts” who offer consulting services or job application help. Karen and Margy Horton, PhD, host useful on-demand webinars you can purchase, too. If you’re looking for assistance getting into an academic position, or moving up the ranks once there, Karen is your best bet.
A former professor who left to work in the private sector after a tenure denial, Anne Krook, PhD, now consults on graduate career issues. Anne gives workshops throughout North America that teach students how to successfully transition to non-academic employment. She also works closely with grad deans and faculty members on program development and other initiatives aimed at improving university offerings and tracking PhD career outcomes. Check out Anne’s excellent website for many useful posts that demystify what’s next, career-wise, and explain how to go about getting a good job after a PhD.
Catherine Maybrey, PhD. I consider Catherine to be both a colleague and a mentor. She has her own coaching and consulting business, and is also the Graduate Career Strategist at McMaster University, working out of the School of Graduate Studies. She’s always up-to-date on the latest hiring trends and coaches her clients to make the best use of their job search time. Catherine presented at 2014’s Beyond the Professoriate conference.
Barry O’Brien is an outsider looking in! He expertly teaches social networking tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter, to help academics transition smoothly into industry. Having recruited for over 20 years, Barry also knows a lot about job application strategies and optimisation of your time. Based in Stockholm, Sweden, if you plan to move to Europe, Barry is also a great contact for getting to know the different job markets there. He hosts a free networking group for PhDs and Recruiters in Stockholm, Sweden.
Susan Robison, PhD, was a psychologist, tenured faculty member and department chair before taking up coaching and consulting for individual and institutional clients. She specializes in coaching faculty, scientists, and other professionals who want help with productivity and work-life balance. Susan’s strengths include kindness and honesty, which results in a no-nonsense but kind and empathetic approach to coaching. She’s the author of The Peak Performing Professor: A Practical Guide to Productivity and Happiness.
Colin White, PhD, and Anthony Collman, PhD, are life science PhDs who joined forces to provide mentoring to scientists who want out of academic laboratories. They put together a community of professionals to help clients, and they offer consulting and coaching services as well as webinars and in-person seminars. I’m a fan!
Maren Wood, PhD, is an expert on PhD employment and how doctoral degree holders can successfully transition into meaningful paid employment. Join her as an individual client or sign up for her “bootcamp” for non-academic job seekers. Maren and I co-organize Beyond the Professoriate, the online conference for PhDs in career transition. Fun fact: we did our Master’s degrees together at Carleton University then didn’t connect again until 8 years later when we realized we were both post-academics working with PhDs who were changing careers! See also Maren’s excellent article, “The PhD’s Guide to a Nonfaculty Job Search.”
A full-service company dedicated to empowering graduate students, academics, and PhDs. They do all kinds of work, especially for individuals in the STEM fields.
Having been just ahead of the current wave of those looking in a different way at life after doctoral studies, Kel has nearly 15 years of experience in talking to and helping guide those who want to navigate territory beyond the academy. Your experience and skills are valuable–and they require you to think richly and carefully about the shape of career you want. Your options are exciting! Kel offers help with CVs, social media profiles (including the increasingly important LinkedIn), effective writing and speaking, and general presentation and communication skills.
Erica will soon hold a History PhD from Boston College and is the Assistant Director of Career Services for Graduate A&S Students at Brandeis University. Her experiences as a counselor and an academic in Boston have opened the door to strong industry connections in the hub of education. She is committed to helping her clients understand their personal worth and the value of their skills in any industry, and transitioning smoothly from traditional academia. She encourages her clients to think broadly about their values and their mission, and helps them find careers that make an impact. She offers individual coaching, networking and branding assistance, and is available for group workshops and presentations.
Melissa Walker Ph.D. specializes in helping clients navigate a challenging and fast-changing academic workplace by developing strategies for effectively managing time and energy and improving self-care. She works with clients who want to achieve a better balance between career, family, and personal goals as well as those who want to map a path to career change or balancing career, family, and personal goals. She particularly enjoys working with mid-career academics who want to negotiate mid-life transitions—in their current jobs or in new ventures. Melissa is a historian with more than twenty-five years experience in teaching, mentoring, and coaching. Read her blog or learn more about her at her web site.
Marquita M. Qualls, PhD, also known as Dr. Q, is a trained chemist who successfully transitioned from the lab to global management roles at one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, before launching her own consulting firm. She now works with professionals at all levels, in all disciplines, and is a recognized expert in helping STEM graduate students and postdocs prepare for their career beyond the degree. Visit her website at entropiaconsulting.com.
My name is Chela, and I’m interested in the way we work. I use my interests and experience to help clients find work that wants them. Specifically I write resumes, cover letters, create LinkedIn profiles, perform job searches, and do whatever it takes to help you along in your job search. Since 2014, I’ve helped nearly 200 people in some aspect of their job search. Please check out my website at www.chelawhiteramsey.com and feel free to reach out to me if there’s anything I can help with!
Melissa writes custom resumes, cover letters, and supporting documents for doctoral students, PhD graduates, postdoctoral fellows, and academic faculty who are looking to move into business, government, or non-profit. She turns your C.V. into a compelling resume that tells hiring managers you’re the one they want. If you’re looking for more than a resume, she can also write you cover letters, follow up notes, and post-interview thank you emails that are tailored to the job you want.
Since 2007, Veronica has balanced a career in academic and private sector research in Canada. She works with clients who want to feel like their degree matters, no matter the industry they want to work at. Veronica enjoys researching, designing and delivering career and employment strategies for alt-ac, recent graduates and all those interested to move into private sector roles. Her career services include resumes, cover letters, Linkedin profiles, job search strategies and interview preparation. Currently a qualitative research manager for a major Canadian bank, her research focuses on digital and talent management strategies.
Sara Sutler-Cohen is a Career Coach for graduate students, new faculty, and recovering academics. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz (’05), and since walking away from tenure in 2013, she has faced burnout head-on to launch a freelance career in Coaching, Curriculum Development, Editing, and Indexing. Sara masterfully works with clients to help them develop plans of action toward successful changes necessary for taking the next steps toward career shifts and professional development. Check out her website at Scout Coaching.
(17 May 2017: This page is very much a work in progress! If you have suggestions, please let me know.)