Resources for PhDs

What follows is a long list of resources for academics figuring out life and work beyond the tenure track.

Looking for a job or to switch careers? Start by visiting Beyond the Professoriate to learn about membership options for individuals and institutions.

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Books

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.

M. R. Nelson, Navigating the Path to Industry: A Hiring Manager’s Advice for Academics Looking for a Job in Industry (2014)

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.

Websites

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

“#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

“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.

Beyond Academia

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.

Beyond Academe

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.”

Beyond the Professoriate

Lots of fantastic articles and videos available on the blog. Also check out the BP Community, an online hub for PhD careers beyond and within academia.

BiteSize Bio

Particularly for folks in the biological sciences. Webinars, blogs, and other resources. “The missing manual for bioscientists.”

Career Linguist

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.

The Grad Student Way

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.

Jobs on Toast

Chris Humphrey, a PhD in medieval studies, offers “positive & practical support for PhD careers outside academia.” Regular posts provide just that.

MLA Connected Academics

Great blogs and resources, particularly for humanists. This is a fellowship program as well.

The PhD Career Ladder Program

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.

PhDs at Work

Michelle Erickson’s website features the stories of a handful of diverse PhDs who are successfully working beyond the tenure track. A wonderful resource.

Scientists in Industry – Turning Science Into Things People Need

David Gitner’s website features commentary and profiles of PhD scientists working in industry.

Versatile PhD

Forums for support and information about all things beyond the tenure track.

What Are All the PhDs?

Nathan Vanderfort’s great site of PhD career profiles. Features a wide variety of disciplines and jobs. Nice complement to the Q & As.

Podcasts, Webcasts, Online Conferences

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. 6th Annual Beyond the Professoriate scheduled for 4-11 May 2019.

Rock You Research podcast, hosted by Chris Jones, PhD candidate.

Julie Clarenbach, PhD, from Escape the Ivory Tower hosts 3 episodes of a podcast for University Affairs. Episode 1, episode 2, and episode 3.

Dan Mullin, PhD (The Unemployed Philosopher’s Blog), interviews academics who’ve transitioned into non-academic jobs. Access the recording here or in iTunes.

Recovering Academic podcast, hosted by Ian Street, Amanda Welch, and Cleyde Helena.

Other 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.”

Resources for an Expansive Job Search: Humanities & Social Sciences

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.

Job Search Database

Laura Mitchell compiled this list of resources, especially for Canadians.

Quit Lit: The Vitae List

Another Google Doc with links to “I’m leaving academia”-type posts and articles.

(23 Jan 2018: This page is very much a work in progress! If you have suggestions, please let me know.)

8 Replies to “Resources for PhDs”

  1. So happy I discovered your site. But please note that the link:

    How to Leave Academia

    leads to an error message. I would be interested in learning more…

    1. Hi Mona — I don’t have job postings on this website. If the posting is relevant to Toronto PhDs, I moderate a group on FB called Versatile PhD Toronto. That’s somewhere where job postings could go.

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