6 thoughts on “What kinds of resources and experiences are most effective in making multiple career pathways tangible to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers?

  1. I am currently a master’s student. While I am fairly certain I do not want to go into academia, I find that very few other job opportunities have ever been brought to my attention. I would love for there to be some sort of course offered or even a career fair that targets graduate students not wanting to go into academia.

    I also hear a lot of different takes on PhD’s being overqualified for certain positions and find it very difficult to decide if it is going to be beneficial or problematic to continue onto a PhD in this job market. For this reason, I think it would be extremely beneficial to understand what kind of degree (MS vs PhD) is required for non-academic careers. Having insight from government agencies and various NGO’s on the opportunities available for different degree levels in different backgrounds would be invaluable to me in my current position.


  2. The most beneficial for me have been opportunities to hear from and talk with people who have taken many different career paths – and particularly why they made the choices they did. Internships can also offer a good way to get inside different types of career environments for a while, but they don’t often fit well into a graduate program and they don’t always offer a realistic picture of what such a job would be like as a long-term career.

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  3. I second Ashley. I often find myself being trained for an academic job and discouraged from gaining some industry-related experiences (like internships for grad students). I have also seen and heard many companies ask for industry (non-academic) experience when recruiting. And I find much confusion from their part in understanding how the skills I gained in the lab will translate.

    I would benefit from a program to work with industry throughout the PhD program, either by enrolling in a series of internships, shadowing, or other ways in which I can get a feel for the industry and the types of jobs out there for me as well gain industry experience and a foot in the door.

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  4. Ashley and Sherylch, I’ve had this exact conversation so many times and I completely agree with you. When I was first thinking about leaving academia, I started looking around for resources, and while there is no shortage of consultancies out there, I didn’t find a platform to connect me with job opportunities. My friends were in the same boat – some of them secured prestigious post-docs only to go from one post-doc to another. I had no idea how to make the transition out of academia, and neither career services nor my advisors could really give me the help I was looking for.

    So like Kathy, I started to think that talking to people about various career possibilities was a good way to get some information about transitioning out of academia. So I started talking to some people, and eventually starting conducting a podcast where I would interview people who have left academia and successfully pursued industry careers. This, in turn, became a startup called GradSquare.com, a job-board and career site for grad students and post-docs, where we could learn about different careers and shop around for jobs.

    I think the main challenge is that the university has been so separated from industry that grad students and post-docs in research fields have very little, if any, exposure to industry careers. Some schools seem to have a pipeline to certain companies and/or industries, but there’s no clear path to leave academia. However, there are definitely companies out there interested in STEM post-graduates (and even humanists and social scientists). I built GradSquare so that we (I mean grad students and post-docs) could have a clearer path to industry, I hope it can help.


  5. During my PhD I attended a few helpful seminars on the differences between academia and industry CVs. They pointed out, for example, that for an industry position they don’t care so much that you have X papers with Y citations, they want to know your experience and how it helps them achieve their long-term objectives. Also, patents and having worked on projects with industrial partners are a plus, emphasize those! Another major difference was the length of your CV: short (1-2 pages) for industry, and long (whatever is necessary to list everything) for academia.

    So, I think seminars, workshops, and other events to highlight differences, and even serve as networking opportunities (for projects and people) are a good resouce.


  6. I’m in a PhD program and looking to enter an industrial career. The scientific training I’m getting seems adequate for such, but academia and industry have very different cultures and priorities. I’m lucky to at least had some background in industry, but it feels weird to be getting trained by scientists who have never set foot outside of academia.

    From what I’ve been able to gather from the way the hiring process works if a scientist enters the industrial world it is functionally impossible for them to go back on the academic path. As the NSF is an agency that provides grants and fellowships I’m sure they have some sway on who will and who won’t make it as an academic scientist. I fully admit I don’t know the ins and outs of academic hiring and funding, but I would be surprised if there weren’t a bias against scientists who have ventured into the industrial world. I think the NSF is in a position to change this and I very much believe that if more professors have non-academic work experience they will be better able to mentor graduate students who aren’t dead set on the professorial track.

    And, honestly, very few people are able to find a tenure track position, but the system is designed so that graduate students to mentored into becoming academics. That model has to change.

    Liked by 1 person

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