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Profiles of Career Change

What are PhDs who have left academia DOING?  And, how did they make their choices?
Here is an eclectic mix of websites, stories and advice, from the sciences, humanities and social sciences.  Some were planned changes and some were “accidental.”  (Actually, I’m not convinced that accidental is completely by “accident.” Almost always, when investigated, the “accidents” required interest, latent strengths and follow-up.)
PhDs at Work    A marvelous site that seems to have stopped growing in 2016, but it’s still there, with stories by 28 PhDs who have found their way into non-academic work.  It offers more than glimpses of their work as they journal daily about the work they’re doing during a typical week, and they’re still as interesting as if more were being added.
Versatile PhD is a wonderful resource that’s thankfully becoming well-known to grad students these days. Free to individuals, there’s a premium version that’s sold to Grad School Career Centers around the country – check your university career center if you’re still in grad school. It, too, offers stories of career change, but also gives all comers a chance to ask for and get advice from those who have “been there, done that” and have lived through their career experiences.
The Chronicle of Higher Education   While various articles discuss careers beyond academe, their focus is on news and issues in higher education now, not on how to leave. Nonetheless, look for articles by searching terms, such as “alt-ac,” “leaving academia,” and “non-academic careers.” Be creative and try other terms. Here are two  bookend articles, from 2010 and 2019, that show how little has changed.
A Hobby Becomes a Career  Here’s the story of a seemingly unusual career change out of academics, and it made sense to the person making the change.  (Note that this article was written by Susan Basalla May, who co-authored, with Maggie Debelius, the book “So What Are You Going to Do With That?: Finding Careers Outside Academia.”  If you’re considering a career change and haven’t seen it yet, the book is worth your time.)
How Ph.D.s Romanticize the “Regular” Job Market This article highlights typical issues academics have when they make the transition out of academics.
SpecialReport – Karen Kelsky’s The Professor Is In column answers questions and offers advice for grad students, some of which relates to job search.
It’s scary to change careers    Another brief and scary personal story of career change, despite a lack of the proper certifications that most people assume would be necessary. Various comments on this post confirm that, also.
Bench Fly Blog   Advice on succeeding at laboratory bench work – many posts are future career-related, this one, for example. Plus, you can submit career and job-related questions to Dora Farkas by sending to DearDora at the website URL. Her site is
The Middle Finger Project   Leaving any profession can be an emotional roller coaster ride, but academics are especially prone to it. This is not that story – yet, if you think you’ve had it bad, read this from the top.  And check some of the comments following too.  Need I point out that doing it your way may include a business?
Doug’s Guides   Yet another fascinating story of a guy who changed professions (from a PhD in Biology). Here is the main point of his experience. “My point is that taking advantage of opportunities (or making opportunities) is just as valid a strategy as plotting out your career.  And it provides you with a lot more flexibility.  These days it is the only realistic career planning strategy.” – by Doug Kalish
Passion blog post  His take on “following your passion” is a bit different from most advice.  (I’d like to add that his post, and the comments following, assume that what most folks want is a “stable” job with benefits. But now that health care is more available to those without stable full-time jobs with benefits, there is a bit more freedom to go looking for work that fits best, which may not be that stable full-time job for every single one of us.)
From Academe to.  another well-written and interesting career change story. (Even though he was a bench scientist, the general points rang true for me as a social scientist.)
A founder of the National Postdoc Association speaks.
Academia or Industry – Choices…
Plus, you’ll find many more related articles here.

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