Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tips on a "Post-Academic" Career

The "So what are you going to do with that?" career seminar was very fancy. I expected your basic auditorium with a podium up front, and it turned out to be a bunch of circular tables with napkins, pitchers of water, and a full spread of cheese, crackers, fruit, and mascot-shaped cookies. Perhaps this is meant to give us a hint of the post-academic life.

Our speaker, Susan Basalla, gave us some insights into her own career choices, things she'd heard about while writing the book, and tips on how to proceed, including
  • You don't have to explain why you didn't finish your dissertation. Your employer is one of the 99% of the population who would never have considered starting one, and so has an excellent built-in understanding of why you decided you didn't want to finish it.
  • If turning your CV into a resume doesn't hurt, you aren't cutting enough information. Employers don't want to know about your publications and conferences you attended, they want to know what's relevant to their job.
  • An academic job search is passive; a non-academic job search is active. For an academic job, you send out all your credentials and wait for the call. For the non-academic job, you tailor your arguments, follow-up with the potential employer, and are hunting throughout the year.
I think the biggest thing I took away from the seminar was that non-academic job searchers are lengthy processes. Networking is important - most people she spoke to had gotten their first job because of a contact, not a random application - and takes years to come to fruition. I'm not sure I'm cut out for that level of uncertainty.


.deb. said...

I recently picked up "Put Your Science to Work" after attending a seminar by the author, Peter Fiske. I haven't read it yet, but it focuses on realizing that your career options are much more broad than the typical academic track and provides a bunch of info on CVs/Resumes, interviewing, etc.

I'm thinking about similar issues these days - need to advance to candidacy by June and figure out where I'm headed. The more academia-type stuff I do (sit on committees, write a proposal, etc), the less interested I am in that path...

grad student said...

I've decided most of the annoying things about academia are also going to be annoying in non-academic jobs. Unless you have some ideal, there will be big meetings instead of committees, weekly reports instead of proposals...I'm just trying to minimize those risks. The worst is the huge grant proposals; I'm focused on avoiding those.