Career Planning Resources

I’ve been thinking about jobs and career options for after I finish my PhD. I say thinking, I mean panicking. However me + panic = avoidance, so what I’ve been doing is a little light reading and link following. Fortunately for me there are people producing good content on the matter.

The best thing I’ve found so far is Jobs on Toast. The guy is writing all sorts of useful things about transferring out of academia and how to tell a convincing story about that process. I’d already encountered the idea of re-framing this kind of transition and how to describe your skills to a non-academic audience in language they understand but Chris writes more persuasively and engagingly about it than anyone else I’ve encountered so far. He provides ways to talk about it that don’t sound cheesy or fake or over-hyped, which is something I really appreciate.

Going off what I’ve read of his archives so far, and the many other articles I’ve read on other career sites, I think I might finally have a clue about the sort of environment I might want to work in and what sort of things I would want the work to achieve. I’ve also got some idea of the challenges and opportunities I might appreciate in the future once I’ve got more business experience. I know now how important a good relationship with my management is to me, and just how much I want to have my work acknowledged and appreciated. I know that I enjoy collaborating on projects and I value the opportunity to engage and communicate with others. These are all things I didn’t know before, when I was so dead set on wanting to “know how things work”, confident that if I had that, it would be enough. This is progress.

The next step is researching job roles, discovering what types might suit me and best use my skills. From there I can start to look for companies, charities, institutions and government bodies that mesh with my wider life aims of working to reduce suffering, harm and injustice. ‘People before profit’ and environmental sustainability are things that matter deeply to me, as do corporate honesty and integrity. With those things in place, the work will be more fulfilling because I’ll know we’re working towards something useful, something good.

My intention for the next few months is to start this research task so that when people ask the dreaded question “what do you plan to do after?”, I’ll have something constructive to tell them. An hour or two a week, flicking through books from the careers service and browsing post-PhD career profiles, will be a definite help and it will all add up over time.

Please feel free to share any good careers’ websites or books you’ve encountered that really helped you in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Career Planning Resources

  1. I found this book useful mostly for getting my brain around how academics generally might be useful to people out in the real world: What are you going to do with that?. Jobs on Toast has probably already got that covered for you though, and it’s a fairly broad book–directed at all academics, not just scientists–so skip it if you don’t need any more of that.

    The woman who wrote this book spoke at UCLA and gave me a good idea of the careers in industry/biotech for biologists, as well as an understanding of how stuff like informational interviews worked: Careers in Biotechnology and Drug Development. To be honest, I decided fairly quickly that I wasn’t up for diving into industry, particularly since I only had the master’s rather than the PhD, but I know other people have found it enormously helpful. The book is somewhat expensive but extreeeeemely detailed and comprehensive. May be worth buying and reselling it when you’re done with it, or sharing with a friend.

    I’d also suggest joining/requesting to join groups on LinkedIn related to the fields you are considering. Ones in your area will be best for job connections, of course, but even ones further away will give you access to informative discussions about how the industry works. Similarly, many professional organizations offer student memberships, and those can be SO WORTH IT. Often they have internal message boards for advice as well as job listings, and some even have conferences you can attend to network in person if you’d like. As a student, you don’t have to prove that you are in the profession to join, just pay their student fee ($20-50, in my experience) for a year of membership. I joined the National Organization of Science Writers (NASW), the American Medical Writers Organization (AMWA), and the Association of Women in Science (AWIS). Obviously the organizations will be different for you, and it’s worth asking around to see which ones actually give you worthwhile benefits, but definitely take advantage of the student membership option while you can.

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