Help! I’m just finished my PhD but I don’t want to work in academia. My PhD mentors are all university academics, and all their advice is about how to get a job in academia. I am worried that if I tell them I have chosen an alternative career path like industry that they would think I have failed them, or that I am wasting my PhD. Who can help?
Not an academic (get me out of here!)
Hi Not an academic,
This question is more common than you would think. Personally, this agony aunt would like us all to stop calling them ‘alternative’ career paths and just start calling them what they are: careers—no caveats needed.
Many of us go through our PhDs with only academics for mentors and role models, so it’s easy to see where the idea that leaving academia is failing comes from, but there are so many non-academic careers that are going to make use of the skills you gained during your PhD. If anyone does imply you are failing, show them that even Nature disagrees.
Start looking for new mentors in other sectors who can give you a different perspective—reach out to local business and industry networking groups or use social media to reach out to people in your target industry. Talk to your field’s professional body—they likely have both academic and industry members and may also support mentoring programs.
Have a look at our case studies of EMCRs working across sectors to learn about people who know what it’s like work on both sides of the divide (that really shouldn’t be a divide). You should also check out kickstarting collaboration, which has plenty of resources that include insights into the difference between the sectors.
But most importantly, don’t leave us when you make the leap! The EMCR Forum represents early- and mid-career researchers no matter their sector.
Yours in career path diversity,
© 2021 Australian Academy of Science