After the PhD:
Interview with L. Maren Wood
L. Maren Wood, PhD is the CEO and founder of Beyond the Professoriate. In this interview, she shares her perspectives on embarking on careers as entrepreneurs, starting a business, and how their career paths have really surprised them.
Maren graduated from her PhD – and the only thing she ever wanted to be was an educator. She finished in 2009, spending three years on the academic job market at a time when the market had collapsed. After moving to Washington, D.C., Maren began tracking down history PhDs to learn more about where they were ending up. Through networking, Maren consulted for the American Historical Association and held a two-year contract with the Chronicle of Higher Education, learning more about who actually lands tenure-track positions and what sectors PhDs were employed in. Based on that research, she started working one-on-one with PhDs to help them with their career transitions.
Maren focuses on strategic design, product design, marketing, and high level business strategy. For the past year she has worked on developing and designing Aurora, Beyond Prof’s e-learning platform. Regardless of what Maren is doing, it requires research – whether she’s looking into new programs to help the team communicate more efficiently or learning more about platform development. She also has found that her day-to-day work includes analysis and analytic review, and even a little bit of sales!
When asked how her current business relates to her doctoral work, Maren is quick to point out that it doesn’t relate to her work as historians at all. “I want that to become much more normal,” says Maren. “I loved being a historian. I liked thinking high-level thoughts. I loved being in the classroom.” Maren found that tracing her values and interests led her to fulfilling and exciting careers. She drew connections between her love of the classroom and designing and developing workshops.
Maren points out that the post-PhD career transition can be really tough. The most surprising element of Maren’s career? She remembers saying at a conference in the past “I don’t ever want to run a business.” In retrospect, she believes this statement was connected to the safety of her academic identity – which she felt she still held onto, even after she left the academic job market.
Her advice for those starting out on their own career transitions? Talk to all sorts of people. In the beginning, networking and reaching out may make you feel nervous or anxious, but most people are excited to give advice and want to help you get where you need to go. She wants PhDs undergoing a career transition to ask themselves more about their interests. Think broadly about what, exactly, it is about your academic work that energizes you, and try to apply that to other sectors or career paths.
Watch the full interviews below:
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