Engaged Academics in the Age of Mass Distraction

New Webinar Featuring:
Maren Wood, Jen Polk, and Michelle Dionne Thompson

March 3rd, 2017 12:00 P.M. ET

Cost: $30.  We’ll donate $7 from each ticket to the ACLU
Register:  https://beyondprof.eventbrite.com

The last month has been exhausting. The assault on progressive values has come fast and furious. I feel like I’ve had a bad case of whiplash as we moved from the Age of Obama to the Age of Trump. As a Canadian living in the US, I’ve found myself at a loss about what I – one individual, one woman, one immigrant – can do to make a difference. I’ve upped my subscriptions to newspapers; made my protest signs and attended rallies; signed up for daily action alerts; donated money; phoned senators; applied for US citizenship so I can vote; applied to immigrate my partner back to Canada so we can move ….

But it’s not enough. And while I desire to become more critically engaged in my community, I have felt overwhelmed, scattered, directionless, and unsure of the best way to channel my time and talents.

As I’ve reflected on the work I’m doing here at Beyond the Professoriate and in my coaching practice, I’ve thought: what more can I do? And I’ve thought a lot about a conversation Jen and I had with a professor who stopped by our booth at the American Historical Association conference last month. The faculty member told us that, after the election, she had decided to become more engaged with grassroots organizations in her home state. What she had learned in a few short weeks was just how valuable her skillset was when employed beyond the academy: quickly finding reliable information on specific issues, distilling that information into a persuasive argument, and then writing scripts that others could use when speaking with representatives. Used to speaking in front of an audience, she was not intimidated to show up at town halls and ask pointed questions. Things she did on a daily basis as an educator allowed her to quickly become a leader in her small community.

And I thought: this is what I do. When I work with clients or do workshops on campus, I try to help smart, talented, academics think about ways to employ their skills broadly. And it doesn’t just have to be those who are looking for new careers – the work we do at Beyond the Professoriate can help any academic who wants to employ their unique skillsets beyond their work as educators and scholars.

I approached Jen and Michelle with the idea of doing a webinar to help academics do three things: First, to help you identify your core values. We can’t do everything, we can’t attend every protest, we can’t give money to every worthy cause or organization. It’s just not possible. So how do you decide what is most important to you? Jen Polk will provide concrete action steps you can take to help you prioritize.

The next steps is to figure out what it is you can do in terms of tasks and skills, and to turn your expertise into a skill that can directly benefit organizations and causes. Maren will walk you through how to do a skills inventory of your work as an educator and scholar, and provide strategies to identify organizations where your abilities can be put to use.

And we’re in this for the long haul. We’ve got 2? 4? (not longer, surely!) years of resisting and rebuilding. How do you pace yourself? How do you practice self care? Michelle will talk about strategies to help you avoid burn-out.

We hope that you can join us! We’ll be donating $7 from the live webinar to the ACLU. If you can’t attend live, the recording will be available afterwards to those who register in advance.

Do you want help with your job search?

Are you gearing up or actively engaged now in job searching for non-faculty positions? If so, read on.

The PhD Career Exploration and Job Search Course starts soon. The first class is on Thursday, and there are still spots open.

This course is something I offer with Maren Wood (my partner in Beyond the Professoriate) and Heidi Scott Giusto, another PhD who’s presented at all three of our annual conferences. We launched the course in the fall, and it was a success! So we’re doing it again.

The course takes “students” — who last time all had PhDs! — through the whole process of exploration and searching for a new job or career. We do this in 10 classes that cover everything from identifying your values to interviewing like a pro. Each class is done live, online, and we cap course enrollment to ensure folks have a great experience.

Learn more here. You can download the syllabus.

One of the great things about the course is that it brings together what Maren, Heidi, and I each do best in one package! In my own 1-on-1 coaching, I love working with clients who are in the career exploration phase. That often includes some really heavy emotional stuff, and I really value helping clients navigate that process. So my part in the course is to bring in that life coaching component.

Maren is awesome at getting PhDs to think about their transferable skills in a much more intense way than I’d ever encountered before! She is serious about this and is convinced we have a LOT to offer — but it takes work to dig up this stuff in a meaningful way. Then, and only then, can you start putting together resumes that showcase your relevant-to-an-employer experience.

And Heidi’s the expert I send all my own clients to when they want top-notch job documents and professional coaching for job interviews. In the course she breaks down her writing process, and makes what can seem totally overwhelming into a clear, reasonable, and manageable task. Heidi’s also the queen of handouts!

Between Heidi’s handouts and all our other materials, plus “homework,” this is an intense course. It’s why we record all the classes, so folks can watch them again (and again!) as needed.

One of the things a past participant loved was that the course was also a community. We use Slack to share information and resources, and that means folks can talk to each other — and to us instructors — in between classes. It was awesome to see participants share their work, ask and receive feedback, and keep us updated on their insights and discoveries!

It can take several months to find a job, and even longer if you’re still exploring your options. That’s why it’s important to start this process earlier than you might think you should. If you want to be applying for jobs this spring and summer, now is the right time to gear up for doing that. If the PhD Career Exploration and Job Search Course appeals to you, we hope you’ll join us.

Learn more about the course here. It starts on Thursday, 19 Jan, at 8pm ET (5pm PT), and costs US $995.

PhD Job Career Search

4 Tips for a Non-Faculty Job Search

This past week, Jen and I attended the annual American Historical Association conference in Denver.  We spent hours talking with graduate students, faculty, and recent PhDs, about how to successfully find non-faculty careers.  Here’s some key pieces of advice I gave to people who stopped by to chat:

You don’t have to know what you’re going to do for the rest of your life.  You just need to know what you’d like to try next.

So many of the people I coach feel that they can’t leave academia until they know with 100% certitude what their new career will be.  This can be paralyzing.  The truth is, few people stay in the same job for more than a few years.  A study by LinkedIn found that on average, those graduating college since 2000 had 4 jobs the first 10 years after graduation. This means, of course, that your decision to leave academia for a new career isn’t all that strange.

 And people aren’t just changing jobs – they’re changing industries.  A communications or public relations position at a non-profit might lead a person to a related job in a tech start-up company, or perhaps in health care.  The transferability of what s/he does is the skills and core competencies the s/he gains at one position that can then benefit an employer in the next.

You don’t have to know what you’ll do for the rest of your life because that will change as you meet new people, gain new experiences, and explore career options outside of academia.  What you need to do is find something that uses your skills and gets you moving in the right direction – and you are the best person to determine what that direction might be.

 2. Focus on organizations, not specific job titles.

With that in mind, thinking about your main interests and values – where do you see yourself working? And what from your academic background have you enjoyed?  In answering the latter question, think more about tasks and skills than your specific subject matter expertise.  Do you enjoy problem solving? Mentoring others? Are you interested in helping others learn?  Are you interested in communicating complex information to the general public? 

 Next, research organizations – either where you’re living or where you’d like to live – where you’d be actively engaged in a mission/goal you believe in, and where you could put your skills to good use.

Think very carefully about how your skills would benefit the employer. Carefully research the needs of the employers – look at current employees on LinkedIn to identify the key skills and core competencies people have at this organization and company.  Which ones do you have that you could highlight in your resume and LinkedIn profile?  Read the company website – what services do they provide? What products do they create? What is their mission? What do they help clients achieve? 

3. Few people land jobs by submitting a resume to an online job board.

I hear from so many academics who have spent months if not years submitting resumes to online job boards and become discouraged and disillusioned.  This may be how the academic job market works, but the non-faculty job market functions very differently.  Most people find their job through their community or network. 

Once you’ve identified employers of interest and can clearly articulate your skill set and how you can benefit the employer, it’s time to set up face-to-face meetings (informational interviews) with people who work at organizations you’d like to be a part of.   There are rules for the informational interview that you want to be aware of, but know that this is common practice outside of academia.  Nobody will be put-off by your request (even if they don’t write back, it probably just means the person is too busy).

 You do, of course, need smart professional documents.  When someone is interested in hiring you, they’ll ask you for your resume, or ask you to apply for a job.  You want to be able to submit a polished resume that is specifically curated to the position and the needs of the employer.  

 4. Get started now.

Depending on the study the number can vary, but in Canada and the United States, it takes an average of 4 to 6 months to find a job. It may take you longer since you’re changing careers.  So don’t wait until you’ve defended your dissertation or wrapped up your semester of teaching to start looking.  Most companies take around 3 months to fill a position, from the time it’s posted through to the moment they offer it to a candidate.  The chances that someone would offer you a job that you’d have to start in 3 weeks is a remote possibility.  

We’re here to help.

Our PhD Career Exploration Job Search course starts on January 19th.  This is a great time to sign up and start preparing for a non-faculty job search.

– L. Maren Wood, PhD

Director of Research; Co-Director of Educational Programs
Beyond the Professoriate

Job Options for PhDs, Plus 3 Actions to Take Right Now

We’ve all heard that PhDs need to look at jobs beyond the professoriate. There simply aren’t enough faculty positions available for those who want them. And there are plenty of reasons not to want one even if you can get it: geography, the “2-body problem,” pay, workload, etc.

The good news is that there are many other possibilities! By now, you probably know this, at least theoretically. But this is where a lot of graduate students and academics get stuck: they know there are other things to do, but they have a hard time putting their fingers on exactly what those other jobs are.

Let’s say you’re a humanities PhD. Cool, me too. Not so cool is all the people asking, “are you going to be a professor?” and then looking disappointed when you fill them in about the academic job market. Ugh. So then your friend suggests you look in related fields. “How about writing, or editing? You could be a journalist!” Right, except those jobs aren’t plentiful and they tend to have career paths that involve training and experience you don’t have.

If you’re in STEM, you might be told to look for jobs in government labs — as if those were easy to land. Or maybe you could launch a startup! (I mean, you could! But it’s probably not the right move for most of us.) You get the point.

Here’s the thing, though: We know that PhDs are employed at extremely high rates. Government stats tell us this. Maren and I have lots of “ok but”s to say about this, but the fact of the matter is that doctoral-degree holders (and master’s degree-holders) are smart, capable individuals and we can and do get jobs. It can take a good, long while — as it does for many other folks, especially career changers — but it does happen.

Here’s what it takes: Broadening our knowledge of what’s out there, a great deal of personal and professional reflection, networking (primarily by means of informational interviews), and then narrowing down the possibilities, applying to openings with top-notch job documents, and interviewing like a pro.

If you’re feeling stuck at the “but what else can I do?” stage, you can move forward. Here’s 3 things you can do right now:

  1. Take stock of your values, strengths, and priorities. The more you strengthen your inner resolve, the more able you’ll be to take risks, like networking in a new field.
  2. Reach out to someone you know from grad school who’s working beyond the professoriate. Send them an email requesting an informational interview. You’re exploring your options and curious about their career. Do this even if it’s been a few years since you connected!
  3. Start making a big, long list of every task you did during your PhD. Focus on what’s on your academic CV and what’s not there. What exactly did you do to get that publication, present that paper, teach that course, volunteer in that high school? It’s all about skills.

What action will you take to move your career forward?

Heading to the AHA in Denver? Join Maren & Jen

Are you heading to the American Historical Association meeting in Denver?  We are too! Maren & Jen will be at Exhibit Hall with their own booth in Digital Alley talking all things #beyondprof. We’ll be giving away passes to the 4th Annual Beyond the Professoriate conference, so come by and say hi. And, if you want to chat with either one of us one-to-one, we’re offering free 30 minute consultations.  Sign up here.

We’ve also planning a range of fun activities and we hope you’ll join us.

Our main event will be a #BeyondProf Friday Happy Hour from 5-6:30 held at Earls Restaurant, a few blocks from the convention center. This is open to anyone, but especially for people who are working in, or considering, careers beyond the professoriate. We’re asking people to RSVP so we can give a headcount to the restaurant.

Otherwise, we’ve got some informal events planned and you’re welcome to stop by. On Thursday evening, we’ll be hitting up the #twitterhistorians happy hour and then heading to Torchy’s Tacos for dinner around 7.  Find us at the reception, DM us (@drmarenw for Maren or @FromPhDtoLife for Jen), or just head over to the restaurant.

Friday morning, we’ll be hosting a coffee hour at Little Owl Coffee from 8:30-9:30 and then spending the day at our booth. Then, of course, heading to the happy hour at Earls.

Saturday, you can find us in Digital Alley, and in the early evening, we’ll make our way to Union Station – a great local spot for coffee or drinks. Around 7 we’ll head to dinner at Aloy Modern Thai – we’ll have a reservation for 10 people, so DM if you want to join us. After that, we’ll take the party to Mile High Distillery, just around the corner.

You can download our full guide  which includes AHA panels and events that might be of interest to beyond proffers.

Hope to see you in Denver!

– Maren & Jen

New! Beyond the Professoriate Group Coaching Course

1 course. 3 experts. 10 weeks. Limitless possibilities.

Want expert instruction, coaching, and accountability to enhance your career exploration and job search? This course is for you!

In September 2016 we’re launching a new 10-week course for PhDs and graduate students who are preparing, or actively searching, for new careers beyond the professoriate! This is a joint offering of Beyond the Professoriate’s Jennifer Polk (From PhD to Life) and Maren Wood (Lilli Research Group), plus Heidi Scott Giusto (Career Path Writing Solutions).

Our course will give participants the skills they need to feel confident conducting a non-academic job search. We’re running only two groups, with enrollment capped at 10 people each. Each group will meet for ten hours of instruction and coaching, beginning the first week of September. Class sessions will be live, online, and will be recorded for future reference. Join Tuesdays 12 – 1pm ET or Thursdays 8 – 9pm ET.

  • Week 1 (6/8 September): Identify Your Core Values (Jen)
  • Week 2 (13/15 September): Learn To Talk About What You Do Instead of What You Know (Dissect Academic Career) (Maren)
  • Week 3 (20/22 September): Identify Transferable Skills & Research Career Fields (Maren)
  • Week 4 (27/29 September): Resumes & Cover Letters (Heidi)
  • Week 5 (4/6 October): Inner Critics & Mid-Program Check-In (Jen)
  • Week 6 (11/13 October): LinkedIn (Heidi)
  • Week 7 (18/20 October): Interviewing (Heidi)
  • Week 8 (25/27 October): Networking, Part 1 (Maren)
  • Week 9 (1/3 November): Networking, Part 2 (Jen)
  • Week 10 (15/17 November): Wrap Up (Heidi, Maren, Jen)

Participants will also have access to a private online community where they can interact with the coaches and each other in between sessions.

Emotional Support: Job hunting can be lonely. Leaving academia can feel destabilizing. By joining a group of like-minded PhDs, you’ll connect with fellow academics who are experiencing similar challenges with their transition: grappling with a shifting identity, building a new network, and reimagining their lives beyond the professoriate. Our online community will help keep you accountable, to make sure you get as much as possible out of the program.

Expand Your Network: Group coaching allows you to tap into the network of other people in your group. They can introduce you to people they know and send you job leads. You can brainstorm possibilities together, share resources, and learn from the experiences of others.

Enhance Your Job Search: Heidi, Maren, and Jen will provide you with expert advice and coaching to help you create a successful job search campaign. We’ll give you tools to work through the emotional roller coaster of leaving academia and launching a new career, help you learn how to talk about what you do instead of what you know, and communicate your knowledge, skills, and abilities to potential employers through effective professional documents and by networking like a professional.

Read more or learn how to enroll.

Hope you’ll join us!


Thank you! 2016 conference a big success

Thanks to everyone involved in Beyond the Professoriate 2016. It was awesome and our attendees had a great experience . . . all 400+ of them!

We had tons of great Twitter engagement as well as wonderful discussions in our dedicated Slack team account. Our presenters were all insightful and inspiring, and Maren and I are really pleased with how everything turned out. Well done, everyone!

Now that the 21-day replay is over and the videos are gone, the conference is well and truly over for this year. We’re taking some time off over the summer and then we’ll have news to share with you about upcoming events and other happenings. But first, Maren and I are hosting a webinar together for Chronicle Vitae, and we’d love you to join us for that. We’ll go over some of the stats Maren alluded to during the conference, and than lay out the process of successfully making the transition to work beyond the professoriate. Then, we’ll share a few real-life examples of how PhDs have networked, built skills, and gotten experience that landed them great burgeoning careers. All this in 1 hour. Wednesday, 22 June, 2-3pm EDT.

Check out the discussion on Vitae. A registration link for the webinar will be available soon.