How to Use Your Dissertation to Build Your Non-Academic Career

In the webinar, “How to Use Your Dissertation to Build Your Non-Academic Career,” Jennifer Polk, PhD welcomes Catherine Hannabach, PhD to share ways PhDs can leverage their dissertations to build non-academic careers. Cathy is the president of Ideas on Fire, a consulting and editing agency dedicated to helping academic and non-academic writers share their ideas. In this video, she offers tips and strategies for PhDs on how to build better networks using their academic research interests.

Most PhDs think of their academic scholarship as a segue into an academic career. While this may be true for some, it unfortunately, isn’t the case for most.

And this is okay.

There are many non-academic careers where you can use what you’ve learned in graduate school. One thing PhDs must keep in mind as they move into non-academic careers, however, is the importance of networks. As Cathy notes, “Academic jobs and non-academic jobs are found through your network. So how can you use your dissertation to build that network?”

Using Your Dissertation to Network

First, Cathy suggests you re-think the value of your PhD. Although most industry positions view PhDs as under-qualified, dissertations are useful to any field because they teach graduate students “how to learn almost anything.” From project management to grant writing and public speaking, the dissertation prepares PhDs for academic and non-academic success.

Next, in order to leverage your dissertation in the job search process, you’ll need to prioritize what exactly you want from your PhD. Once you understand the larger purpose behind your PhD, you can better identify how to collaborate with your dissertation committee. Whether you’re starting your dissertation or nearing the defense, “no topic is too far gone,” assures Cathy. The key is to be honest with your committee about how you want to use your dissertation. “Enlist your committee so they can help you brainstorm ways you can build your non-academic career,” Cathy says. “They might have some ideas that you didn’t think of.”

Explore Your Interests in Different Kinds of Jobs

If you’re still unsure about taking such a big step, just remember, “you got this,” says Cathy. Be confident about what you want to do with your PhD. “Everyone doesn’t have this figured out,” she continues. Don’t get caught up measuring your failures and successes with other students. A better approach is to consider your dissertation as a journey filled with a lot of learning and growing opportunities. For TA’s, Cathy suggests volunteering or interning in a non-academic position that interests you. The goal is to get as much learning experience as you can before you move into a job or career where the stakes are higher.

“It’s not always going to be fabulous,” says Cathy, “but it’s the process that counts.”

If you would like to hear more professional development tips from Cathy, please feel free to rent the video below. If you’d like to see what else Beyond the Professoriate has for PhDs, browse through more of our webinars, our blog, or join our online community of scholars!

Beyond the Professoriate Community Members attend events like this for free each month and access replays free for two weeks. Ready to launch your next great career? Join the Online Career Hub for PhDs.

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