For PhDs who need a non-academic job

Let’s face it: most PhDs need to find a non-academic job, and nearly all would be happier if they had such a job instead of trying to survive in the perilous world of modern academia. Life out there in the non-academic world is not as bad as you think! So we asked Chris Humphrey to let us reproduce here his advice on what to do when you realize it’s time to explore that world, and here it is:


Resource Guide: 10 career websites every PhD should visit!

by Chris Humphrey, PhD; founder of careers blog Jobs on Toast

What could your life look like after your PhD, if you chose to pursue a career outside of academia? You can find out by browsing through the hundreds of inspiring post-PhD interviews, profiles and autobiographies available online. To save you the trouble of tracking them all down, here are ten websites which in my opinion carry some of the best post-PhD interviews and profiles. In no particular order they are:

1. PhDs At Work — Insight and Advice on Life Beyond Academia. Michelle Erickson takes the PhD interview format to a whole new level with her ‘week-in-the-life’ approach. PhDs working in corporate and non-profit sectors give accounts of what they do in their day jobs, showing how skills learned in the PhD are put to use outside of academia. Professional photography and cool site navigation make this site a real pleasure to use. My favourite part is the way that each contributor’s dissertation title is listed too! Sign up by email to get a post every day of the week, when a new interview is posted.

2. From PhD to Life – Jennifer Polk’s blog has massively raised the profile of informational interviewing as a tool to assist in PhD career development. The Transition Questions and Answers section of the site contains Jen’s interviews with PhDs who’ve taken the plunge and are now enjoying fantastic and fulfilling careers! This approach has elicited some great insights and advice from PhDs: two of my all-time favourite interviews are with Sarah Kendzior and Sam Ladner. There’s also a useful list of links to individual PhD interviews to found elsewhere on the web.

3. The Versatile PhD – VPhD is already well-known for its discussion forums, job postings and local area meet-ups. The site also has a Premium area where you can find 80 personal profiles written by humanities and social science PhDs who were hired straight out of academia. Not only that, you can read some of the actual résumés and cover letters they used to get their post-ac jobs! In addition you can view career autobiographies from PhDs who have been out of academia for a while. Check whether your university or association is on the list of subscribing institutions for the Premium content.

4. Beyond the PhD – This rich resource from the University of Reading features profiles of researchers who have gone into both academic and non-academic careers. There is so much content here that you could be browsing for days, with audio clips as well as timelines and transcripts! Helpfully the audio clips are also organised by topic, such as ‘Deciding against an academic career’ and ‘Employer attitudes to the PhD’, so you can come back again and again at different stages in your career journey.

5. Scilingual – This site from Jerry Nguyen has a great series of interviews called ‘Off the beaten (tenure) track’. The interviewees are from science backgrounds and the interviews themselves are in written or video formats, with the latter taking the novel approach of recording a Google Hangout! It’s interesting for those of us from humanities backgrounds to read about science PhDs also choosing to pursue careers outside of academia – the challenge of transition clearly spans all disciplines.

6. The Unemployed Philosopher’s Blog – Dan Mullin’s blog features in-depth audio interviews with several well-known writers on post-academic matters, including Julie Clarenbach, Lauren Nervosa and Jennifer Polk. Each interviewee talks candidly about their grad school experience, how they made the transition out of academia, and what they’re doing now. You can listen to the interviews directly on the blog or subscribe in iTunes to keep up to date (as I do). Dan is so talented, surely he can’t stay unemployed for very long!

7. PhD Career Guide – Mike D’Ecclessis’s career website is another place to find in-depth audio interviews with PhDs outside academia, and promises great things in the future, judging by the quality of the guests so far. You can listen to the interviews on the site or subscribe in iTunes. I really enjoyed the interview with Nathan Vanderford, especially his reflections on the importance of being ‘career conscious’ during your PhD.

8. What Are All The PhDs? Sharing the Career Path of All PhDs – This is a great idea: people with PhDs can submit a career profile to this Tumblr site founded by Nathan Vanderford. Since the contributors sprinkle their profiles with links, you can also get access to the ‘world of work’ beyond the individual, which is especially helpful for learning more about particular career paths out of academia. Go ahead and submit your profile to the site!

9. Life After the PhD – Another website featuring written interviews with PhDs who are forging fantastic careers outside of academia. A must-read is the profile of Caroline Cakebread, an English PhD and Shakespeare scholar who’s now turned her hand to financial journalism – and runs her own marketing firm! The interviews on the site are very detailed and you really feel like you get know the interviewees after reading their stories.

10. Escape the Ivory Tower – A short podcast series that can be found on the University Affairs website. The podcast’s host is Julie Clarenbach, who runs a business helping academics to make the transition out of academia (Escape the Ivory Tower). I really like the calm and chilled-out feel of this podcast – it shows that changing careers doesn’t have to be a big drama! Here are the episode links: Episode 1Episode 2Episode 3.

I hope you enjoy reading and listening to these interviews as much as I did: please leave a comment on my Facebook page or tweet me @chrishumphrey with your thoughts!

This is an expanded version of an article that was first published on the careers blog Jobs on Toast. Visit Jobs on Toast for direct help and support with finding a job after your PhD or post-doc.


4 thoughts on “For PhDs who need a non-academic job

  1. Thanks for posting these- it’s a really handy resource with quick links to all the best guides. As a PhD who decided to leave academia, and is gainfully employed in the real world, I could not recommend Twitter enough. Using #AltAc (short for “alternative to academia”), you can get chatting to hundreds of other PhDs all in the same boat across the globe. I found this an absolutely indispensable support network 🙂

  2. Pingback: short take #2 — Hortensii on PhDs Who Need a Non-academic Job | grad launch

  3. Application Manager-• Must have a Ph.D. in Chemistry.
    Relocation is available.
    ~~Pay: 100-110k
    ~~• Must have a Ph.D. in Chemistry. A Ph.D. in Polymer Science is preferred.
    • Must have 10 years of experience in product and application testing.
    • Must have experience with carbon black and/or plastics industry experience.
    • Must have experience with mixing black and white pigments (such as titanium dioxide).
    Responsibilities: Provide technical solutions/innovations for plastics specialty product portfolio to achieve targeted segment level growth.
    Provide technical solutions and innovations for plastics systems thus helping business grow profitability and market share in a highly competitive global environment where we are currently number three in the market and face product portfolio gaps in both geography and performance; working closely with product managers and select customers to develop masterbaches/compounds to compete with competition.
    • Explore/Develop new technologies/formulations for the segment
    Identify programs and work with select
    • customers to develop universal masterbatches and compounds.
    • Develop technical solutions for better utilization of BC products.
    New additives studies/analyses to enhance the value/performance of BC products.
    • Work closely with Product managers and tech service to identify opportunities for new products and possible solutions
    Work closely with the labs to analyze/optimize the performance of new products
    Help develop product positioning and value communication for training, selling tools and marketing collateral
    Carry out detailed analyses of competitive products (especially new products) and provide BC recommendations versus the same
    Contact: email: qualitysearch@
    Phone: 678 482-8466

  4. Pingback: Welcome to Hortensii | Hortensii

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s