The academic cultural taboo around non-faculty careers persists despite decades of debate. One of the most powerful voices helping PhD students and postdocs see the many opportunities available to them is Dr. Paula Chambers, founder of The Versatile PhD. In this interview, Dr. Chambers offers three pieces of advice to help students embrace and prepare for careers beyond academia.
- Determine what is true
- Build your skills
- Count everything
If you have ever entertained the idea that your path might take you out of academia, keep reading.
The five years in her PhD program included some of the best and hardest educational experiences of assistant professor Maureen Estevez Stabio’s life. She wants every student to have an equally transformative experience. Your PhD program is a time to learn and grow. To figure out what you love. Don’t let these goals get left behind in the dust of the urgent.
When students ask Dr. Stabio for advice on how to do well in graduate school, she usually offers these three pieces of advice.
- Follow your passions and talents
- Pick your advisor and lab wisely
- Learn to write well
Creating her own structures was the critical key to success in grad school for ecologist Sasha Wright. Memories—some of difficult episodes —came rushing back when Wright was formulating her advice. “What helped me to handle those struggles?,” she pondered.
Her three pieces of advice for thriving in grad school are:
- Invest in your grad school community
- Develop close academic relationships with at least three advisors
- Set short term goals and achieve meaningful benchmarks
Providing career counseling and career education for graduate students is an innovation of the last 20 years. Julie Vick Miller is one of the pioneers of the movement. After serving graduate students for three decades she has honed her advice.
Three things she advises graduate students, particularly those pursuing faculty careers:
- Develop your academic persona
- Take advantage of the resources at your university
- Learn how your university works
“You need to assume that the demand for you will be less than you like and supply of people like you will be greater than you like. Act accordingly.”
That is the career preparation advice that Professor Rick Reis—known around the world as “Tomorrow’s Professor”—offers to grad students and postdocs.
Reis has a broad overview of graduate students’ professional development, particularly for academic careers. He has published the “Tomorrow’s Professor” e-newsletter for nearly 20 years. He has given a lot of thought to how grad students are prepared for faculty careers, and has a view of what is changing.
During our interview he broke down “Act Accordingly” into three specific pieces of advice:
- Start early and develop multiple options
- Think next stage
- Cultivate breadth-on-top-of-depth
The most important things are people and ideas. They are transcendental. People working at their full capacity can do anything. Ideas can change everything.
Deji Akinwande stressed people and ideas in our interview. He is an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Texas at Austin and was awarded a 2016 Presidential (PECASE) Award by President Obama.
His three pieces of advice for graduate students:
- Invest in and nurture your ideas
- Networking is critical
- Communication, communication, communication