The fifth annual Beyond Academia career conference, held March 2-3, 2017 at UC Berkeley, offered a wealth of information, advice, and inspiration.
Hundreds of PhD students and postdocs gathered to explore a broad range of careers. The program included about 20 panels of PhDs working in non-faculty careers, a dozen workshops on career skills, and two keynote addresses.
Here are my five top take-aways from the conference.
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
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
“I don’t want to be a faculty member.” This realization dawned during the first two years of Stacy Hartman’s PhD program. Forthrightly, she told one of her faculty advisors, who encouraged her to explore other options. Today, after finishing her PhD in German Studies in five years, she is leading the Connected Academics program for the Modern Language Association. Located in New York City, the MLA is the professional association for scholars in English studies and modern languages. But bear in mind that the advice Stacy offers is her own, not the MLA’s.
Stacy offers three pieces of advice for graduate students:
- Manage your time. Your day-to-day time, but also your time in graduate school.
- Talk to people. Lots of people. Lots of different kinds of people.
- Do what you need to do to feel positively about yourself. A positive attitude toward your job search is not only helpful but necessary.
Building your professional network requires active effort. There are 4 steps as you move from meeting people to creating enduring connections. Remember them as the Four I‘s.
Initiate & Inquire
(I know that is really five.)
You are the center of your web of connection. The people you are connected to form your professional network. Your connections reach out in all directions.
The members of your network are the people you know who share your professional interests. These are two-way connections. You give to members of your network and they give to you. At the same time, you are a node in their network.
You build connections in three directions:
- You network UP to those who are more powerful and important than you are.
- You network ACROSS with your peers.
- You network DOWN to those who are coming after you.