Written By: Cathy Sorbara, PhD
Leaving academia meant reinventing my career.
The idea was daunting.
I was nearing the end of my PhD and did not want to fall into the trap of finding a ‘default postdoc’ like so many of my former colleagues.
They refused to acknowledge the realities facing postgraduates.
And who would want to admit that they were stuck in career purgatory, without a goal in sight, anyway?
I was done.
Sure, I had a project with great potential.
I worked relentlessly to meet everyone’s expectations and uphold the reputation of the lab.
But I no longer gained personal satisfaction from the work I was doing.
I was stressed, miserable, and had no one to turn to for guidance.
There was no career center at my institute and I didn’t know anyone who had successfully transitioned out of academia.
I turned my focus on my strength—research.
Surely, there was a ‘how to transition’ YouTube video or blog article somewhere out there?
Between experiments, when no one else was in the lab, I would scour the web.
I quickly found that most sites were misguided at best or flat out wrong at worst.
Many sites painted a bleak picture for PhD grads – the lack of positions, the competitive job market, and our ‘lack’ of employable skills.
The last thing I needed to hear was that I must get a second degree to make myself a viable job candidate.
After some sleepless nights staring into the Internet abyss, I finally stumbled upon some encouraging hits.
I used them as a guide to create my exit strategy.
This was my light at the end of the tunnel.
These sites were a source of hope and encouragement.
Not only was I not alone, but I could actually take control of my future.
The online community helped me successfully transition out of academia and ditch the idea of the default postdoc.
You get to benefit from my sleepless nights in the abyss with the best online resources to help you transition into industry.
Why You Should Consider Transitioning Into An Industry Career
According to a report by The Royal Society, your chance of a becoming a professor is 0.45%.
That means fewer than 1 in 200 PhD graduates become professors.
Meanwhile, most PhD graduates will spend up to 10 years in temporary postdoc positions feeling insecure about their future job prospects.
Not what you signed up for?
Somehow, these details didn’t pop out in the fine print.
Do these grim statistics come as a surprise to you?
You’re not alone.
More and more graduate students are planning or considering alternative, non-academic careers.
The problem is that PhDs have little to no time outside their lab work.
On top of that, they receive no support from their tyrannical academic supervisors or out-of-date university guidance counsellors.
Their options seem limited and bleak.
Utilizing online resources is a fast and easy way to cement these plans while having the support of like-minded people.
Top 10 Online Resources For PhDs Interested In Alternative Careers
Trolling the Internet for reliable resources is a daunting process.
Contradictory advice is all too common and leaves you questioning reliability altogether.
Sifting through it is a waste of time.
On the other hand, when you do come across a trustworthy site, the wealth of information you can gain from it is immeasurable.
Whether it’s building your resume or landing your first industry interview, online resources can be a great support for your transition from academia.
Bookmark these sites and set up alerts.
Use them as a resource but also as a community to network with and begin to build professional contacts.
Here are the top 10 reference websites for PhDs interested in transitioning into an alternative career…
1. Naturejobs and AAAS.
Both of these resources from STEM publishing houses are excellent for scientists looking to develop their careers.
Naturejobs is a mixture of expert advice and personal stories from academics and industry professionals across all topics, from career choices to networking tips.
Recently, they launched the Naturejobs Careers Community which is an online forum equipped with professional career advisors to share their knowledge through articles, videos and discussions.
Similarly, AAAS has a wealth of career tools for scientists at all stages of their careers in addition to career advice blog posts.
Their most famous supplement for PhDs in transition is the individual development plan, which is a series of exercises to find career paths that best fit your skills and expertise as well as being a tool for setting career goals.
2. Inside Higher Ed.
This is an online source for news, opinions and jobs for all tiers of higher education – from PhD to vice president.
They boast a team of advice columnists, in addition to invited academics, and their own job posting board.
Their articles have a wide breadth but they are a particularly good resource for information on transferable skills – how to develop them and how to market what you already have.
3. PhD Career Guide.
Started by a frustrated graduate student looking for career options (sound familiar?), this site brings together information about alternative careers for PhDs.
It also has an online community of graduate students – past, present and future – to discuss their experiences regarding their industry transitions.
Check out their blog posts and podcasts featuring interviews with industry professionals from various careers.
4. The Versatile PhD.
This cross-disciplinary resource helps graduate students prepare for non-academic careers through the PhD Career Finder.
Graduate students can access resources from past doctoral students who are now industry professionals.
They can access their successful resumes and cover letters with detailed analyses that describe how they made their transitions – starting from the application all the way through to the hiring process.
You can follow personal stories from transitioned PhDs to see what life is like on the other side, including promotions and career advancement.
The caveat here is that you must be part of one of the subscribed institutions.
5. Careers After Biological Sciences.
This website began after a seminar series of the same name coordinated at the University of Leicester in the UK.
It allows you to go through the archive of past seminars and find the corresponding speakers and slide decks.
This is a great resource to get some ideas for alternative careers in addition to companies that may be of interest to you.
6. From PhD To Life.
Headed by Jennifer Polk, this site aims to help graduate students achieve their career goals, with an emphasis on finding meaningful careers.
While her one-on-one consultation is not free, she regularly posts career advice blogs and organizes an annual online career conference for PhDs called Beyond The Professoriate, where attendees will hear from doctoral degree holders who successfully transitioned to industry and have access to career guidance.
7. The Aspiring Professionals Hub.
This site combines the talents of Amara Chukwu and Emmanuel Adukwu, two doctorate holders with 20 years of combined professional experience in academia, healthcare and non-profit.
Their mission is to provide a forum for students and early career professionals to share their experiences with like-minded individuals.
Blogs include career advice, education, entrepreneurship and transferable skills, along with a special PhD and Grad Forum.
8. Connected Academics.
A project set up by The Modern Language Association, this site and its initiatives prepare doctoral students in the humanities for careers outside of academia.
These blogs, however, are applicable to all subject areas, with a focus on how graduates can better market themselves for alternative careers.
9. The Muse.
While this site is not aimed directly at PhDs, it has to be included in this list for its incredible wealth of information for job seekers at any stage of their career.
From asking the perfect question at your next interview to figuring out why a recruiter is not returning your email, this site provides solutions for every job seeker’s needs in a blunt, no-nonsense format.
This general science indexing site for ‘what’s sizzling in science’ also has an excellent career centre.
Check out the ‘So You Want To Be A …’ themed blogs for information about alternative careers.
You can set up multiple ‘feeds’ to aggregate together papers on a specific topic – so you can pretend you are getting alerts on the latest microbiology phenomenon when really you are learning about life as a Medical Science Liaison.
You are not the only one who is looking to break free from the shackles of academia. A quick glance online and you will see you are not alone. The key is to know which online resources will provide the best and most useful information. The more information you have about alternative careers and the transition process, the more equipped you will be to tackle this change head on. Use these resources as a guide to strategize your career goals and build an online support community.
To learn more about transitioning into industry, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association.