How did I go from a PhD in Medieval Studies, to a project manager in financial services? Find out in Episode 24 of GradSquare Radio, where Marco interviews me about my academic background and my transition into a business career.
GradSquare Radio offers a range of fantastic interviews with former researchers and other professionals. The interview with recruiter Anne Hersh in Episode 3 is especially thought-provoking. Anne runs her own recruitment business in New York, specialising in financial services.
It’s refreshing to hear Anne’s views on a range of topics, especially since they contrast with opinions you may encounter within higher education! So for instance when asked how higher degree holders are perceived outside of academia, Anne says that ‘an advanced degree is viewed in a positive light.’ Remember that for the next time someone tells you that a PhD puts employers off!
And any Ivy Leaguers listening are in for a shock … Anne says that many firms don’t want to hire Ivy League candidates, perceiving them to be entitled, arrogant and conceited!
I really like Anne’s perspective on what a busy Human Resources person looks for in a résumé. Anne says that it needs to be logical that the candidate is applying for the job. This really chimes with my own advice to market yourself as a ‘fellow professional’ when applying for jobs outside academia.
Finally Anne has some great advice about the dreaded topic of networking. Get a list of alumni from your college or school and start contacting and talking to these people. This is the easiest way to build your network!
In case you missed it: the May edition of my email newsletter is out and includes a link to download the awesome e-book From Scholar to Dollar. Written by Dr Anna Harrison, this beautifully designed transition guide is hugely informative, great fun to read and it’s free! I also report back on the two conferences I attended in April, where I ran sessions on making the transition into careers outside academia.
I started Jobs on Toast because I wanted to give something back to the community for which I still feel a strong affiliation, 13 years on: PhDs and post-docs.
It’s my belief that everyone who embarks upon the massive challenge of completing a piece of cutting-edge research should feel fully supported, both during their research and as they launch their career. While many universities do an excellent job of taking care of their PhDs, we know that some of our peers will find it a struggle to complete their dissertation, and to navigate the job market post-PhD.
So through Jobs on Toast I’ve shared my experience of forging a successful career outside of academia, as a PhD in Medieval Studies. I try to pass on the lessons I’ve learned during my own transition, as well as linking to stories and advice from others who’ve made the same journey. Over 1,500 readers a month are now benefitting from reading the blog!
But there’s so much more that can be done to support PhDs and post-docs from outside of the academy. There’s already a solid range of books to help researchers with completing the PhD and with post-PhD careers. It’s been great to see many former academics and business professionals start to offer consultancy services to researchers and university departments (see my post on How to get help and advice when applying for jobs outside academia). We need to cultivate these productive partnerships between researchers, universities and entrepreneurs, to ensure that the very best resources are available to all PhDs.
That’s why in early 2014 I’m launching a new initiative called ‘PhD Springboard’. PhD Springboard will aim to connect individual PhDs directly with a global community of experts who can offer them help and support. There are already lots of great blogs and websites which share free information and enable PhDs to help themselves. The next step is to build a one-stop shop where PhDs can find an expert who can help them with:
completing their dissertation;
firing up their motivation and enthusiasm;
boosting their chances of landing a great job inside or outside of academia.
The first version of PhD Springboard will be launched in early 2014, as a set of pages within my blog Jobs on Toast. The intention is to grow the directory to the point where it can become a stand-alone website. Please get in touch if you have any questions or comments about PhD Springboard.