Book review – Succeeding Outside the Academy

Succeeding Outside the Academy: Career Paths beyond the Humanities, Social Sciences, and STEM

Edited by Joseph Fruscione and Kelly J. Baker
University Press of Kansas, 2018; 198 pages

This is a fantastic collection of inspiring and very practical essays, that I wish I’d had to hand when I was making my own transition out of academia. Think of it as your personal masterclass in finding a new career, guided by fifteen highly experienced and eloquent PhDs, who’ve each forged their own unique and successful paths out of the academy.

Each essay serves as a case study of how to bring one’s learning to life, in roles beyond traditional academia. By the end of the book you’ll understand how to get better rewarded for all of the skills, insight and expertise you’ve developed during your doctorate. As Rachel Neff says on page 60, ‘Never, ever doubt what an employer will pay for an intelligent and dedicated worker.’

Packed with actionable advice, this book also doubles up as a powerful manifesto for change: not just for personal career change, but also for how we perceive the relationship between further study and the world of work. Forget the notion of the PhD as a reliable prequel to a professorship; read this book and understand how a PhD can be the springboard for a range of fulfilling and impactful careers.

As Lisa Munro says, ‘Academia, for all of its big ideas, might actually be too small to contain you, your talents, and your dreams’ (page 50). Think big, be bold and draw on these inspirational essays as you build a new career beyond the academy.

This collection is essential reading for all those pursuing a PhD, as well as doctoral supervisors, university careers advisers, and other professionals working in the modern knowledge economy.

You can buy Succeeding Outside the Academy from the University Press of Kansas’s website, in paperback, hardback or e-reader formats.

Top 5 careers podcasts for researchers

Top 5 careers podcasts for researchers

I love listening to researchers tell their career stories, and hearing experts relay great advice on job-hunting and self-care. Here are my top 5 shows supporting researchers with finding careers outside academia:

1. Recovering Academic

What I like about the Recovering Academic podcast is that it’s just three researchers talking about the ups and downs of getting a job outside of academia. That’s it. It feels 100% genuine with no sales, no agenda, no preaching, no fake enthusiasm, no pretence that transitioning is going to be easy.

The real value for the listener comes from learning about the personal successes and failures of the hosts: what’s working for them, what hasn’t worked, what else they’re trying. The more episodes you listen to, the closer you feel to Amanda, Cleyde and Ian. They may as well be sitting across the table in the coffee shop or bar, generously sharing their experiences with you!

In Series 1 the presenters really hit their stride with a sequence of shows covering key topics like Telling your transition storyOvercoming the fear of failure and Twitter for the Recovering Academic. In Series 2 our trio switch it up with an excellent series of interviews with researchers who’ve pursued careers outside of academia (including me!).

Head over to their website to find out more and subscribe to the Recovering Academic podcast.

2. Academics Mean Business

An increasing number of academics are quitting their university jobs in favour of setting up their own businesses. In this podcast series Lindsay Padilla interviews academics-turned-entrepreneurs and finds out about what motivated them to make the switch.

A new feature is for guest lecturers to join the show and share their expert knowledge with listeners. Find out more and subscribe to the Academics Mean Business podcast on Lindsay’s website.

3. Cheeky Scientist Radio

This podcast series feature experts who cover topical subjects like networking, personal branding and conducting informational interviews. While the focus is on jobs in sectors like pharma and biotech, the information is beneficial for any researcher who’s making a career change.

I found the episode on informational interviews to be especially informative and I recommend it to my private clients who I support on this topic. Here’s the link for you to subscribe to the Cheeky Scientist Radio podcast on iTunes.

4. PhD Career Stories

This podcast has a great mix of personal stories along with hints and tips for your career search. If you only listen to one episode, listen to Episode 1 by the podcast’s founder Tina Persson – an energetic and inspiring story of a scientist who’s changed careers and become a recruiter.

Find out more and subscribe to the PhD Career Stories podcast.

5. 15 minutes to develop your research career

An occasional series of short podcasts from Vitae. Episode 2 explores the alternative career paths of PhDs and is definitely worth listening to for advice and inspiration.

Find out more and subscribe to the 15 minutes to develop your research career podcast.


There are of course other careers podcasts available, but these are the ones I listen to regularly. By all means share your favourites in the comments section below. Happy listening!

Book Review – Designing Your Life

Designing Your Life book

Designing Your Life: Build the Perfect Career, Step by Step
By Bill Burnett and Dave Evans (Vintage, 2017)

One of my private clients recommended this book to me and it doesn’t disappoint. The authors have impeccable credentials, having taught the Life Design course at Stanford University for many years. The premise of the book is that you can apply the same principles to designing your life, as you can to designing new consumer products. How does that work?

Well, the authors explain that designers don’t just have a flash of inspiration and then design the finished article. They build prototypes, test them out with customers, tweak them, over and over again until they get it right. It’s an iterative process that requires patience and a degree of trust in a journey of discovery. And you can do the same when designing your own career. Continue reading “Book Review – Designing Your Life”