Gain confidence through knowing your options

What are your job options after you complete your PhD? I don’t just mean within academia, but much more broadly – since doctoral researchers are capable of doing so many things after a PhD? I drew this diagram to help illustrate the range of career options open to researchers:

Matrix of job options after a PhD

The diagram shows that after completing your PhD, you have the option to apply for jobs in … [read more]

Resources for accessing jobs outside of academia

Check out my recommendations below for books, training courses, websites and podcasts to assist with your job search. Also remember to ask your university’s career service for assistance – many universities will allow you to continue using their careers service for several years after graduation.


Succeeding Outside the Academy: Career Paths beyond the Humanities, Social Sciences and STEM, edited by Joseph Fruscione and Kelly J Baker. A fantastic collection of inspiring and very practical essays, by seventeen PhDs who’ve left the academy and forged their own successful careers paths. Read my full book review for more details.

The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning Your Ph.D Into a Job, by Karen Kelsky. In this ‘book of the blog’, Karen leads you through the entire fraught academic job application process, warts and all. There’s also an excellent section on the non-academic job search (entitled ‘Leaving the Cult’). Read my full book review for more details.

Black Hole Focus: How Intelligent People Can Create a Powerful Purpose for Their Lives, by Isaiah Hankel (founder of Cheeky Scientist). A brilliant, no-nonsense guide to finding a renewed sense of purpose after your PhD. Packed with case studies, exercises and advice to support your transition into a new career.

How to Find a Career With Your Humanities Degree in 126 Days, by James Mulvey (affiliate link). James lays out a schedule to help you massively improve your employability for jobs outside academia in only 4 months. Read my full book review for more details.

Websites (in alphabetical order)

Beyond the Professoriate – Founders Jen Polk and Maren Wood (History PhDs) have assembled a formidable range of careers resources on their site. The support for researchers includes blog articles, an online community, twice-yearly conferences and career coaching. Plus there’s support for institutions too, with the unique Aurora e-learning programme giving access to 150+ video interviews with PhDs.

Beyond the Tenure Track – Fatimah Williams’ website has loads of free resources to help you with your career transition, including videos, articles and success stories. You can also browse Fatimah’s range of paid-for products and courses, designed to support career explorers as well as active job seekers.

Career Path Writing Solutions – Heidi Scott Giusto’s blog has an excellent series of articles written ‘For PhDs in Transition’, which are well worth working your way through. Topics covered include translating your transferable skills, handling finances, LinkedIn strategies and conducting informational interviews with employers.

Cheeky Scientist – Training and support for STEM researchers on making the transition into an industry career (membership required). There are free resources on the site which are of interest to all researchers, including a series of videos and a regular blog.

From PhD To Life – Jen Polk’s wonderful site captures her experience and career progress after completing her PhD. Browse the inspiring interviews with people who’ve made the transition into a fulfilling career outside academia (including one from yours truly!).

Glassdoor – There are many different job sites out there, but what I like about glassdoor is the way you can read comments posted by employees working INSIDE organisations – this helps you to decide whether that’s a place you’d want to work.

Jooble – A powerful search tool for searching multiple job boards in a particular country, for a specific keyword or vacancy. Use Jooble to find out what roles are available in your target employment sector or profession.

Online Hub for PhDs – An online community dedicated solely to helping researchers launch a new careers after the PhD, from Jen Polk and Maren Wood. Features career panels and seminars, on-demand videos, coaching, online forums and networking – a whole ecosystem to support you through your transition journey (membership required).

PhDs At Work – Michelle Erickson takes the PhD interview format to a whole new level with her ‘week-in-the-life’ approach. PhDs working in corporate and non-profit sectors give accounts of what they do in their day jobs, showing how skills learned in the PhD are put to use outside of academia. Professional photography and cool site navigation make this site a real pleasure to use. My favourite part is the way that each contributor’s dissertation title is listed too!

Reseach Careers: Options Beyond Academia. This fantastic resource was started by researchers who are connected with the University of Oxford in some way. Their website has a very slick and professional look and feel, and you can filter by industry sector and by degree type, which makes it easy to pinpoint individuals who match your own interests. These profiles serve as a brilliant blueprint and inspiration for folks who’re looking to make their own career transition.

Sell Out Your Soul – Billed as ‘A Career Guide for Lost Humanities Majors’, this witty and irreverent blog from James Mulvey has tons of useful and inspiring material for anyone with a humanities degree who is looking for work.

Smart Tribe – Wondering where to start with networking? You can use Smart Tribe’s AI-powered matching and recommendation technology to connect with professionals working for companies and organisations. Use their matching service in range of ways, e.g. to improve your industry knowledge and experience, find a mentor, get a job as an academic working for a company, or to commercialise a new technology idea.

Think Ahead Blog – This blog, from the Researcher Development team at the University of Sheffield, has over one hundred profiles written by researchers who’ve found careers outside of academia. Use the hashtag #sheffvista to generate a list of all of the personal profiles on the site, and read about all the fantastic career paths open to PhDs.

Turning Science – David Giltner’s site aims to help scientists and engineers make a successful transition from academia into industry. David shares the benefits of his 20 year-career in industry, through a range of free content (e.g. videos which answer common career questions), and paid-for content like his book Turning Science into Things People Need, and his Essential Skills for a Career in Industry online course.

Versatile PhD – The Versatile PhD, founded by Paula Chambers, is a US website which aims to help humanities and social science graduate students and PhDs identify, prepare for and excel in non-academic careers. You can join for free and get access to a range of information including career profiles of doctorates.

Vitae – Vitae is a UK organisation dedicated to helping the careers of doctoral researchers and research staff in higher education. Browse its website for useful information about career paths for PhDs both inside and outside academia.


The LinkedIn checklist, by James Mulvey – These days, a LinkedIn profile is crucial both for credibility at the job shortlisting stage, and if you want to be found by recruiters who’re actively searching for good candidates online. This one-hour video shows you how to tune up your profile ahead of interviews, and how to make it searchable. Plus, James will personally review your LinkedIn profile and give you five tips to make it better still! Readers of Jobs on Toast can use the code TOAST get a 50% discount (affiliate link).

Targeting Your Skills For a Post-Ac Career (from The Professor Is In) – This webinar provides an inspiring list of 100 potential skills that you’ve gained as researcher. Margy Horton walks you through techniques for writing your job application materials, in order to make them appropriate for employment outside of academia (scroll down the page to find this webinar).

Going Post-Ac: The Non-Academic Job Search (from The Professor Is In) – This webinar covers strategies for bridging academic and non-academic job searches, identifying your translatable skills, and tips for your cover letter and resume for jobs outside of academia (scroll down the page to find this webinar).


Once a Scientist – In this show host Nick Edwards aims to accomplish a number of goals, including helping young scientists to learn about different careers, speaking with scientists from a broad spectrum of backgrounds, and making science cool again! A nice touch is to ask guests to list their favourite books.

Papa PhD Podcast – In-depth interviews with researchers who are pursuing careers outside of academia, in French and in English, hosted by David Mendes. David is a fantastic interviewer and he skillfully draws out lessons and insights for the listener, in conversation with his guests. In Episode 1 of Season 2 David interviews me, so have a listen to our conversation about Rebranding the PhD.

PhD Career Stories – 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 Tina Persson – an energetic and inspiring story of a scientist changing careers and becoming a recruiter. Features an episode which I recorded on how to break into finance and banking, after your PhD (Episode 69).

The Recovering Academic Podcast – An excellent source of information about the process of leaving academia, hosted by Amanda, Ian and Cleyde. Features an interview with me in Season 2, Episode 13: You are more than an academic.

15 minutes to develop your research career – An occasional podcast from Vitae. Episode 2 explores the career paths of PhDs and is definitely worth listening to for advice and inspiration.

Read my note about affiliate links on the Jobs on Toast website.

Broaden your mind: an interview with Chris Humphrey

Thinking of switching into a career outside of academia? I was recently interviewed by Dr Beatrice Zatorska, CEO and co-founder of Smart Tribe, about my 5-step framework for transitioning into a new career. Plus, how and why I started Jobs on Toast! Watch the full interview on YouTube via the link below.

Your 5-step framework for finding a new career

It can be easy for you to get overwhelmed and struggle to know where to begin, with a job search outside of academia. To help you get started and stay on track, here’s the 5-step framework I use in my campus talks and when working with private clients:

  • Step 1: Identify your transferable skills – knowing what you can do
  • Step 2: Choose your profession – focusing your job search
  • Step 3: Get the right experience – proving that you can do it
  • Step 4: Create your professional brand – communicating your value
  • Step 5: Tell a great story – shining in interviews

For each of these steps, I’ve written detailed articles exploring the activities you need to undertake, and the outputs you need to create. I’ve also written about the whole process of getting started with your job search, for instance, learning about the non-academic job market and adopting the right mindset for changing careers.

You can work through these articles according to which step of your job search you’re at, or dip in and out, depending upon where you feel you need support.

Getting started

Why you need to start thinking about a career outside academia – today!

Preparing for life after the PhD: retrain your brain

A PhD is a fixed-term job, not a passport to a professorship

The majority of PhDs are switching into careers outside academia

Post-PhD careers: you can have your cake *and* eat it

Boost your job prospects by attending campus careers events for PhDs

Planning a career change after your PhD? About time …

You can’t climb a ladder that’s run out of rungs

How to build up your career support network during your PhD

Deciding when to quit the academic job search, part 1

Deciding when to quit the academic job search, Part 2

The caterpillar and the inquisitive bug (a story)

Step 1: Identify your transferable skills

Discover the 20+ transferable skills that make PhDs totally employable

‘What jobs can I do with my degree?’ – a practical exercise (for graduates)

How I use the skills acquired from my PhD, in my current job

What do you want to be when you grow up?!

A PhD is a qualification, not an identity

Step 2: Choose your profession

Your job options after a PhD – in a diagram

Life after the PhD: 8 inspiring post-PhD interview websites

Free Resource Guide: 10 career websites every PhD should visit

Take control of your career by switching into a job outside of academia

What jobs does a PhD qualify me for?

Interview with Lisa Qian, Data Scientist at Airbnb

Getting a job in Finance, after your PhD

Image Consulting – why it’s a rewarding career option for you, by Suman Agarwal

‘Alternative Career Pathways After Your PhD’ – live Q&A hosted by Chris

How to search for your ideal job outside academia

How to research your target job sector

How to find jobs advertised at PhDs

How to get help and advice when applying for jobs outside academia

‘But I don’t really know what I want to do!’

Deciding who to work for after the PhD

Project Management as a career path for PhDs

How PhD holders can find and secure an IT job – interview

Career Opportunities in the Esports Industry [Infographic]

Step 3: Get the right experience

5 work experience options for PhDs and post-docs

How to gain work experience for jobs outside academia

From PhD to PMP: training and support in Ireland, by Meadhbh Hand

5 ways an MBA can improve your employability, by Adam Maidment

Step 4: Create your professional brand

Applying for jobs outside academia – from PhD to fellow professional

How to translate your skills into language employers can understand

Join a professional association before leaving academia

Sorry to turn you down, but you’re overqualified

How to convert a scientific CV into a business CV, by Seán Mac Fhearraigh

How to get a job using LinkedIn, by Seán Mac Fhearraigh

Job hunting in the digital age, by Vera Marie Reed

Step 5: Tell a great story

How to tell a great story about your transition out of academia

How to introduce yourself to employers outside academia, after your PhD

How to recognise and overcome the failure story after your PhD

Feeling like a failure? 4 strategies for beating the post-PhD blues

A PhD is an achievement, not an activity

Book Reviews

How To Find A Career With Your Humanities Degree in 126 days

2 e-books to help you finish your PhD

Overcoming Perfectionism – A Self-Help Guide

The Professor Is In

Succeeding Outside the Academy

Designing your Life

All posts are by Chris Humphrey, unless other attributed.

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