“What can I do now to get ready for my career after graduate school?”

The majority of doctoral degree holders in Canada are not working as full-time faculty members. The vast majority are employed elsewhere, and people with PhDs are having a harder time now than they did in past decades securing faculty positions. There are too many of us and not nearly enough growth in full-time jobs. What this means is that many of us must change careers. This can be very tough, but many have gone before you! There’s lots of support and guidance out there. (Twitter is especially valuable to me; check out #altac #postac #withaPhD #PhDchat for starters!) Let me know if you want to explore coaching with me.

Now, here’s what you can do now…

1. Who are you?

Remember that you aren’t your degree or your discipline. You are “with a PhD,” not “a PhD.” Figure out your priorities, goals, needs, and lifestyle desires, your values, and your character strengths. Think about what most energizes you. What tasks are you doing when you feel energized, what skills have you developed during these moments? You are you with, where are you, how are you being, etc? Answers to these questions will give you great information about the skills and tasks you enjoy using, that matter to you, and engage you.

2. What’s out there?

So much! But we are more ignorant than not of all the possibilities and opportunities. Find out what others from your program have done and talk to them. Find out what other people with social science and humanities PhDs have done and talk to them. Learn about industries and companies that you stumble across. Ask your friends and family for referrals for possible informational interviews. Use your strengths of curiosity and love of learning, and your skills of asking good questions and analyzing your finding. See my Q&As and the website PhDsatWork.com.

3. How is job searching best done?

We’re socialized in academia to apply for jobs with enormous applications, and then to wait. That’s not how most people get jobs in the “real world,” and that’s not even how many academics actually get jobs. Instead, networking — broadly defined — is crucial. (I think of networking as “making friends” or “learning new things” or “getting to do my favourite things: listen and ask questions.”) Every speaker at 2014’s Beyond the Professoriate conference emphasized this point: network, network, network. Informational interviews are the first step. The conference is coming up again in May; consider attending!

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