The title of this blog series is taken from a book authored by Drs. Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius. It is a real-time depiction of my thought process and actions towards selecting a potential career after PhD, more specifically ACADEMIC vs. NON-ACADEMIC positions. I would not be able to give you a clear answer at this time due to the ongoing process. However, if you are in a similar position, you are welcome to come along for the ride.
I joined a PhD program with a preconceived notion that my final career destination would be in ACADEMIA. I could think of two reasons, western education is preferred in academic jobs in India and lack of any experience in industrial jobs. During the initial 2 years, I was only involved in research without thinking about developing any other skill set needed for academic positions.
Due to a funding issue in an academic year, I was selected to teach an undergraduate-level course offered by the department. I found that I really liked teaching, interacting with the students, and learning new ways to improve my teaching skills. After that, I started taking some additional steps that I thought would prepare me for an academic career, including teaching a graduate level course (my advisor allows me to teach his course, whenever he is not around), helping my advisor to review manuscripts and grant writing, presenting my research work in conferences, and helping undergrads and high school interns joining my lab. Till last semester, I was very certain that getting into ACADEMIA was the best and only solution for me.
Last semester, I attended a seminar by Dr. Susan Basalla, and also read her book titled, “So what are you going to do with that?” The presentation and the book provided me a very different perspective of non-academic environment. The key point was, “how PhDs can use their skill sets, which are developed in the academic environment for non-academic jobs.” Other keywords were self-evaluation, networking, resume preparation, and interview process. I will discuss more about these in the second part of this blog. However, after this presentation, I started looking at the skill sets I had developed during my PhD and comparing them with the skill sets required for non-academic jobs. At present, I am not sure that I have changed my mind from ACADEMICS, but being a PhD student, I have got this curiosity to explore anything that comes on my way.
There are few of things I did in the first week after that seminar. I met with a PhD counselor (that’s the first time I heard about Bio Careers), updated my LinkedIn profile, and registered for a course about critical writing and professional development. In the second week, I saw Nicholas Folger (CEO of Bio Careers) in my LinkedIn profile visitor’s list. Till then, I had thoroughly explored the website and liked it so much, that I sent him a thank you note for coming up with such a great platform for PhDs. Later, he invited me to write blogs for Bio Careers and here I am. Although it was a random event, I look at it under the light of, “So what are you going to do with that?” It was a networking event as defined by the seminar.
I am sure that there are PhDs who are going through a similar process. I invite all of you to provide your perspectives on this process that could be beneficial to us.