By Academic Positions

Certain professional skills including communication, leadership, teamwork, and project management are valued by employers across a wide range of sectors. While many institutions offer professional development workshops specifically aimed at helping graduate students develop these skills, you can also learn them through the course of your degree. Here are some of the major skill groups and how to work on them.

Communication Skills

  • Present at conferences– Conferences are a great way to hone your presentation skills and practice answering questions on the spot. Poster presentations also help you practice your oral communication skills on a one-on-one level.
  • Join an outreach group– Most of the communications skills you develop in grad school are aimed at communicating with an academic audience, but working in scientific outreach gives you the opportunity to learn how to talk to a non-technical audience. Knowing how to explain complex concepts in a simple way is a valuable skill.
  • Present a seminar paper– If you are in a PhD program with coursework, you will likely have to present a paper in your seminars each semester. Unlike when you present at a conference, a seminar paper doesn’t usually have accompanying visuals so your writing must be very clear.
  • Take a writing course– Many universities offer writing courses specifically for graduate students which can benefit those whose program doesn’t have a strong writing component.
  • Write a research proposal or grant application– Not only will this be good practice for a future career in academia, it also teaches you to write in a very specific way. A research proposal or grant application is different from a paper. You have to include an overview of the topic and connect your research to broader problems in the discipline while keeping in mind that the reader is not always an expert in the topic.
  • Publish a paper- In some fields you are expected to have multiple publications by the end of your PhD while in others even one publication will help you stand out on the job market. In either case, the peer review and revision process will improve your writing immensely.
  • Teach- Don’t underestimate how much teaching will improve your oral and written communication skills. Engaging teachers are able to communicate information in new, creative ways. If there is no formal teaching component to your degree, ask if you can be a teaching assistant for your supervisor or another professor in the department.

Academic Skills

  • Write your own syllabus– It’s good practice to make your own syllabus for the courses or sections that you teach. Not only will it make your expectations clearer for your students, it will also help you on the job market. Sample syllabi are often required when applying for faculty positions.
  • Take a pedagogy class- Some departments have mandatory classes about teaching theory and strategies. If your institution doesn’t offer any courses or workshops, you can read about pedagogy or talk to professors in your department known for their stellar teaching.
  • Develop a teaching philosophy– As you learn more about teaching, start to develop your own teaching philosophy. Consider how you teach (strategies, techniques etc.) and why you teach this way. This will make you a more confident teacher and give you a leg up on job applications, which often require a teaching philosophy statement.
  • Grade- Grading is an often bemoaned part of teaching, but it is also a useful transferable skill. Developing a grading rubric helps you figure out what your standards for excellent work are and apply them.
  • Give feedback– Whether it’s written on a paper or discussed in person during office hours, learn to communicate feedback in a way that presents clear steps for improvement.
  • Find a mentor– Having a mentor of your own gives you an insight into the mentee perspective, not to mention a great role model for when you become a mentor yourself. Your mentor can also help you improve various academic skills such as teaching and academic writing.

Leadership and Management

  • Join a team– As much of academic work is done individually, make an effort to take part in a collaborative project that will give you experience with team dynamics. Better yet, incorporate group work and group projects into your teaching. Knowing how to manage group activities, establish expectations, resolve conflicts and assess performance are important managerial skills.
  • Departmental leadership– There are few opportunities to develop leadership skill in grad school, but one of the easiest ways is to join your department’s graduate student association. Another is to join a conference organizing committee.
  • Project management– The entire PhD process is an exercise in project management. You are learning how to develop a project, plan it out, and work through setbacks. If your research is collaborative there’s the added element of delegation and accountability.
  • Conflict resolution– No one really likes to deal with conflict, especially at work. Many graduate student professional development programs offer workshops on conflict resolution where you can learn diffusion techniques. If your university doesn’t offer workshops, you can learn about conflict resolution from your supervisor or mentor.
  • Become a mentor– Being a mentor helps you learn how to motivate and inspire someone, which are important leadership skills.

Professionalism 

  • Ethics- If you teach or do experiments involving people or animals, you will have to undergo some type of ethics training.
  • Promote inclusion and diversity– A good teacher/supervisor understands that their students’ experiences and perspectives might be different from their own. Educate yourself about the issues that underrepresented groups in academia face and learn how you can help mitigate them. Seek our resources to promote diversity in your teaching
  • Get a mentor- A mentor can help you achieve your professional and personal goals. As someone in a more senior position, they can share valuable insider knowledge and insights with you about the profession. Your mentor can also facilitate important networking opportunities.
  • Network– Many PhD students make the mistake of thinking that networking is only necessary in the business world, but connections can be incredibly beneficial in the academic world as well. Your network could be future colleagues, supervisors, or collaborators. Conferences, guest lectures, and informational interviews are easy ways for PhD students to start networking.
  • Build your personal brand– Social media accounts help you increase your online presence and get your name out there. As a PhD student, you should set up professional accounts on ResearchGateAcademia.edu, and LinkedIn. Twitter is also a very useful social media platform for academics.

Developing these skill will give you the tools to find meaningful work after graduation.

Taken from (https://academicpositions.com/career-advice/professional-development-for-phd-students)

Written by Alison Doyle

curriculum vitae (CV) written for academia should highlight research and teaching experience, publications, grants and fellowships, professional associations and licenses, awards, and any other details in your experience that show you’re the best candidate for a faculty or research position advertised by a college or university.

When writing an academic CV, make sure you know what sections to include and how to structure your document. Check out CV templates and sample CVs to help you write your own.

Tips for Writing an Academic CV

Think about length. Unlike resumes (and even some other CVs), academic CVs can be any length. This is because you need to include all of your relevant publications, conferences, fellowships, etc. Of course, if you are applying to a particular job, check to see if the job listing includes any information on a page limit for your CV.

Think about structure. More important than length is structure. When writing your CV, place the most important information at the top. Often, this will include your education, employment history, and publications. Within each section, list your experiences in reverse chronological order.

Consider your audience. Like a resume, be sure to tailor your CV to your audience. For example, think carefully about the university or department you are applying to work at. Has this department traditionally valued publication over teaching when it makes tenure and promotion decisions? If so, you should describe your publications before listing your teaching experience.

If, however, you are applying to, say, a community college that prides itself on the quality of its instruction, your teaching accomplishments should have pride of place. In this case, the teaching section (in reverse chronological order) should proceed your publications section.

Talk to someone in your field. Ask someone in your field for feedback on how to structure your CV. Every academic department expects slightly different things from a CV. Talk to successful people in your field or department, and ask if anyone is willing to share a sample CV with you. This will help you craft a CV that will impress people in your field.

Make it easy to read. Keep your CV uncluttered by including ample margins (about 1 inch on all sides) and space between each section. You might also include bullet points in some sections (such as when listing the courses you taught at each university) to make your CV easy to read. Also be sure to use an easy-to-read font, such as Times New Roman, in a font size of about 12-pt.

By making your CV clear and easy to follow, you increase the chances that an employer will look at it carefully.

Be consistent. Be consistent with whatever format you choose. For example, if you bold one section title, bold all section titles. Consistency will make it easy for people to read and follow along with your CV.

Carefully edit. You want your CV to show that you are professional and polished. Therefore, your document should be error free. Read through your CV and proofread it for any spelling or grammar errors. Ask a friend or family member to look it over as well.

Academic Curriculum Vitae Format

This CV format will give you a sense of what you might include in your academic CV. When writing your own curriculum vitae, tailor your sections (and the order of those sections) to your field, and to the job that you want. Some of these sections might not be applicable to your field, so remove any that don’t make sense for you.

CONTACT INFORMATION
Name
Address
City,
State Zip Code
Telephone
Cell
Phone
Email

SUMMARY STATEMENT
This is an optional section. In it, include a brief list of the highlights of your candidacy.

EDUCATION
List your academic background, including undergraduate and graduate institutions attended. For each degree, list the institution, location, degree, and date of graduation. If applicable, include your dissertation or thesis title, and your advisors.

EMPLOYMENT HISTORY
List your employment history in reverse chronological order, including position details and dates. You might break this into multiple sections based on your field. For example, you might have a section called “Teaching Experience” and another section called “Administrative Experience.”

POSTDOCTORAL TRAINING 
List your postdoctoral, research, and/or clinical experiences, if applicable.

FELLOWSHIPS / GRANTS
List internships and fellowships, including organization, title, and dates. Also include any grants you have been given. Depending on your field, you might include the amount of money awarded for each grant.

HONORS / AWARDS
Include any awards you have received that are related to your work.

CONFERENCES / TALKS
List any presentations (including poster presentations) or invited talks that you have given. Also list any conferences or panels that you have organized.

SERVICE
Include any service you have done for your department, such as serving as an advisor to students, acting as chair of a department, or providing any other administrative assistance.

LICENSES / CERTIFICATION
List type of license, certification, or accreditation, and date received.

PUBLICATIONS / BOOKS
Include any publications, including books, book chapters, articles, book reviews, and more. Include all of the information about each publication, including the title, journal title, date of publication, and (if applicable) page numbers.

PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS
List any professional organizations that you belong to. Mention if you hold a position on the board of any organization.

SKILLS / INTERESTS 
This is an optional section that you can use to show a bit more about who you are. Only include relevant skills and interests. For example, you might mention if you speak a foreign language, or have experience with web design.

REFERENCES
Depending on your field, you might include a list of your references at the end of your CV.

Taken From: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/academic-curriculum-vitae-example-2060817

Taken from: https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2019/04/what-matters-phd-adviser-here-s-what-research-says

Written by Katie Langin

Earning a Ph.D. takes years and poses many challenges, so it’s important to choose the person who will shepherd you through the process—your Ph.D. adviser—wisely. There’s no single formula for choosing the right Ph.D. adviser; the factors will vary for each student. But the latest research on the topic points to things to look for when making a decision, as well as pitfalls to avoid.

Supportiveness

When it comes to student satisfaction, the single most important element is adviser supportiveness, according to a study published this week in Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. Getting a Ph.D. is “a very stressful, long process,” says Gerard Dericks, a senior lecturer at Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom and the lead author of the study. “You’ll have setbacks. You’ll get discouraged. You’ll have doubts about yourself—about your research ideas, about many things.” So, it’s important to have an adviser who “believes in you and is willing to give you that extra support that you need in those trying times,” he says.

Dericks and his colleagues homed in on the importance of adviser supportiveness by surveying 409 Ph.D. students—85% of whom were in the sciences and engineering—at 63 universities in 20 countries. The United States, Australia, and countries in Europe yielded the most survey responses. The team measured student satisfaction by asking the survey participants to rate the degree to which words such as “good,” “happy,” “terrible,” and “disappointing” described their overall Ph.D. experience. Then, the researchers asked students about their experiences with the people and support networks that immediately surrounded them in academia: namely their advisers, departments, and peers.

Adviser supportiveness—whether an adviser was caring, considerate, encouraging, and sympathetic—was the most important factor for student satisfaction. According to the researchers’ findings, switching from an adviser who was strongly unsupportive to one that was highly supportive would be expected to increase the Ph.D. satisfaction score—on a scale of one to six—by nearly two points. None of the other factors considered—including age, gender, years of study, country, and department and peer qualities—had such a strong effect. 

Working style

It’s also important to figure out whether your working style is compatible with your prospective adviser’s style, says Anna Sverdlik, a psychology postdoc at the University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada, who studies conditions that promote the success and well-being of Ph.D. students, and co-authored a review article on the topic published in September 2018. What works for individuals varies: Many students don’t want someone constantly looking over their shoulder, but for some it can be helpful to have an adviser who keeps tabs on them more regularly to set deadlines and ensure that they’re making progress, she says.

conceptual illustration of a man choosing one door to open in a dark hallway

Either way, it’s best not to have an overly hands-on adviser because that can handicap your future career, says Sotaro Shibayama, an economist and senior lecturer at Lund University in Sweden and the author of a new study of how advising style influences Ph.D. students’ long-term success, published in this month’s issue of Research Policy. Shibayama tracked 791 life scientists who earned a Ph.D. in Japan between 2000 and 2010, counting the papers they published in graduate school and up to 9 years after graduation. He found that when advisers were largely responsible for dictating the design of their students’ research projects, students initially benefited because they published more papers during graduate school than peers who were given more autonomy. But after graduation, researchers who were advised by professors who weren’t so hands-on went on to be more productive.

The study underscores a fundamental disconnect between the interests of advisers and advisees, Shibayama says. Advisers may want to publish as many papers as possible so that they can win more grants and move their research programs forward. But advisees are best served if they are given the space to make mistakes and develop into capable, independent scientists—a process that can take time, and that is more likely to pay off after a student has left an adviser’s lab.

In some labs, graduate students are “treated like labor—like robots in a factory—rather than independent scientists,” he says. “They are just told to do some experiment and they have to stay in the lab day and night, 24/7.” That’s not fun, he says, and the lack of autonomy doesn’t help them learn what it takes to be a successful scientist. Shibayama recommends that prospective Ph.D. students look for advisers who let their students play a role in study design. “Students have to find someone who goes beyond their own interest,” he says. “Some professors are interested in producing good students, so choose those supervisors.”

Sverdlik adds that it’s best to find an adviser who is willing to devote time to nurturing your development during critical phases of graduate school—during the transition from coursework to research, for instance—and who otherwise will give you room to grow on your own. “What we found in the literature is that when your supervisor just monitors your progress, and is willing to make time for you when you really need help, that is really all that is needed for students to succeed.”

To figure out what a professor’s approach to advising is, Sverdlik encourages students to ask a lot of questions of prospective advisers and their advisees when they’re interviewing. For example: “How do they work? Do they check up on you a couple times a week, or do they give you a task and they’re OK not hearing from you until you complete it?” Prospective students will differ in their specific preferences, but overall, it’s probably best to find a balance and avoid overly hands-on and overly hands-off advisers.

Academic credentials

When looking for an adviser, prospective students often seek out well-known researchers who are highly cited and respected in their fields. Dericks and his team didn’t find any evidence that showed that’s an effective strategy, though: After taking adviser supportiveness into consideration, students’ satisfaction levels weren’t correlated with their perceptions of their Ph.D. advisers’ intelligence, knowledge, intellect, and scholarly abilities. It’s critical to find “someone you can relate to, who is going to be supportive in a personal way,” Dericks says. “That’s more important than somebody who might have a famous name or someone who’s particularly skilled.”

That said, prestige can be a relevant consideration. The reality is that, in the long term, a reference letter from a well-known professor—and a degree from a top-notch university—can give Ph.D. holders a boost when they’re searching for a job. According to a 2015 study, 25% of U.S. institutions produce roughly three-quarters of all tenure-track faculty members in the three disciplines the team examined: computer science, business, and history. The researchers—led by Aaron Clauset, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Colorado in Boulder—didn’t have any data on the quality of scholars who were awarded faculty positions. But given how much faculty-member production differed between universities, they suspected that faculty positions weren’t given out on merit alone. The reputation or some other characteristic of an institution, they concluded, probably played a role.

So, a prestigious academic pedigree may help you get where you want to go after graduation. But if that’s the only thing you take into consideration, you could wind up having a terrible experience in graduate school. “A bad or even just mediocre adviser can make your time as a doctoral student miserable or simply not pleasant, which could undermine the excitement that got you interested in research to begin with,” Clauset notes. When his students come to him looking for advice about who they should work with next, he tells them not to weigh prestige too heavily. “It’s far more important … to have an adviser who supports your career goals and development, and who has your interests at heart, than it is to have a degree from an elite program.”

A career in science requires one to wear many hats:  bench scientist, mentor, writer, teacher, graphic designer, public speaker, etc. Therefore, effective time management is essential for a successful career in research. In a recent career column in Nature, Andrew Johnson and John Sumpter outline six tips at being a better manager of your time.

Six easy ways to manage your time better

Article taken from: http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2018/09/surprises-starting-new-pi

By: Elisabeth Pain

Late one night, cell biologist Prachee Avasthi was poring over data that had come in earlier that day, when she came across a result she describes as “exceedingly rare and unfathomable”: A gene that her lab was already investigating was a key player in another cellular process they had recently become interested in. “I tried but couldn’t contain my excitement,” says Avasthi, a principal investigator (PI) at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. So she posted about it on Slack, the electronic communication and collaboration tool her team uses. Even though she didn’t expect anyone to see it at that late hour, she was just happy to convey her excitement there, knowing that she and her lab members would “share some happy moments of awe and disbelief the next day.”

This lab community, however, was a few years in the making. When Avasthi started out as an assistant professor in 2015, she was surprised at how isolating the position could feel. As a trainee, “you are in somebody’s lab, and you have a cohort of other classmates, and more importantly you have that adviser who, if you make a big discovery or thought of a great new idea, is someone that you can tell that is as excited about it as you are,” she says. But when you become a PI, all of a sudden, “that vanishes.” Back in her early days as a PI, there were many times when she was “bursting with excitement,” only to wonder, “Who do I tell?” (In 2016, this question prompted Avasthi to create a Slack community of new PIs that now has more than 950 members from around the world.)

Many new PIs experience similarly unexpected bumps in the road as they transition from trainee to head honcho. The features of the job that many aspiring academics look forward to—such as having the freedom to pursue your own ideas, running your lab how you want, and gaining more recognition—come with new responsibilities and challenges, including some that are unforeseen. To address this gap, both for new PIs and for trainees who are considering whether they want to pursue the PI path, Science Careers talked with Avasthi and three other scientists about the unexpected challenges of starting their labs and what they learned along the way.

Taking—and ceding—control

“You have this idea that once you are the boss, you can do what you want and whenever you want,” Avasthi recalls thinking when she was a trainee. But once she started her new role as a PI, she quickly found that was not quite the case. Between her current teaching responsibilities, meetings, and other commitments, “this is the least amount of control over my schedule that I’ve ever had,” Avasthi says. One of her coping strategies is working from home when she needs to really focus on digging into some new data or writing a paper or grant application.

The responsibility that comes with authority also informs her approach to managing her research program. As a postdoc, “if I had an idea in my head and I was beyond excited, I could just drop everything and do it,” she says. But as a PI, she has to think carefully about reprioritizing experiments. “You don’t want to hijack people in their productivity by changing gears all the time,” she says. You have to “take into account how much pressure you are putting on people and let them have a chance to decide for themselves.”

That mindset has also helped her deal with the “huge amount of decision fatigue” that comes with having “one million decisions [all] waiting on you”—another aspect of the job that Avasthi hadn’t anticipated as a trainee. She has learned to rely more and more on her trainees to make minor decisions for the lab, such as choosing what reagents to order, which allows her to “spend my time doing things that only I can do,” such as writing major grant proposals.

In becoming a PI, “there are certain things that were different” from what she expected, Avasthi says. But they aren’t all challenges. All in all, she says, being a PI “has been even better than I hoped.”

Managing management

When systems biologist Johannes Jaeger started as a PI at the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, Spain, he was all about the science. “I was extremely excited to be able to do my own stuff with so many resources,” he recalls. But, he continues, “I was completely unprepared in terms of how to manage a group.”

Early on, Jaeger made a few management decisions that he would come to regret. In one case, he hired a trainee based on their technical expertise, even though he had some misgivings about whether they would be a good match for his personality and advising style. He thought that the trainee’s knowledge would outweigh the “fit” factor. And the researcher did help push the lab forward—but they also proved difficult to work with and disruptive to the lab, Jaeger says. The lesson, he says, is that when it comes to hiring lab members, CVs can’t tell the whole story.

With time, Jaeger realized that not only was he unprepared for the managerial aspects of running a multidisciplinary lab—such as getting researchers with different backgrounds to collaborate and understand each other; overseeing the budget; and making sure that reagents for experiments were ordered, scientific equipment was maintained, and computational infrastructure was kept up-to-date—he didn’t enjoy being completely absorbed by them. Rather than feeling like he was doing research, it felt “almost like leading a small company,” he says, which wasn’t what he wanted. He missed having the chunks of time that he once enjoyed as a postdoc to do his own research, think, and write.

Hand-in-hand with the managerial responsibilities came the pressure to succeed, which Jaeger initially found difficult to cope with. Some of this pressure was self-imposed, with Jaeger setting research targets that he describes as overly ambitious and “unnecessarily scary.” But his high-risk project took almost 4 years to yield publications, which made getting grants difficult. Those were frustrating times, Jaeger adds. “I was worrying a lot.”

One year after passing his 5-year evaluation, Jaeger decided to close his lab to become the scientific director of a small institute in Austria. He is currently writing a book and teaching while considering his next career steps. His advice to new PIs who envision a traditional academic career is “to trust yourself and to let yourself grow into the role. It’s not that your life completely changes and you suddenly have to be on top of everything. You have some spare space and time to learn on the job, and that’s the only way you can do it.”

Facing greater exposure

For physicist Martina Müller, who runs a lab at the Jülich Research Center in Germany, the sense of exposure that can come with being a PI took her by surprise. “As a postdoc, you are responsible for yourself and maybe one or two students, but there is always a professor taking care of the final things,” she says. “And then from one day to the other, you are responsible for other people, money, teaching students, and so on,” says Müller, who also holds a junior professor position at the Technical University of Dortmund.

At times, being the one in charge forces you to be the bad guy when you have to make decisions “that are maybe not so popular” with your trainees, says Müller, who tries to cultivate a flat, nonhierarchical structure in her lab to the extent that she can. Earlier this year, for example, she had to tell a student that they needed to delay taking their summer vacation because the trainee’s holiday plans clashed with a coveted slot they had secured at a synchrotron facility.

It’s not just within the lab. PIs need to be ready to step up and defend their ideas and positions to colleagues and higher-ranking professors, within their institute and beyond, Müller says. This “costs energy, and if you are not completely an alpha person, this is something that you have to work on.”

What Müller expected least was the sense of exposure that she came to experience as a woman in a male-dominated working environment. As an early-career physicist, she had become accustomed to being in the minority, but she had never really felt set apart or experienced potential bias against her. Now, in meetings, she is all too often the only woman in the room, which brings a peculiar sort of visibility. “The focus is at some point on you, and you have to sit very straight” and be impeccable professionally, “and this also costs a bit of energy,” Müller says. Often, she also feels the need to show greater competence and say things more forcefully than her male colleagues to be treated equally. “I had not foreseen really how it feels to stand up or to be in many situations alone as a female.”

It helped that, as she started her position, Müller participated in a 2-year leadership training program for women in science. Even more useful has been developing a network of peers at her same career stage. “You cannot talk to your boss or students about certain topics,” such as work overload, conflicts with and between trainees, or gender issues, she says. The network offers the outlet she needs to talk about these issues with other young PIs who are experiencing similar problems. These conversations help her find the support and advice she needs to stand up for herself and manage the challenges.

Achieving balance

For microbiologist James “Jake” McKinlay, one of the biggest surprises when he started as a professor in 2011 was how challenging teaching—and the time management that comes with it—can be. His assistant professorship at Indiana University in Bloomington called for him to spend 25% of his time teaching, with the remaining 75% committed to research. He thought this would be a good balance for him—it was one of the reasons he took the job in the first place.

But the undergraduate course that he was assigned to teach during his first year soon became all-consuming. “I wanted my course to be really special,” McKinlay recalls, so he gave his students all kinds of projects and homework. “I don’t think I realized how much time it would take just to put together a basic lecture. … I tried to do too much too early.” Preparing the material for the course and grading the assignments left little time for research. “My research program all but stopped that semester, and that was really bad.”

The experience eventually forced McKinlay to dedicate specific blocks of time for his research and set more realistic standards for his teaching. By his third year, when he taught his first graduate course, “I was more willing to ease myself into it,” he says, which made both his teaching and research more enjoyable and effective.

The same time management challenge kept presenting itself in many forms. As a professor, you get daily requests to help students and colleagues, sit on committees, and perform community service, McKinlay says. It is essential that you learn to balance all these duties while also protecting your time, he adds.

Today, he always tries to help students and be a good colleague. But as McKinlay has become more established—he was promoted to associate professor in July—he has learned to be more selective in the tasks he accepts, for example only agreeing to review papers that he is really interested in. Saying “no” is difficult, but he knew that to continue contributing in the long term, he needed to secure tenure first.

Part of adjusting his workload and schedule also involved adjusting his own expectations of himself. “You can let aspects of the job, be it teaching or research or service, take as much of you as you let it,” he says. “It’s really forced me to recognize my limits … and to try to work within them.”

This mindset has proved important not just for McKinlay’s professional success and satisfaction, but also for his personal happiness. In addition to making sure he has time for work and his family, “I realized that I need to also dedicate time for myself, otherwise it’s not healthy … and it’s not fun for anybody.”

Skills and knowledge gained from relevant work experience — and not credentials — are what will open doors and create opportunities for graduate degree holders, write Jennifer Polk and L. Maren Wood.

Jennifer Polk and L. Maren Wood

Taken from https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2018/02/14/how-phd-students-can-find-jobs-outside-academe-appropriate-their-discipline

We hear this question a lot from graduate students, postdocs and other recent Ph.D.s. They ask it because they are looking for a list of industries, organizations or job titles that suit their education and training. When it comes to work beyond the professoriate, we have no list of job titles or companies that we can point to and say, “Here’s where [insert discipline here] Ph.D.s are wanted.” You have to find your own opportunity, and it could be in any number of different areas.

A Ph.D. is a required credential to secure work as an assistant professor at many institutions of higher education. And there are highly specialized careers for STEM Ph.D.s, where doctoral-level technical and subject matter expertise is required. The same isn’t true of other jobs: a great many Ph.D.s go on to careers where the degree itself does not matter. What matters most to employers is whether a candidate can do the work they need done.

Employers evaluate candidates with a wide variety of work experiences and educational backgrounds during the hiring process. Through earning a Ph.D., running a lab, teaching university-level courses, participating in institutional committees, organizing conferences and applying for grants and awards, academics develop a broad skill set. That skill set includes strong writing, research and analytical chops that are rooted in academic disciplines. Depending on your field, you may develop technical or process knowledge that nonacademic employers need. Think of the social scientists businesses recruit to work as data scientists or UX designers, for example.

But the Ph.D. in and of itself rarely matters. Skills and knowledge gained from relevant work experience — and not credentials — are what will open doors and create opportunities for graduate degree holders.

Note that when we say “knowledge,” we don’t necessarily mean academic subject matter expertise. For many Ph.D.s, their scholarship does not directly relate to their nonfaculty career. Ryan Raver works as a product manager at a pharmaceutical company. He leverages his knowledge of biomedical science when communicating with scientists, marketers and vendors, but he seldom uses his academic expertise on his job. Keriann McGoogan does not draw on her dissertation research topic (lemurs) while at work at Pearson Canada. She does call upon her experience with academic writing, research and university-level teaching in her job as an acquisitions editor.

Both Raver and McGoogan found that they needed to supplement the skills and knowledge they developed while earning their Ph.D.s before they could successfully transition to work beyond the professoriate. While in graduate school, Raver took business courses and ran a small business so that he had a solid understanding of management practices to combine with his science background. McGoogan took night courses to learn about the publishing industry and then worked as an intern before landing her first paid position in publishing.

Raver and McGoogan leveraged their experience to help them land meaningful, rewarding jobs after their Ph.D.s. But here’s a key point: they did not secure those positions because of their graduate education. To build a successful, meaningful career beyond the professoriate, every Ph.D. must learn how to leverage their own distinct combination of knowledge, skills and abilities. While there is no long list of “Ph.D. jobs,” a very long list of jobs is held by individuals who happen to have Ph.D.s.

The good news is that there are many places where you can leverage your education. Speaking to Ph.D.s who work outside academe can help you learn what your skills are, where they are in demand and how to effectively communicate your value to potential employers.

Here are two useful questions you can ask yourself instead of “What can I do with my Ph.D. in my specific discipline?”

What Energizes Me About the Work I’m Doing Now?

Often when academics answer this question, they say, “I love teaching!” or “I am passionate about [insert subfield here].” That’s fine, but when it comes to leveraging your experience for work beyond the professoriate, think deeper. What is it you love most about teaching? One of us, Maren, loved teaching, but the aspects of teaching she found most engaging and rewarding were mentoring others and helping them achieve their goals. Those are interests shared by people who are successful managers, coaches, consultants and more.

Maren loved public speaking and delivering workshops during her Ph.D. studies and later as an instructor. Now working outside a university, she still speaks and presents, only to a different audience about different topics. Public speaking is a skill that is transferable to a wide range of employment contexts.

Maybe it isn’t your academic work that is energizing. What are you doing when you’re feeling most energized or successful? Is it volunteering at a nonprofit? Doing your own podcast? Think about what it is you’re excited to be doing. Follow that.

The other of us, Jen, co-hosted a podcast and was a music blogger for a few years during her doctorate — activities she found highly engaging. While on campus, she most enjoyed running tutorials, which usually involved facilitating discussions among small groups of students. And she loved doing archival research and discovering answers to questions. It is thus not shocking that her postacademic career includes a significant amount of public engagement (blogging, Twitter), facilitating panel discussions, and individual and group coaching. Another history Ph.D. might hate this work, but for Jen, it’s awesome.

Now think about the parts of academic work you find least energizing. For Maren, those tasks included grading. She does not want to edit other people’s work. Jen isn’t interested in academic publishing. Tasks that drag you down are those that you want to avoid as much as possible in your next role. So for our work together now, Jen edits our writing while Maren conducts research.

What Are My Skills and Competencies, and What Will Employers Pay Me to Do?

You won’t be paid to do everything you love, and that’s OK. You can find other ways to engage your passions and interests. Rather than thinking of yourself as a historian, literary scholar or chemist, think about your key skills and core competencies. A key skill might be public speaking; the related core competency is oral communication. We recommend reading Robin Kessler and Linda Strasburg’s Competency-Based Resumesto become familiar with competencies versus skills.

Make a list of the things you do in the day, from answering student emails to editing your friend’s footnotes. Do this for a couple of weeks, and you’ll see you do quite a bit. That will help you reimagine yourself as a professional with skills in addition to being a scholar with deep subject-matter expertise. Then, organize the things you do into clusters of skills and competencies. Cross out all the things you hate doing and highlight the ones that energize you.

Next, learn about organizations and industries in the city where you live or want to live.

Read organization websites. Use LinkedIn to find employees that work there and review the skills and competencies they highlight in their profiles. Read job advertisements posted by companies of interest. Don’t worry about applying for these jobs — you’re just doing research at this stage.

Then, reread your list. What skills do you have that employers want? What is your value to them? How can your skills and abilities help an organization be more successful?

Although your Ph.D. won’t necessarily open doors for you, many industries need people with your skill set. Seek out companies of interest, speak to people who have jobs that sound interesting, ask for help. Reach out to Ph.D.s who are working in nonfaculty careers and ask them for advice in making the transition. Check out our career panels to get started.

Organizations across industries and sectors are looking for talented individuals, and Ph.D.s have skills that are in demand. But, again, it’s these skills, not the credential, that matter. In other words, it’s you, and not your degree, that will be of interest to employers. So figure out who you are as a professional and then build a list of jobs, organizations and industries that match your skills and interests.

Graduate students from The Scripps Research Institute share how they prepared to enter policy, law, biotech, and beyond.

By Anna Kriebs

Over the last month, I have been on a quest: To find out how those of us scientists searching for jobs outside academia were faring and if my own experience in looking beyond the ivory tower was an outlier or a representative measurement. As I was preparing to leave The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), where I had been a graduate student for the past five years, I wanted to understand why transitioning into a non-academic career could feel like taking the road less traveled, when it is, in fact, the path of most graduate students at TSRI and elsewhere.

Trained in biochemistry, I focused my graduate research on understanding time-of-day dependent metabolic fluctuations. Post-graduation, I was looking for a career that would draw on my experience but allow me to delve into a broader range of scientific discoveries. Thus, I became interested in science communication. In my current job search I am ruling out post-doctoral training.

Non-academic positions require applicants to pair their scientific knowledge and competence acquired during academic training with additional skills. Naturally, different non-academic career paths demand vastly different qualifications, the only commonality being the need to plan ahead. For instance, my former classmate Alex Krois, who earned his PhD in a structural biology lab, intends to work as a biotech-IP lawyer. He spent three months prepping for the Law School Admission Test (in addition to full-time lab work). He now studies at UC Berkeley School of Law on a scholarship.

The more inclusive that science is as a community and the more people we can call scientists, the more progress we will see.—Anne Kornahrens,
AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow

Our colleague Anne Kornahrens performed her graduate work in synthetic organic chemistry. I reached her in Washington, DC, where she is now a AAAS Science and Technology Policy fellow. Anne says she had to precisely time her defense to enable an elaborate 10-month application process. She also joined organizations outside of TSRI’s campus to practice outreach and STEM education, which ultimately became her policy focus.

In my informal survey of fellow students, it became clear that another important form of preparation for the non-academic world is connecting with the fields they wanted to enter in advance. This was pointed out by my colleague Bryan Martin, a protein biochemist and NMR spectroscopist, who is one of many transitioning into industry research. To make these connections he conducted informational interviews with former colleagues who have acquired positions in the biotech sector. This is a great way to gather information about the job and how they got it and to propagate a professional network.

My former classmate Rebecca Miller, who performed her graduate studies in structural biology and now works for a company developing plant-based protein—in a marriage of her passion for biophysics and a desire to act on climate change—even volunteered with industry conference organizers. Running the conference registration desk put her in a prime position for making acquaintances in the field she wanted to enter.

To create opportunities to connect with professionals and explore different careers, TSRI’s Career and Postdoctoral Services Office (CPSO) organizes on-site company visits, career panels, meet-the-alumni, and other networking events. “We also recently launched a career exploration pilot program at TSRI that allows students and postdocs to visit employers to gain real-world experience working on representative projects,” says Ryan Wheeler, the director of career, international, and postdoctoral services. “Each visit lasts just one or two days and aims to increase trainees’ knowledge about a specific career path and company culture.” These efforts continue to foster interactions between the academic and other scientific communities and are crucial in making the full range of careers suitable for PhDs more accessible. I highly recommend stepping into your local Career Services Office to find out about the programs they offer.

How to decide which career path to choose? The students I spoke to were driven by finding the best fit for their interests, skills, and values, often exploring several options at first. Completing an Individual Development Plan, an online tool that matches the results of a personal assessment exercise with possible career trajectories, is a great starting-off point in this process. Additionally, many of us took advantage of CPSO’s one-on-one advising appointments. In a personalized manner, CPSO connected us with alumni who had gone down the same path, pointed out resources and ways to demonstrate specific skills (a.k.a. building a resume), and provided feed-back on application packages.

Finding small ways to try a different career on for size helped me ascertain I was moving in the right direction. For instance, the first step I took was to volunteer with the TSRI Council of Scientific Editors. Helping others express their scientific ideas and goals in research manuscripts and fellowship or grant applications gave me a heightened sense of contributing to overall scientific progress.

I am excited to contribute to driving science forward in the role that best fits my talents and passions, and so are the students I spoke to. As Anne notes from her new vantage point in DC, “the more inclusive that science is as a community and the more people we can call scientists, the more progress we will see.”

Anna Kriebs is a graduate student at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.

Posted November 17, 2017 by anitageorge in Early Career Research Community

Shortcuts to Scientific Success

 

Researchers can often refer to at least one inspiring person or event that has instigated their academic endeavors. As a marine biologist, I have been interested in shell collection from beaches since I was 3 years old and I have always wondered what lies underneath the ocean. Eventually, I got inspired by famous scientists like Marie CurieBrahmaguptaFrancis Crick, and Carolus-Linnaeus whose major inventions in science prompted me to study zoology and biotechnology. Based on my own personal experience from shell-collector to marine biologist, I found that curiosity and dreams can play a more vital role than motivation from others, and studies now show that creativity can play a vital role in one’s scientific career. To improve creativity and vision, I would therefore like to share some simple shortcuts that I believe can facilitate scientific success.

Visualization

In order to achieve what you want in science (and life in general), it is important to be able to visualize your goal  and how to get there in detail. After my PhD in the taxonomy of marine sponges, if someone asked me about my life goal, I would say, “to be a marine scientist.” It did not take much time to understand that “marine scientist” is a vast term where you can jump into various career options like research fellow, lecturer, consultant, science communicator, conservationist, ecologist, biologist, etc. Many of us struggle to answer the “career goals” question. If we are not focused and specific on what we need, it will certainly be difficult to reach the right substratum.  Apparently, the best time for visualization is after you wake up in the morning and before going to bed, spending at least for 5 to 10 minutes envisioning your goals.

Cultivate Selective Ignorance

Learning the art of selective ignorance is the next important step. I used to spend a lot of time reading and watching the news, but I found that  it took my valuable time away from my work. As Herbert Simon rightly said, “Abundant wealth of information creates poverty of attention.” Sometimes, we tend to read one thing and then get distracted and continue reading one article after another. Instead, when you cultivate selective ignorance, and choose your priorities, it will open a lot of your own creative possibilities that you may never see otherwise. So, to develop selective ignorance, first it is important to have a clutter-free work space. Mess creates stress and disorder creates distraction. It is one of the reasons why Steve Jobs started his Apple products and his workspace in ‘White’ as he wanted clarity in thinking. Going on a ‘low information diet’ while at your lab or workplace may help us channel our thoughts for clarity of thinking and productive work.

Reach the Right Mentor

Mentors are important in any career not only for knowledge and skill transference, but to provide professional and personal support. Working with an incompatible supervisor for you is like getting on the wrong train and finding that every stop is not what you expected. If you are aware that you are on the wrong train, get off at the next station and find the right one–the supervisor that is perfect for you. You can do this by seeking out mentors in your professional community. For example, one day during lunch with one of our museum entomologists, I asked if she had any tips for a conference presentation. Without hesitation, she gave some wonderful tips. When I confirmed if the acronym for an excellent presentation is K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short and Simple), with a big smile she responded that nowadays to grab the attention of any audience, it is better to ‘Keep it Short and Stupid’ and yes, it worked. At the recent sponge conference, my presentation grabbed some attention as I didn’t give any detailed or crowded slides.

Be Positive

Staying positive can make a big difference to our productivity. Though we cannot avoid negative people around us, we need to be aware that we cannot allow ourselves to waste time on envisioning a pessimistic future awaiting us. Sometimes the negativity can start from home or school or workplace. You may be surrounded by doubters, critics and disbelievers. However, if your passion and dreams are stronger, you can convince your parents, teachers and friends to transform their thoughts. In India, where I was born, trends in the 1990s suggested that information technology was the ideal profession for woman to have a secured job. However, I stayed optimistic that my passion in science would lead to a good career. What lies inside you is always more important than what surrounds you.

Believe in Yourself. 

Finally, whatever happens, don’t ever stop believing in yourself. As suggested in all the above four tips, thoughts are one of the most powerful catalysts to trigger our life’s happenings. To achieve what you “really” want in life and to overcome self-sabotage instead of leading to concentration, mindfulness and success, try to get some anti-procrastinating apps and start doing the impossible things you fear the most. In my case, marine research was not considered as an appropriate profession for women in India, which has varied cultures and subterranean thoughts that women should have some ‘imaginary’ limitations in the society. When I chose a marine profession with diving (I’m a rescue diver now!), none of my parents, professors, or friends discouraged me or criticized me for staying in this adventurous and fun-filled career. The reason is that I never allowed myself to be impacted by the opinions of others. My community knew that my passion and belief in myself was more powerful than negativity around me. As Thomas Alva Edison said, “If we all did the things we can do, we would literally astound ourselves.” Let success be yours!

Featured Image: Prelude To A Successful Career In Cultural Production  belonging to the flickr account of Aitor Calero  licensed under CC BY 2.0)

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The Economist. (March 20, 2009). Herbert Simon.

Isaacson, W. (2011). Steve Jobs, 656pp. Simon & Schuster

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Mastin, L. (2010). Indian Mathematics – Brahmagupta, The story of Mathematics.

Müller-Wille, S. (October 20, 2017). Carolus Linnaeus, Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc.

Rashid, B. (May 2, 2017). 3 Reasons All Great Leaders have Mentors (And Mentees), Forbes.

Oleynick VC, Thrash TM, LeFew MC, Moldovan EG and Kieffaber PD (2014) The scientific study of inspiration in the creative process: challenges and opportunities. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 8:436. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00436

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Brainwave Power Music. When is the best time for visualize?