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hantoo

Post-Doc Necessary for Non-Academia Jobs?

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Hi all, 

This is a multi-part question! I am in the third year of my PhD program and I am feeling torn still about pursuing academia vs. non-academic positions. I still have a ways to go in my program, and will no doubt cast a wide net in terms of my job search down the road, but I feel it's important to address these things now so I don't get to the end of my program and feel unsure. My first question is: if I ultimately decide to seek out a career outside academia, is it recommended or necessary that I do a post-doc in a related position, or should I go right on the job market? 

Second, if I want to gain industry experience while still in graduate school, what might be some recommended ways to go about it? My research focuses on questions of development in Latin America so I'm considering incorporating ethnographic fieldwork not only at my research site but with NGOs/development agencies working in my geographic area of interest to see another side of things. Would this be the best way to go about it or should I consider internships as well?

Lastly, and maybe this is more personalized to different jobs/fields, but for any of you who are now working outside academia, do you feel that you're still able to do enough research, apply the skills you learned through your PhD, etc. in your non-academic position? 

Again, I am about halfway through my program now so I'm sure I'll gain more insight along the way, but I feel all of this is important to think about now. Thanks everyone!

 

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I work in industry. While a postdoc won't hurt you, it's certainly not necessary for the vast majority of non-academic positions. There are some non-academic positions that function pretty similarly to academic ones, and some of those might prefer a postdoc (think think tanks or policy institutes). But for the vast majority of non-academic jobs - especially if they are not research roles - not having done a postdoc is totally fine.

Second, if I want to gain industry experience while still in graduate school, what might be some recommended ways to go about it? My research focuses on questions of development in Latin America so I'm considering incorporating ethnographic fieldwork not only at my research site but with NGOs/development agencies working in my geographic area of interest to see another side of things. Would this be the best way to go about it or should I consider internships as well?

Both? This doesn't have to be an either/or; if you are considering non-academic careers, you should get any kind of industry experience you can in graduate school. Working with NGOs/nonprofits/other agencies while doing your fieldwork is an excellent way; you can build connections and demonstrate your research skills. I know several people in social sciences who have gotten non-academic jobs this way. But you should also consider internships as well.

Lastly, and maybe this is more personalized to different jobs/fields, but for any of you who are now working outside academia, do you feel that you're still able to do enough research, apply the skills you learned through your PhD, etc. in your non-academic position? 

It's definitely dependent on what you do. I'm a research manager at a tech company, and I definitely apply the skills I learned in my PhD - both the "hard skills" of statistics, research methodology, etc. and the "soft skills" of critical thinking, time management, planning and executing on a giant project, prioritization, communication, conflict resolution, etc. I would say that the latter set of "soft skills" has been FAR more important in the long run for my success here, and I actually work in a direct research role. I do less research myself now that I am a manager - I manage other researchers - but my research skills are still necessary so that I can advise them and direct their work for maximum impact. I also do research project planning that can be multi-year and cover large strategic areas of the business, so that research agenda planning that your PhD teaches you (perhaps indirectly) - that's super useful, too. Surprisingly, grant-writing was useful, too. Not because I write grants here, but because learning to budget what you need to get your work done and learning how to ask for money and resources that you need is a generally useful skill in business, and I now do that all the time.

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On 11/20/2019 at 3:41 PM, hantoo said:

Hi all, 

This is a multi-part question! I am in the third year of my PhD program and I am feeling torn still about pursuing academia vs. non-academic positions. I still have a ways to go in my program, and will no doubt cast a wide net in terms of my job search down the road, but I feel it's important to address these things now so I don't get to the end of my program and feel unsure. My first question is: if I ultimately decide to seek out a career outside academia, is it recommended or necessary that I do a post-doc in a related position, or should I go right on the job market? 

As someone who did a post doc, they are really only helpful if you intend to stay in academia or want to pursue a research position outside of academia.  And even if you want a research position outside of academia - I would just recommend you seek out and apply for those type of positions.  At least in my field, post docs don't tend to pay as well as a PhD-level research positions outside of academia.

On 11/20/2019 at 3:41 PM, hantoo said:

Second, if I want to gain industry experience while still in graduate school, what might be some recommended ways to go about it? My research focuses on questions of development in Latin America so I'm considering incorporating ethnographic fieldwork not only at my research site but with NGOs/development agencies working in my geographic area of interest to see another side of things. Would this be the best way to go about it or should I consider internships as well?

I would definitely try to do an internship as this would get you familiar with the organizational norms as well as hopefully you can secure good references.  You also will get to work on projects that you can talk about in your future interviews.

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