juilletmercredi Posted November 21, 2017 Share Posted November 21, 2017 (edited) Hey all, After a somewhat disastrous presentation I saw at my job the other day, I started reflecting on the importance of job skills that professors don't really teach you or even discuss when you're in doctoral program, particularly if you want to be a non-academic researcher and/or are interested in having one foot (or toe) outside of academia. The one I was specifically thinking about in this case is ability to present and translate your findings for a non-scientific audience. I'm a non-academic researcher who spends the majority of my time working and talking with non-scientists - software developers, game designers, producers, program managers, marketers, artists, etc. When I do research, it's so important for me to be able to translate my research and explain research concepts in plain English. It's also important for me to be able to assess what my audience cares about and what they don't. Developers don't really care about the nitty-gritty details or the theoretical foundation for my work; what they care about are the results and how they fit into a framework that will affect their work. They especially want some recommendations for what they should do with my findings. I actually spend a significant amount of time teaching my co-workers about basic scientific principles, how to interpret findings, how to not contaminate research, etc - but all in language and concepts that's easy for them to understand without a PhD. Ironically, that actually makes them trust me more, not less. In academic science it may be more important to speak the jargon, but in non-academic science it's important to be able to speak their language. It helps them understand I'm not doing any funny stuff just to make myself look better. I saw the flip of this in the presentation I mentioned above - the person in question is also a researcher, and was presenting some results, but this person did not adequately define how they were measuring an important construct, and they used a lot of jargon of their field (one that intersects with mine) when they were explaining the results. Even I had a hard time parsing what they did and I knew how to perform the analysis they did. The rest of the people in the room drilled down, and it was painful. So how to develop these skills? I found that teaching was probably one of the best ways to do it. When you teach - especially when you teach introductory courses in your field - you have to get really good at boiling down concepts (sometimes sophisticated ones) to a group of bright but uneducated students. Teaching at different levels teaches you how to scale up or down based on your audience. So get some teaching experience if you can, because it can translate really well! Freelancing as a corporate trainer or consultant can also give you similar experience - I worked as a statistical consultant for four years in graduate school, and in that case I was more often working with other doctoral students and professors/researchers who I had to explain statistical concepts to. And practicing grant-writing can help, too...that's kind of an in-between area, because there is some academic language, but I've found that writing NIH grants especially is a lot more simple and jargon-free than most scientific papers. *** What about you other graduates - folks who have finished your PhDs and are now postdocs or professionals? Any skills that you've found indispensable to your careers? And how do you suggest current PhD students develop those skills? Or PhD students? Are there any skills that your professors are pushing you to learn but you don't know if they're actually that important? Or do you want suggestions on how to sharpen a skill? Edited November 21, 2017 by juilletmercredi hats, eternallyephemeral, Dark Chocolate Mocha and 1 other 2 2 Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
Create an account or sign in to comment
You need to be a member in order to leave a comment
Create an account
Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!Register a new account
Already have an account? Sign in here.Sign In Now