Resources for PhDs seeking jobs outside of academia

In between bouts of sorting, de-cluttering, and apartment hunting, I’ve also been working on my job search. Here’s some helpful links I’ve found during my search.

How to avoid hassle during an out-of-state job search.

I might sign up for freelance editing work on  things like oDesk or eLance (any tips, readers?).  I don’t want to freelance forever, probably, but a little cash here and there might help.  Mostly I’m looking for an office job.

PhDs at Work looks interesting, but I haven’t spent a lot of time on there.  Does anyone want to investigate and report back in the comments?

Miriam Posner discusses what alt-ac (alternative-academic) jobs can and can’t provide.

There is a LinkedIn group called PhD Careers Outside of Academia, which is where I found this huge collection of links and articles for scientists transitioning to industry.  (I’ve also been checking out Ask A Manager but mostly for giggles.)


Do you have any recommendations for resources for PhDs seeking jobs outside of academia?  Specifically for social scientists or scientists who have some data skills and good writing skills, but only tiny amounts of programming skills, and nothing in biotech/pharma?  Thanks!

Ask the grumpies: First year on the tt

SP asks:

Any advice for my husband, who is starting his first TT job in January? He’s in a science field, if that matters. He’s read this article: How I learned to stop worrying and love the tenure-track faculty life if you have any opinion on it.

One area his struggles is with time management and deadlines. He meets his deadlines, but often will work on new research until he absolutely has to start preparing a paper, then is working until the very last minute. “If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute!” He’s done fine in grad school and post-doc, but he is worried that his style won’t translate well to balancing teaching and advising with research.

My first advice is for your husband to ask for advice himself.  :-)  Specifically, he should ask his mentors and senior colleagues (respectfully) for advice when he gets on campus.

He’s right to be worried!  You can do everything last-minute on the TT, but it will destroy your health and your family life, and could be less-than-great for tenure.  One book he could read is On Course: A Week-by-Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching by James Lang.  This would be especially helpful if he hasn’t combined teaching and research before.

#2 points out that the excellent Advice for New Faculty Members by Robert Boice is pretty convincing on the not binging and crashing research or teaching and also has great tips.  She has definitely found that starting early and doing a bit at the time really helps her subconscious to figure out tricky problems for her seemingly in her sleep, resulting in her spending less time on teaching and writing overall with higher quality results than when she last-minutes things.

It’s kind of ok to prep your teaching at the last minute, but there will be less sleep and probably more stress than necessary.  Doing a last-minute class prep is less likely to be successful when you have very little experience doing it and at figuring out how long it takes you, personally, to prep one class period from scratch.  Some of this may be inevitable in the first year, but after that it should be more measured.

#2 liked to spend her Sundays doing lecture prep that first year.  She also did a bunch of up-front prep work before school started getting the bones of the class down.  After each lecture she either changed her notes right then or she left herself post-it notes for what to change or keep– this helped her amazingly the next time she taught the course.

I wonder if his papers have been successful in getting published if he always does them at the last minute?  I would be concerned that they will get rejected rather than R&R because they are likely sloppy and do not show revisions or clear explanations, do not anticipate reviewer objections, etc.  Perhaps setting up a writing accountability program or group would help him be more productive in the long run  (click on our writing tag to see what we think about this).  Meeting deadlines is good, but having enough time to ask for feedback before the deadline may be more successful.

#2 notes that one of Boice’s big things is to “let others do the work for you”– that’s something you can’t do if you leave things to the last minute.  A grant is going to be more successful if someone proofreads it.  Reviewers will like your papers better if they make sense and are error-free.  He can always set himself earlier deadlines that will allow him to put down the completed paper or proposal while someone else looks at it so he can polish it at the last minute.

New research is shiny, I admit, and way more fun than revising the intro to the paper you just wrote about your previous results!  What’s his R&R success rate?  His grant funding rate?  Sometimes last-minute grant-writing will work, but it puts a big strain on the support staff and you might not be able to get it through the relevant campus offices as fast as you think.  At the very least, last-minute grant work will burn goodwill in the sponsored programs office on your campus, and you might need that later.  Again, it totally does happen sometimes, but if EVERY grant is last-second hair-on-fire sign-this-form-today, you may start to encounter resistance.

#2 notes that many faculty put grants off to the last minute.  If you get a reputation for *not* doing that, they will often love you and be more willing to go the extra mile for you.  I speak from experience.


Things to avoid if you want tenure

Here’s some suggestions that have been compiled from several cautionary tales.

1.  Don’t let students walk all over you.  One colleague was always available to students.  From 10am to 6pm there was a steady stream of students in her office.  And she still got terrible evaluations, including on “availability” because any time she wasn’t there, they’d be upset.  The year that I taught another section of the same class, I set boundaries on the first day of class and every day I met, and I’d answer “I have just one quick question” with “Did you ask it on blackboard?” and “You should ask in class!  You’re not the only one confused!” and “If it’s about the homework, my office hours are X– think about it some more (or:  that’s why you should start your homework earlier)”  I got the same marks on availability *or better*.  Her students praised me for my availability because I would answer their questions for her class during my office hours (on the rare occasions she wasn’t in), but never outside of them (when I would laugh and say no, are you kidding?).  If you give students complete availability and aren’t always there, they will complain more than if you give them strict times and keep to them.

2.  Don’t let service walk all over you.  Another colleague was always on every committee and would do the bulk of the work and complain about it.  She even got herself locked into additional service from another (interdisciplinary) department as the outside committee member.  Many of us do a little bit of service for this other department, but she was on multiple search committees in the same year on top of grad committee obligations, even when the search wasn’t for something related to her area of specialty.

3.  Don’t make extra work for people.  One irritating colleague spent one year organizing service that nobody wanted or appreciated.  For example, telling admissions that they needed to set up individual appointments with every single faculty member to obtain faculty input.  And so on.

3a. Don’t be interpersonally obtuse.  That’s the problem with item 3 above, and likely some other items too: tone-deafness to department culture.

4.  Don’t start the book route and then change your mind midstream to the article route with a different topic then change your area of study to yet a third topic the year before your tenure packet is due.  Become an expert in something so that people can write you good letters.

5.  Don’t get a reputation for blocking hires of people that you think are more research active than you are.  Hint, if you’re blocking a hire for “personality” or “arrogance” (especially of an accomplished woman or minority, especially without previous evidence of any problem)… the problem is probably you.

6.  Don’t ask for help on your research and then get angry at reasonable suggestions.  Especially don’t speak condescendingly to racial minorities and to women, explaining to them why their reasonable suggestion just won’t work for you.

7.  Don’t make arguments that all that matters is the students if you’re at an R1.  The students matter 33%, give or take (and if take, then take from service, not research).  If it’s really all about the students for you, you need to be at a community college or a teaching college with little or no research expectations or else just off the tenure-track in a teaching role.

8.  Don’t just give up on research.  You need to make time for it every week, preferably every day.  Even a little bit can keep you connected during the busy times.

Live and learn, grumpeteers.  Or don’t, it’s up to you.  What “don’t do this” advice would you have for someone who wants tenure?

Where do you get academic mentoring?

Your dissertation director.  Other graduate faculty.  Grad students who are further along than you.  Postdocs.

Your peers on the job market.  People you meet at conferences.

People who write you tenure letters (i.e., those you put on your list, after the letters are over).  Your dissertation director’s other students.

Go up to successful people at conferences, ask if they have a minute, introduce yourself, ask one focused question.  People one step ahead of you.  People who have switched careers.  People in different departments.

Listserves and mailing lists through your professional organizations.  Do they have a mentoring group?  Senior members of whatever professional/academic organizations you are part of.

Propose a symposium at a conference and ask senior people to be on it.  Now you have a connection.

A formal mentoring program on campus.  The campus faculty development center.  Other senior faculty you meet around campus; take them for coffee.  Try to form a writing group or grant development group.

The blogosphere!

Your former boss.  People your dissertation director or boss introduces you to.  Any retired faculty you can find.  The faculty ombudsperson.

Anywhere else?

Helpful Hints from Hellapissed

Hey kids.  Your friend Hellapissed here with handy-dandy life advice!

  • Don’t antagonize, bait, irk, and otherwise fash the person responsible for your final grade.  Why would you do that?  Yes, I am a professional and probably it won’t affect the grade you earn.  Probably.
  • Don’t be a dick.
  • As my dad told me, “If you want to drink soda, go to the grocery store and buy a case.  It’s way cheaper than getting it from the vending machine.”
  • More great advice from dad: “Never close the car door unless you are holding the keys in your hand.”  Wish I’d taken that one to heart a little sooner and better than I did at first.
  • If you have an electric toothbrush that vibrates all around, and you just put some toothpaste on it, make sure the toothbrush is all the way in your mouth before hitting the ON button.
  • You can’t solve major life problems at 2am.  Just go to bed.  You can think about it more later when you wake up.
  • Apparently diatomaceous earth is great for keeping the creepy-crawlies out of your house while not poisoning your beloved housemates.  Who knew?  Diatoms are cool.
  • Clothes don’t fit.  They just don’t.  Yes, I know: take them to the tailor.  Then they will fit.  Two months later, you’re a different size and they don’t fit again.  Give up.  There is no hope.

#2, would you like to add any advice?

  • If you have the same problem every single fricking month… well, maybe it is time to try something different because whatever it is you’re doing, you don’t seem to be happy with the results.  Just sayin’.  Either try to fix the problem or stop complaining.