The 5 Essential Attributes of a Truly Versatile PhD.
“Versatile PhD.” You’ve seen or heard the words before either online or at a professional workshop at your university’s career center. Time and time again, you’ve probably read or heard that versatile PhD’s are people who excel at convincing employers that their training is valuable by showing off the many transferable skills they possess. But is being a versatile PhD all about skills?
Through our interactions with PhD’s who have successfully transitioned out of academia, we discovered that true flexibility is more than just an aptitude. It is also a matter of attitude.
Here are five adjectives that best describe a truly versatile PhD.
- Fearless. Although stepping out of the ivory tower is scary, versatile PhD’s don’t allow themselves to be ruled by fear. They understand that fear might lead them to look beyond unsatisfactory working conditions and accept more familiar jobs (i.e adjuncting) for the sake of their peace of mind. They recognize the signs of growth in the discomfort they feel and remind themselves that these feelings will pass.
- Realistic. Some academics believe they know everything. Truly versatile PhD’s are not afraid to admit that they don’t. On the contrary, they never hesitate to consider gaps in their knowledge, realize their need to learn new things, and have no reluctance to admit they need help.
- Sociable. Changing careers can be challenging. This is why versatile PhD’s surround themselves with a support system that can provide them with insider information, increase their motivation, keep them focused on the end goal, and pick them up when the going gets tough. Truly versatile PhD’s reach out to others, ask for advice, and value feedback.
- Open. Leaving academia means basically starting from scratch. Versatile PhD’s are open to making concessions about their job titles, salary, and the possibility of working with people that might be younger than them. They remain open to positions that might not be in complete alignment with their level of intellect and maturity. However, they recognize that, combined with their flexibility, these qualities will lead them to progress at a quicker pace than others.
- Humble. A doctorate is the mark of true expertise on a specific topic. It is also a testament to someone’s grit and intellectual aptitude. Contrary to what other academics might think, truly versatile PhD’s do not believe they are smarter than non-PhD holders. On the contrary, they believe there is just as much value in having relevant industry experience, or functional experience as in the diploma they worked so hard to earn.
As you prepare for life after graduation, concentrate on integrating these five attributes into your daily life, you’ll enjoy your career transition far more than those who consider non-academic career options as a step down. Your attitude is crucial if you want to look back on your path with pride and fulfillment. How many of these characteristics do you need to work on to be a truly versatile PhD?
How can universities do to help students become more versatile? Any thoughts?
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