Next Steps After the PhD: Why You Should Be Exploring Alternative Careers Right Now

Working hard on that PhD and haven’t had time to stop to think: “what will I do with my life if I don’t become a professor?” You might have a problem.

Figuring out next steps after the PhD is not an easy task. When push comes to shove, the answer very often lies with finding out what makes you tick. In other words, career exploration is all about getting in touch with yourself. With dissertations deadlines, courses to take and classes to teach, it can be difficult to manage it all…

The main reason why you should kick start your career exploration as early as possible is simple: it takes time! Discovering what you want to do with your life beyond research will not happen suddenly, in a moment of extreme clarity. To find out what you want to do next, you need to try new things and expand your horizons. You might not know what you want simply because you haven’t tried it yet.

Learning the skills needed to accomplish new goals also means that you might encounter a few obstacles along the way. Nothing will slow you down more in your quest to figure out who you are than being afraid of failure. There will be a lot hits and misses, and you will likely hit a few walls along the way. There’s no way around it. You will need to leave your comfort zone and learn to be patient.

Finally, you must keep in mind that the road between academia and your next career choice might not be a straight line. That’s why it’s important to make the decision of embracing the uncertainty that comes with exploring all your options. You can only do that by starting the process as early as possible. Starting right away to think about your next steps after the PhD will not only enable you to enjoy the meanderings and the soul-searching that comes with career exploration, but it will save you from the heartache of making last-minute career decisions that might not honor the time and effort you put into earning a PhD. Being an adjunct should not be your next best option if ever—God forbid! —you don’t snag the tenure-track job of your dreams.

So, what are you waiting for? Start now! Academia doesn’t have to be your only option!


Ready to get started? Download our free Quick Guide to Career Exploration: Plotting Your Plan B in 6 Easy Steps


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