Phd Career Coaching: Essential Questions You Need to Ask

Is Phd career coaching for you?


Based on the scarcity of tenure-track jobs available last year, you might be tempted to jump out of the academic sinking ship, especially if you are getting closer to graduation day. If you intend on using the post-academic career life raft, you need to make sure that you have the right tools, and that the right people are tagging along on your journey because one thing is sure:  you won’t survive alone!  That’s why it’s important to gauge the value of the help you seek and receive as you start exploring new opportunities. You’ve probably heard that you need to find mentors to help you in your post-academic job search. Is seeking Phd career coaching assistance a good idea? If so, how do you find the RIGHT mentor? It all starts with asking the right questions.

Yes, you need emotional support, and it’s important to have people to cheer you on as you explore new career paths. Leaving academia is not easy. Friends, family members, and partners can provide you with a space to share your thoughts and emotions as you take on one of the most important decisions of your life. In recent years, we’ve seen the creation of a much-needed network for students who are considering non-academic careers. While it’s important to reach out and connect with people who are going or have gone through the same process as you, seeking the assistance and support of your peers should only be a preliminary step towards your transition. Yes, it’s painful to leave academia. Yes, a lot of people have survived the Ph.D. and have found employment beyond the ivory tower. Now, what? Enough talk. You need to take action.

Leaving the academic world is in many ways a cultural shift, and you certainly will experience discomfort while you switch paradigms. It’s normal. You need to learn a new way of thinking about your career progress and learn a new language. In fact, pain is a sign that you are moving in the right direction. This is why you must resist the urge to choose the past of least resistance by reaching out to people whose identity is still much involved with the work culture you are questioning or wishing to leave.

The first step you must take to kick-start this transition is to value practice over theory when time comes to pick your mentors. And by experience, we mean valuable and concrete experience. Seeking Phd career coaching from someone who went through the same process as you is not enough. Not only does it keep you in a comfort zone you must avoid, but, most of all, how on earth can someone who has never worked in industry, or looks at the non-academic world through the window of the ivory tower truly help you in your transition?

Investigate the people who offer you their services. Look at their LinkedIn profile (hopefully, they have one!) Put your research skills to use.

What is their past work experience like? How legit is their certification? What’s their academic and professional background? Who do they know? And most importantly, is their expertise in alignment with your career transition goals?

The harsh truth is that good intentions are not enough. In addition to the supporters that are part of your immediate circle,  you also need to surround yourself with insiders. While it’s important to learn how to convert your C.V. into a resume, to conduct yourself appropriately in a non-academic job interview, and to expand your network, you can get access to this type of information on the internet with a minimal number of clicks. Paying for Phd career coaching services that do just that might be a huge waste of money. What you need first and foremost is to find mentors who can offer qualitative assessments on each step you take during your career exploration and job search. This type of skill only comes with experience.

Before getting ready to give your money, ask yourself the following questions to determine if the people that are offering their help will truly have what it takes to mentor you during your career exploration and job search:

  • Is his/her past professional experience relevant?
  • How current and deep is his/her insight into the non-academic job market?
  • How deeply connected is he/she with the networks you need to join to successfully transition out of academia?


Surround yourself with people who can provide more than textbook information on the world beyond academia. Seek the assistance of people who have real connections to the non-academic workplace. It’s important. Your future is on the line.

[cta id=’23365′]

  • Max

    February 6, 2018 at 3:55 pm Reply

    Great article! I do indeed wonder how many of the “coaches” I see around online are legit. If you take a quick look at some people’s LinkedIn pages (the ones that do!) you find out that many of them have never held real jobs!

    • philippe barr

      February 6, 2018 at 3:58 pm Reply

      You said it. Doing a bit of research can provide you with all the right answers and avoid a scam.

Post a Comment