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Leaving Academia February 17, 2010

Posted by qmresearchers in Resources.
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I often have PhD students and postdoctoral researchers coming to see me because they are thinking about leaving research/ academia. Statistics show that over 50% of doctoral graduates leave education and the teaching profession, which includes academia.

Understandably, this it is often a difficult decision to make and it is one that I have made myself. Many researchers have spent their life in educational establishments and have been surrounded by academic role models that have made a success of their careers. When supportive academics are offering you guidance and advice it can feel like a ‘failure’ to leave academia.

However, at some point, 50% of you do leave! In my experience this can happen for many reasons. Probably the biggest reason is the increasingly competitive nature of academia, making it difficult to secure tenured positions. This can only become more obvious to individuals once they have started research after their PhD e.g. in postdoctoral positions.

I recently came across a blog called Leaving Academia, written by a Canadian consultant that finished her PhD a few years back. She discusses some of the issues that she faced along the way. Although she has just decided to stop writing this blog, it is still worth a look.

One of the first steps required if you do decide to leave academia is to rewrite your CV for a non-academic audience. A challenge in itself! You will need to address the skills that you have acquired during your PhD/research and think about how you can use them in another workplace setting. It can often help to do a CV that contains a section listing the skills that you have and examples of how you have used them. This is known as a skills-based CV. Have a look at the CV section of this blog for more advice as well as the two documents listed here:

1) Researchers Skills and Competencies. Lists types of research tasks that illustrate different skills that might be useful to an non-academic employer.

2) Behind_the_Skills_Buzzwords. Lists verbs that could be used in examples of your skills. Useful when writing a CV.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me (t.j.bussoli@qmul.ac.uk) if you are facing the dilemma of whether to leave academia.

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