Recommended Books & Blogs
On this page are several book and blog recommendations you can turn to to read advice or other peoples’ narratives about shifting from academia to non-academic careers.
Blogs by Post-Academics
Unemployed PhD for Hire
From Grad School to Happiness
Worst Professor Ever
PhD [alternative] Career Clinic Articles
Recommended BooksBasalla, Susan, and Maggie Debelius. “So What Are You Going to Do with That?”: Finding Careers Outside Academia. 2nd ed. University Of Chicago Press, 2007. Print.
Many graduate students before you have started their career exploration with this book, which was written by two former English PhDs. Basalla and Debelius are good at encouraging the job-seeker to sift through all their experiences, academic and non-academic, to find patterns and use those positive experiences in determining which direction they might go. They also encourage academics to start accumulating non-academic experience even if still in the dissertating phase by volunteering, getting internships, taking classes, etc.
It’s also good for anticipating the objections and fears of academics and neutralizing them. For example, they list five myths about postacademic career seekers and careers:
1) I have no useful skills.
2) People who work in the business world are stupid and boring.
3) Jobs in the business world are stupid and boring.
4) It’s too late to change careers.
5) I’m too old.
[Hint: 1) Yes you do. 2) Not all of them. 3) Not all of them. 4) No it’s not. 5) No you’re not.]
One of the book’s greatest strengths is its detailed profiles of former academics. The profiles in their book come from postacademics in the following fields: nonprofit, publishing and media, teaching and training, university administration, research, entrepreneurship, consulting, new media and technology. The balance of professionals profiled is heavy on English, but a wide range of humanities disciplines is represented.
Two final strengths of this book are explaining how informational interviews work (including what not to say) and turning a CV into a resume.
Jellison, Jerald M. Life After Grad School: Getting From A to B. Oxford University Press, USA, 2010. Print.
Life After Grad School is another good read. Unlike Basalla and Debelius, Jellison transitioned from a social science field to business and his examples reflect that.
Jellison demonstrates a good SWOT analysis on pages 5-11. A SWOT analysis gives you space to think about an upcoming project and list your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and external threats. SWOT analyses are commonly used in the business world, and Jellison demonstrates their utility by analyzing the situation of a graduate student applying for a non-academic job.
Strengths: critical thinking, research, writing, quantitative skills, language fluency, political savvy and people skills, technological savvy, learning quickly
Weaknesses: lack of non-academic job experience, lack of knowledge about non-academic jobs
Opportunities: the need for people in all employment sectors who are good at research, teaching, communication, management, and other areas
Threats: stereotypes about academics, well-prepared competitors
Jellison’s book is particularly good for anyone looking to move into corporate careers, since he skillfully explains the difference between academic and corporate culture, the relationships between industries and occupations, and how to network in private industry.
Newhouse, Margret. Outside the Ivory Tower: A Guide for Academics Considering Alternative Careers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Office of Career Services, 1993. Print.
This book is out of print, but you can find it in the Center for Strategic Advising and Career Counseling in Jester Center or from used booksellers. Like Jellison, Newhouse explains the relationships between career fields and functional areas  and stereotypes business and academics have about each other. This book has an extensive selection of sample resumes and cover letters, plus a short chapter on considerations for international students. After directing the career center at Harvard, Newhouse moved to Stanford, and you can find an adaptation of her career field/functional area matrix on Stanford’s career resources for graduate students.
Brooks, Katharine. You Majored in What?: Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career. New York, NY: Viking, 2009.
Even though the target reader is an undergraduate majoring in a liberal arts field, UT Liberal Arts Career Services Director Katherine Brooks’s book is very useful for the career changer or academic looking to jump ship. Relying on chaos theory, her system of “Wise Wanderings” encourages those who lack a clear career trajectory to make sense of their seemingly unrelated experiences. Particularly valuable for the academic is chapter 4: “Wandering Beyond Majors and Minors,” since academics have devoted even more years of study into their “major,” or discipline, than undergraduates. Brooks leads the reader through a series of exercises meant to help generate ideas for how to sell any major to any employer.
Other career advice books that may appeal to post-academics are featured in the Versatile PhD’s store.