Friday, May 6, 2011

More on non-academic jobs

I've been blogging now for a year (which I find hard to believe). I've found blogging to be both more fun and more work than I thought before I started. I have even more respect for FSP, who manages to be a successful full professor, a parent, and make high quality posts 5 days a week!

In terms of reader interests, my most popular posts have been about:

1. "Alternate" careers
2. How search committees work
3. TT interviewing

The thing that boggles my mind is the the first post on this list (on careers other than academia) has more hits than the rest of my top 5 posts combined. It sometimes gets more daily hits 8 months after I wrote it than new posts. I wonder what this really says about the availability of information about career options to young scientists? Most of information out there seems descriptive of career sectors, not actual jobs people do, and this still seems to be true (especially at university-run career workshops). This is something I just don't understand--I mean TT positions have ALWAYS been the minority option for graduating PhDs, even in the good old days of the fist GI bill and the Space Race. Surely every university has alumni doing interesting things with their degrees that they can call to participate in these things!

When I was a grad student, I knew a fair bit about the area of industry my advisor used to work in before becoming a professor, but not much about any other field. Even knowing that much seems to have been unusual for a PhD student in science. I suppose career information at the grad level is no worse than career information at the undergrad level (when I knew NOTHING about the jobs I could get with my degree), but it feels like there should be more information around in the age of the Internet.

In deciding to go back to academia, I read a lot of blogs about what it was like starting out in academia to get a feel for my decision. I don't really see many blogs out there by recent grads starting out their industry positions (or even many blogs by industrial scientists of the non-pharma persuasion, though there are a few good engineering blogs around). To be honest, I highly doubt I would have blogged about my National Lab position--I certainly would have worried about getting caught, and there are pretty much no protections for staff if their supervisors choose to block an employee for pretty much any reason other than outright discrimination. I imagine this is true for most people in non-academic positions, and I suspect contributes to the vast information asymmetry between the availability of information about academic other careers. One can also make the case that the work culture in academia is more uniform than the work culture in other sectors, so it is easier to come up with general tips.

Either way, I am thinking about setting up a page like Dr. Becca's TT job advice aggregator for non-academic jobs. My own students are getting more interested in planning their next step as they progress, so this has been more on my mind.


Anonymous said...

This sounds useful. How do you collect hits per post?

Anonymous said...

"Either way, I am thinking about setting up a page like Dr. Becca's TT job advice aggregator for non-academic jobs."

Please do! I'd be an extremely grateful reader.

GMP said...

Second Anon's plea from above! I have wanted to send a link to your "Alternative Careers" post several times to different people, and it's a bummer that it was hard to find -- I would love it if all this great advice were prominently featured on your blog.