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Academic or Industry Careers? Points to Ponder

Employment Considerations for PhD Grads:

After years of study and a grueling two hours before the doctoral thesis committee, you’re finally ready to begin your first, serious job search. But where do you start? What are the important considerations? What about your personal expectations? Well, before you send out a single CV, ponder the following questions.

Can You Re-Locate?

It’s rare to find a suitable position in your own neighborhood, so consider relocation. If you’re solo, moving to another state isn’t as important a consideration as it is if you have family. Your spouse has the perfect job and the kids are well established in local schools.

Where Would You Like to Live?

The upside to relocation is the option to move somewhere that provides your preferred lifestyle options. City life, or a quiet rural community? Warm climate or ski slopes just out your back door? Overseas, perhaps?

When conducting a job search, don’t narrow your focus to the position itself. Consider the entire lifestyle package for a good fit. This consideration is often overlooked by eager, new job candidates. It shouldn’t be.

Academia or The Private Sector?

Two very different worlds with different rewards and challenges. The private sector offers more money for recent PhDs but the work schedule may be long, you may be required to travel and you may have difficulty adapting to the corporate environment.

On the positive side, real world experience in the private sector is a useful education that translates well should you opt for a return to academic life.

The academic realm is familiar turf. It offers both research and teaching options. Academic positions deliver terrific fringe benefit packages. You’ll have time to continue self-directed studies as you enjoy the emotional rewards of bringing out the best in your students. Academic life also offers a measure of job stability and the possibility of tenure down the road. It’s the perfect professional path for many new graduates.

What’s Your Financial Status?

This is a very useful exercise. Calculate how much you need to live each month. Be sure to include all living expenses, insurance, car, daycare, student loans – just look at your checkbook for a reference on current expenses.

This enables you to set a baseline – a dollar amount below which you cannot go. When the right position comes along but the salary isn’t great, i.e., teaching in a prep school for a year, you’ll have a better idea of what’s feasible and what isn’t. You won’t be driven by dollars and cents. Just sense.

Job or Career?

A job is a single work experience. A career is a series of these experiences, each broadening your knowledge base and skill set. Don’t view this initial position as simply your first job. In fact, it’s the first step in building a solid, delineated career.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? What are your expectations for your self and your profession? This will give you a good idea of what work-related steps you’ll need to get to where you want to go professionally.

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