Smart Moves and Career Choices

May and June is the graduation season for many colleges and universities. It’s a time for new graduates to look ahead to career options, time off, or preparation for graduate school. How you apply your education is up to you.

Dr. Patti Mason and I believe in getting the maximum value for the time, money, and energy we spent in school. But we realize that education is not for everyone. If you’re  in career transition mode, here’s a look at some smart moves and career choices for graduate students in any discipline.

Stepping Back

Academic life can be a career but tenured jobs are limited. As you keep an open mind about how to use your doctoral degree, you’ll need some soul searching:

  • What are your interests?
  • What skills do you have?
  • What are your passions and motivations?
  • What careers outside of academia have you explored?
  • What income range do you want?
  • Where do you want to live?
  • Do you want to travel?
  • What kind of community are you looking for?
  • Are you willing to relocate to find a job?
  • Will your spouse need to find a new job?

Take time to look at your interests and what you’ve learned in school. For example, evaluate your volunteer work, collaborations and mentoring projects. Also think about what you liked and disliked about certain projects.

Do you like the teamwork concept or is independent research a better fit for you? Think about your role as a leader in different projects. Did you enjoy leading or prefer to let others drive the project?

Transferable Skills

These are skills you’ve developed throughout your scholarly and professional life. Often we forget how we use transferable skills: public speaking, writing, research, problem solving, thinking on your feet or teaching.

For instance, in today’s workplace those soft and hard skills come in handy. Soft skills include:

  • Learning new processes and procedures
  • Listening and giving instructions
  • Observing and reviewing
  • Demonstrating professionalism
  • Communicating (phone and email etiquette)
  • Negotiating and influencing others
  • Receiving feedback and criticism
  • Handling complaints and problem solving
  • Training others
  • Advising and counseling
  • Working with all people
  • Networking and outreach

Hard skills are:

  • Technical skills
  • Basic use of word processing, financial, presentation software
  • Tracking data
  • Managing files and records
  • Generating reports and other documents

Management skills are a combination soft and hard skills:

  • Dealing with crisis
  • Prioritizing tasks
  • Time management
  • Project coordination
  • Data analysis
  • Setting goals
  • Creating ideas
  • Allocating resources
  • Developing projects
  • Implementing policies

Let’s not forget any of your leadership skills in team building, decision making, evaluation, planning, motivating, supervising, delegating, and problem solving.

Careers Of Your Choice

Finally, here’s a short list of alt-ac careers:

  • High school teacher
  • Government advisor
  • Science writer
  • Investment banker
  • Policy analyst
  • Provost or dean in the academic sector
  • Management consultant
  • Urban planner
  • Creative arts director
  • Nonprofit consultant

Other Info

Here’s a short list of websites for jobs and other ideas outside of academic life.

Dr. Patti and I wish you well in your next career exploration!


Dr. Bessie

Going Alt-Ac: How to Begin
Transferable Skills List
Resources for PhDs

I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as ‘making a life’.
~~~ Maya Angelou ~~~


Author: Dr. Bessie DiDomenica

Food Policy Researcher • Resilient Agriculture Advocate • Public Speaker • Public Policy Wonk • Writer • Teacher • Social Entrepreneur • Associate Editor

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