What happens if you’re a researcher, working in a university or research institute, who’s thinking of moving into an ‘alternative’ career? How do you go about it? What else is on offer? How do you find out about this mysterious ‘alternative’ job market?
These were the questions posed during a postdoctoral career workshop I contributed to last week in London. Although many of the participants voted for a career in academia as their most favoured option, they acknowledged the need to consider a ‘Plan B’ or ‘C’ if things didn’t work out in terms of number and quality of publications – since this has become (albeit rather short-sightedly) the research metric of the 21st century for many institutions and funding bodies.
But what other careers are on offer? Well… teaching… But what else? As it happens, not many other ideas were forthcoming, let alone where to find out about them and then how to apply. My guess is that this lack of ‘alternative career’ knowledge acts as quite a barrier to many researchers as they become institutionalised and myopic in their career perspective. This is only to be expected when you exist in a rather homogeneous environment where the only promotional aspiration is to be a lecturer or principal investigator.
However, fear not, help is at hand. Life does exist beyond the ivory tower! Postdoctoral researchers have a wide range of opportunities they can consider other than academia, many of which are as exciting (if not more so) and offer equal rewards and benefits (if not more so). Obviously, it depends on factors such as your personal interests, skills, values and personal circumstances as to what will suit you but if you widen your horizons and look over the academic parapet there’s a really exciting world of work out there! My suggested plan of action is as follows:
7) Examine case studies and career narratives of others who have left academia to pursue an alternative career. See Appendix 1 of ‘Career planning for research bioscientists’ which has 20 career stories and information about other resources available on the web.
8) If you have access to a careers consultant at your university or institute book an appointment to discuss your career ideas in a one-to-one careers interview.