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ABC-advice for PhDs looking for a job outside academia

Bérénice Kimpe - International Cooperation

For each letter of the alphabet, you will find one piece of advice. Today, let's discover what's behind the 5 first letters!
A like anticipation
It’s the keyword for a successful career development because it gives us enough time to gather information on our next professional step and thus enables us to make decisions accordingly to our wishes and our reality. It’s the twin word for proactivity: don’t wait for your contract to end to question yourself.

B like business-oriented communication
The rule n°1 for an efficient communication is to speak the same language (tongue and body). If you, academic researchers, want to take the plunge and go to the non-academic sectors (industry services, non-profit organisations, international organisations, administration…), you have to do some translation, from an academic mindset to a more applied one (because translation is not only a matter of vocabulary but also a matter of context). Avoid using words like “bibliography”: use instead “benchmarking” or “technology watch”. Edit your own dictionary by analysing job ads and news from professional associations.

C like choice
Our whole life is based on choices, both personal and professional. We talk about right and wrong choices. Actually, they are neither bad nor good, but the reasons and motivations leading to the choices may be:  because you have been mostly influenced by your environment (family, friends, colleagues…) or because you were not honest with yourself. For each of your work experiences, ask yourself what your true motivation was, it will help you to sketch your own guideline.

D like dreams
If you don’t have a clue what your professional future holds, make a list, with three columns: your needs, your wishes, your dreams. The last one is the best one because you are not slowed down by any inhibitions or influences, you are authorised to discover what lies in you, your potential. Just one last recommendation from Theodore Roosevelt: keep your eyes in the stars, your feet on the ground!

E like expert
In many companies, the career development inside a company is related to a choice between being an expert or being a manager. It doesn’t mean that there are no in-between positions, but that’s the common representation of internal development. With that said, it’s interesting to highlight two main challenges for experts: maintaining their status and being visible.
Maintaining your status as an expert means you have to keep yourself updated on your expertise area, the related technologies: that’s obvious. But it also means enlarging your field of knowledge by exploring contiguous areas: don’t get stuck on your comfort zone!

To be continued next month…




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  • To facilitate the transition of PhDs (whatever their field and seniority) from academia to the private sector;
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