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So What Are You Going to Do with That?

René-Luc & C. Schoch

Not only French PhDs lack of knowledge on the company world. This book clearly shows that their American counterparts are in the same situation.
Let's make this clear: even if this umpteenth job hunting guide comes to us from across the Atlantic, it isn't any better than the others. We nevertheless recommend reading it for several reasons. First of all, because it’s specifically designed for (future) PhD holders, particularly those in the human and social sciences. Secondly because it focuses on nonacademic (or "post-academic," term used by the authors, themselves PhDs in English literature from the University of Princeton): i.e. the corporate world, including industry, the press, marketing consultants, public relations, insurance and so on. A number of portraits illustrate these various careers and retrace the professional, and personal, itineraries that the PhDs interviewed followed to (re)position themselves on the job market after finishing their thesis. It also goes without saying that the practical advice given in the book is relevant and makes good sense, from the art of gathering information about the corporate world down to negotiating one's starting salary. Even if the advice is sometimes very anchored in the American cultural context, there's no doubt that a French PhD can transpose it to the customs and practices of the old world.

Last but not least, you will have understood that the book is written by American PhDs for American PhDs. That is precisely what makes reading it both instructive and eliminates any complex. No, French PhDs are not the only ones that haven't a clue about the corporate world. Engineering schools, business schools or not, you realize by reading such a guide that actually PhDs of all countries are the victims, often willing ones, of an academic world that demands a lot from them and gives very little back. Not enough jobs, which is a constant, but not enough perspective into what they could do outside of the university and public research either. All this is nothing new; but it feels good to be righteously indignant that the academic world does not even convey an awareness of having developed a multitude of talents are useful to society on the whole, through the experience of research. The ivory towers have been knocked down, they say. The existence of such a guide, published for the first time in 2001 and updated 2007, shows that their foundations are still intact.

So What Are You Going to Do with That? Finding Careers outside Academia
Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius, The University of Chicago Press, 2007.
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