I suggest avoiding the question about staying or leaving academia. Successful careers are possible inside and outside academia. However, being successful in your career requires finding the career that fits best to your individual skills, interests and values. I’m convinced that people are most successful
- in jobs they are best qualified for,
- with tasks they enjoy to do (which are not necessarily the task for which they are best qualified), and
- with goals and working environments which fit best to what is important for them to be productive.
This involves also private issues such as family duties or private engagement. Career planning is an integral part of life planning!
I recommend seeing the career planning process as a creative process: Puzzle your skills, interests and values to create a picture of your future career. You could use MyIDP for an analytic process. Or you write, paint and visualize yourself on a huge piece of paper. Here already is no limit to your creativity!
I recently found a presentation which highlights the many careers PhDs created based on their skills, interests and values. So the presentation is not about the careers for life science PhDs outside academia that usually come to one’s mind, such as quality manager or patent attorney – which are of course equivalent options. The presentation, however, aims at stimulating your creativity about future careers to broaden your perception of options.
Who if not highly qualified PhDs have the choice to become whatever they aim at? If you have a favor for a specific task or aim at improving something, look for jobs to do it! Make informational interviews such as the one with the science writer Viviane Callier. Then make the most out of your current position to succeed in your desired career!
Of course, we career counselors also have to increase the knowledge about the diverse career paths of PhDs – and I will do my best on that account. However, there are such a lot of opportunities and, in the end, it is up to you to choose and strive for a specific career.
If you need support in this process, do not hesitate to contact and make an appointment with me!
Further readings about career options:
- Blog post reflecting on how to develop career options after your PhD
- Academics information portal on alternative career paths for PhD holders (in German)
- Study about non-academic careers of science PhD holders in the US