On September 24, 2015, the event ‘Beyond academia: How to pursue a career in the non-academic job market' was organized in Brussels by the Doctoral School for Medicine & Life Sciences. The programme consisted of testimonies of PhD holders working in various sectors (industry, teaching, policy, European Commission, politics). From these testimonies, no less than 12 useful tips with respect to career development could be derived. The tips turn out to be broadly applicable, regardless of discipline or sector.
- Start thinking about your career NOW. Don’t postpone it.
- Dare to question yourself and your career. Take your professional life into your own hands. Other people cannot tell you what to do.
- Know yourself. It’s the first step in any career planning. What do you want? What do you think is important? What makes your heart sing?
- Build up expertise and develop a broad skills package. Personal development is key. You can always become a better version of yourself. (Make use of the doctoral school programme! Exploit it to your benefit.)
- When thinking about career prospects, focus on skills/competences, rather than diploma or title. Transferable skills are at least equally important as technical skills, in any job or sector.
- If you have a certain goal or position in mind, make sure you know what is expected and – if necessary – think of intermediate steps in order to get there.
- Persist. If you really have it in you (be it teaching, research, management, …), you will be able to shine. It might take a while, but don’t let this discourage you.
- Get out there and talk to people. Actively invest in building a network.
- Show your competences to others. Always bring value, in your job but also when simply talking to people.
- Go for international experience. It is valued in both non-academic and academic contexts and will moreover be highly beneficial to your personal development.
- Don’t exclude anything based on fear or ignorance. Don’t be scared of new opportunities.
- Don’t consider leaving academia as failure. There are interesting and challenging career paths ‘out there’ as well.
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”