Leaving Academia: A Practical Guide

leaving academia

Christopher Caterine
Princeton University Press, £58.00

For most people who start on an academic career path, their future lies elsewhere – PhD students and postdocs vastly outnumber senior research staff positions. However, that transition to a new career can be daunting, and many people find it hard to know where to start. Christopher Caterine makes no secret of the fact that he was one of those people. This book grew out of his personal journey from believing he would one day become a professor to having a fulfilling career outside academia.

The practical advice he offers includes how to research possible careers, how to gain extra skills, where to look for jobs, how to make your experience in academia relevant for non-academic employers, and what to expect from a new work environment. A particular focus is informational interviews, and he encourages anyone looking for a career change to approach people working in interesting areas and ask for a chat. Most people are only too happy to offer advice, and this can be a good way to identify what type of careers interest you, as well as a way of building contacts.

Importantly, it also tackles some of the emotional challenges of a career change. For many academics, their identity is tied up in their work. This makes a change daunting, yet the personal benefits can be huge, as Caterine points out.

The book has an American slant, but is still applicable to anyone in Europe looking to leave academia (or indeed looking for any kind of career change). Caterine’s advice is easy to put into practice. Each chapter ends with three action points, which range from writing down your strengths and weaknesses to checking the privacy settings on your social media accounts. For some people, their move out of academia is easy and natural, but for others it will take time and energy. The advice in this book should make that journey easier, and help ensure that it ends in a satisfying career.

Dr Rebecca Nesbit MRSB