Skip navigation
From PhD to Life

In service of PhDs (and a post-academic CFP)


Over the past few months I’ve been in conversation with other post-academic business owners and freelancers, many of whom work with graduate students and PhDs. I had no idea such people existed during my doctorate, and it was only thanks to Versatile PhD that I got connected to Hillary Hutchinson, who was my coach for six months in 2012-13. Working with Hillary lead to me take coach training and start my own business.

I felt sheepish telling Hillary a year ago that I was exploring coaching as a career for myself. I was embarrassed, worried that my enthusiasm for her line of work was premature, and maybe I didn’t want her to judge me, like, “Ha! You could never do what I do.” I’m not sure. I know that I actively didn’t tell her for a while. When I did, her reaction was encouraging, and I was relieved. (Why did I ever doubt this? Sorry, Hillary!)

Anyways, that’s the past. The present is this: I am coaching (and my training is ongoing) and now my old coach is a mentor, friend, and colleague! Even though we’re all independent, I count my fellow academic and post-academic service providers as colleagues. We’re coaches, editors, writers, consultants, bloggers, and website owners. We freely offer a huge amount of advice, information, inspiration, and support. Many websites and blogs were born sans ulterior money-making motives, and then grew into the online homes of small businesses. This is true of From PhD to Life.

Being part of this community of and for PhDs is enormously gratifying. I’m continually struck by the generosity and warmth of my peers . . . many of whom are my competitors! And that’s not to mention their intelligence and creativity, their wide range of experience and depth of knowledge, and their commitment to helping out. They provide me with what I never managed to have in grad school: a friendly, welcoming intellectual and social community of fellow travellers. Here’s a partial list of websites who’s owners I’ve spoken to or otherwise interacted with in recent weeks: PhDs at Work, Jobs on Toast, PhDeviate, Beyond the Tenure Track. Plus there’s Pascal Venier, Catherine Maybrey, Liana Silva-Ford, and Liz Covart. And so many more! *Gush*

Now for some exciting news: Maren Wood (from Lilli Research Group) and I are co-hosting a virtual conference in May! It’s called Beyond the Professoriate, and it will feature panel discussions about alternative- and post-academic careers on May 3 and keynote presentations from experts on May 10. We’re thrilled to announce this and hope you’ll consider joining us either as a presenter or virtual audience member. For complete details, including the call for papers, head over to my website.

And, welcome to my world 🙂

Jennifer Polk
Jennifer Polk is a career coach and entrepreneur. She earned her PhD in history from the University of Toronto in 2012. For more information and resources, check out her website:
Post a comment
University Affairs moderates all comments according to the following guidelines. If approved, comments generally appear within one business day. We may republish particularly insightful remarks in our print edition or elsewhere.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Click to fill out a quick survey