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From PhD to Life

From PhD to . . . Beyond the Professoriate

The name of this blog is changing.


The new school year is a time of change, and I can attest that feels true even for those of us who aren’t enrolled in school, don’t work in education, or have school-aged dependents. I started blogging for University Affairs under the From PhD to Life banner in September 2013. At that point, I was a year and a half done my PhD and had recently started a business coaching academics.

Now, four years later, I earn most of my income from my 1-on-1 work with graduate students and PhDs. But that will change. I’m focussing more and more on a different, related business, Beyond the Professoriate. This is a startup I run with my partner, Maren Wood, a fellow history PhD. (We met when we did our Master’s degrees at Carleton University.)

Readers of this blog know that Beyond the Professoriate began as an annual online conference for PhDs in career transition. Maren and I collaborated to produce this 10-session event, which occurred in May 2014. This past May was the fourth annual conference. We were thrilled that hundreds of people chose to attend, either live or by watching the recordings afterward.

The conference is wonderful every year, but it only happens once. We wanted to offer graduate students and PhDs a structured way to learn, engage, and take action to further their careers throughout the year. We launched the Beyond the Professoriate membership site this summer to do just that.

This new online community includes resources and support for graduate students and PhDs navigating the job search process. Online panels introduce members to new careers and opportunities, workshops teach them how to launch a successful job search, and we host weekly strategy sessions where members are coached, give and receive feedback, and share insights. Members can engage with each other and with our network of PhD career mentors in our groups and forums as well. We’re hearing great things from early members and are thrilled with how things are going so far.

I’ve learned a huge amount over the past several years about self-employment and entrepreneurship. In particular, I’ve learned about what it takes to build a business online. Some of that knowledge comes from experience; much of it is still theoretical. It’s exciting to put my knowledge and skills into practice day in and day out in this new venture.

There is meaningful life and work after a PhD. You probably can’t imagine what it will look like – and I bet that’s true for folks who go into faculty careers, as well! I’ve learned over and over again that we navigate our professional journeys over time. Ideas you had, plans you made, specific goals you want to achieve will change, perhaps drastically. In some abstract ways, my life and work isn’t enormously different from what it was when I was in graduate school. It is radically different in other ways. I am the co-founder of a new, exciting tech startup. I’m still wrapping my head around this one.

Going forward, the name of this blog is changing. It will borrow our business name, Beyond the Professoriate. We’ll continue to showcase the variety of jobs and careers PhDs have with our popular Transition Q & A series. I’ll write posts, and so will Maren Wood, whom you’ve seen in (and on) the pages of University Affairs in the past. We’ll have guest content on occasion. I hope you’ll continue reading and engaging with our ideas!

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:
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