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From PhD to Life

We’ve launched a new online career hub

Aurora is designed to help students explore career options and learn strategies they need to find non-faculty careers.


For the past five years, Beyond the Professoriate has worked to support individual graduate students and PhDs move from academia to non-faculty careers. We started with our annual online conference in May 2014, and last year, launched a new community.

We wanted to find a way were we could bring all of the online content we’re building and creating at Beyond the Professoriate to graduate students. Better yet, we wanted to find a way to partner with institutions, so graduate students didn’t need to pay out of pocket to attend our conference or sign up for a community membership.

This past summer, we designed an online learning platform called Aurora. We choose the name because in literature, aurora means the beginning or the dawn. As Canadians, we also know that the Northern Lights can brighten up the dark winter sky.

Aurora is designed to help students explore career options and learn strategies they need to find non-faculty careers. It is all videos, with accompanying questions and exercises to help students design and implement a job search strategy for career success.

Two programs of study

The Career Exploration program features over 120 PhDs from Canada and the United States who now work in the non-profit sector, higher education administration, government, or in the business world. These professionals have PhDs in humanities, social sciences, STEM, and education fields. We add new videos every month.

By watching recorded career panels or one-on-one interviews, Aurora users learn how PhDs move into non-faculty careers – and how they can too. This term we started recording Career Spotlights, where a PhD who works in a specific career field, such as marketing or data science, provides an overview of the field, what day-to-day work is like, what skills PhDs already have, and advice on how to break into this career.

In our Career Success program of study, users can watch 21 hours of how-to videos to learn the skills they need to launch their own successful job search. All of these videos are taught by PhDs who work outside academia. Additional electives in this program of study teach skills for graduate school success, including how to leverage teaching experience and how to write their dissertation with preparing for non-faculty careers in mind.

Currently, Aurora is focused on non-faculty careers, but that will change in 2019. Students have told us that they also want to learn job search strategies for academic jobs, and we want to support them, whatever their career goals. We know that many PhDs pursue both faculty and non-faculty careers simultaneously. While there are not as many full-time, tenure-track openings as we’d like, new assistant professors are hired every year.

Our soon-to-come academic stream will include how-to seminars for applying and preparing for faculty positions. We will be recording interviews with faculty members who work at a variety of types of institutions in Canada and the United States, so that students can learn what it’s like to work as a professor, and determine if that is an attractive career path for them.

We hope Aurora will allow students to explore career options on their own time, in their own way, and to hear career success stories from PhDs who work in all industries and sectors. We hope that this resource will help busy staff members and senior learners deliver career education and support to graduate students and postdocs, and will complement in-person resources and events on their campuses. We also hope that departments can point students to this resource, by watching or streaming career panels and interviews in department workshops and seminars.

We’re excited to bring this online career hub to students and postdocs in universities where they can explore career options and be better prepared to take on the academic and non-academic job markets. It is critical that institutions help students and postdocs move through their training and into meaningful careers, wherever smart people are needed. You can learn more about Aurora on our website.

Maren Wood
L. Maren Wood earned a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel hill. Maren delivers interactive workshops to help graduate students prepare for a non-faculty job search. In addition to her research, Maren provides one-to-one career coaching to PhDs.
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