We continue with our new column, featuring interviews with PhDs who have charted a course unrelated to the tenure track, putting academia squarely in the rearview mirror.
Our hope is that seeing and hearing from a wide range of PhDs who are celebrating their careers rather than settling for them will inspire every grad student, ABD and PhD to add the road OFTEN traveled to their list of options.
We are excited to hear and share your stories. If you have a PhD and are working outside of the academy and would like to share your experience with TPII readers, we’d love to hear from you!
Today we are pleased to feature Dr. Lindsay Barone
PhD Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
When I started my Ph.D., the goal was never to get a traditional tenure-track job. From the moment I began my master’s, my plan was to develop a career in museum work. I took a year off after completing my M.S., worked in a small medical history museum, and then decided to return for my Ph.D. because I was, at the time, mostly interested in curatorial positions, I felt that having a Ph.D. would give me a leg up.
The Ph.D. did not change my goal. I still wanted a job in museums and informal education, I just became more interested in research & evaluation rather than curation.
At the time I started applying for jobs, 90% of them were in program and exhibit evaluation. Many of them were at museums, but some were for evaluation firms that did a lot of natural history and science-focused program evaluation.
When I graduated in 2015, I was hired to be program evaluator for the DNA Learning Center in Cold Spring Harbor, NY. They were looking for someone who had biology knowledge and social science research skills and I fit the bill.
In December 2019, I left that job to start my own evaluation firm (Barone Research Services, www.baroneresearch.com). In addition to evaluation, I also theoretically do other academic-type tasks (assisting with grant writing, course development, IRB submissions, etc.), but all of my current clients have hired me to be the external evaluator on their grant-funded science education projects.
Because I was working for a science center based at a research laboratory, I was still doing a lot of “traditional” academic things (grant writing, publishing, occasionally teaching). Now, though, I am having to learn how to run a business and there are a lot of little things I had no idea about.
I wish I would have taken more practical, skill-building courses. Theory is great, but can only take you so far. I also don’t know that I necessarily needed the Ph.D. for my current job, but it did allow me to develop my research skills further and I’m glad I did it.
I think the most important thing for anyone considering a transition away from the academy is for them to figure out what their skills translate to in a non-academic setting. We’re all pretty good at conducting research by the time we’re done with a Ph.D., but learning how to take those academic skills and interpret them for a non-academic audience is the key to getting a job. It’s all in the framing!
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- Always Have a Side Hustle, and Other Lessons I Learned from Academia – WOC Guest Post
- Upcoming Coaching Events for Scholars in Crisis
- The Question Is Not The Question, Postac Version – Langer