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"So What Are You Going to Do with That?"

Finding Careers Outside Academia, Third Edition

Third Edition

Graduate schools churn out tens of thousands of PhDs and MAs every year. Yet more than half of all college courses are taught by adjunct faculty, which means that the chances of an academic landing a tenure-track job seem only to shrink as student loan and credit card debts grow. What’s a frustrated would-be scholar to do? Can she really leave academia? Can a job outside the academy really be rewarding? And could anyone want to hire a grad-school refugee?

In this third edition of “So What Are You Going to Do with That?”, thoroughly revised with new advice for students in the sciences, Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius—PhDs themselves—answer all those questions with a resounding “Yes!” A witty, accessible guide full of concrete advice for anyone contemplating the jump from scholarship to the outside world, “So What Are You Going to Do with That?” covers topics ranging from career counseling to interview etiquette to how to translate skills learned in the academy into terms an employer can understand and appreciate. Packed with examples and stories from real people who have successfully made this daunting—but potentially rewarding—transition, and written with a deep understanding of both the joys and difficulties of the academic life, this fully updated guide will be indispensable for any graduate student or professor who has ever glanced at his or her CV, flipped through the want ads, and wondered, “What if?”

168 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2007, 2014

Education: Higher Education

Reference and Bibliography


“Fourteen years after they first published their guide on nonacademic career options for PhDs, . . . Basalla and Debelius are back with a third edition of that influential book.”

Chronicle of Higher Education

“This third edition . . . is especially timely. Graduate students and current academicians are struggling, rather publicly, with the realization that a career in academics is no longer desired. . . . Basalla and Debelius have written a supportive, resourceful, and well-structured guide for the possibly long and windy journey ahead. . . . This is just the resource to help those in transition find more rewarding work that values and benefits from the academic experience.”

Africa S. Hands, author of “Successfully Serving the College Bound” | San Francisco Book Review

“This is a book I wish I had written, because everything the authors advise is exactly the counsel that I give PhDs questioning, ‘Why did I do all this research if I can’t get an academic job?’ I find this book especially helpful for anyone just beginning to think about what a big deal it is to leave academe and those who are suffering ‘PhD identity crisis.’ (Remember, your degree is a credential—it doesn’t define your capabilities!).”

Natalie Lundsteen, director of career development, Graduate School for Biomedical Sciences at UT Southwestern Medical Center | Inside Higher Ed

“A smart, insightful, supportive, straightforward, and engaging guide for anyone facing the prospect of change, career or otherwise. ‘So What Are You Going to Do with That?’ is one of the most important resources that I have, and I use it daily. This time, Basalla and Debelius dare to shed light on the science career myth that a career in academic science research is a panacea. The disconnect between a PhD student’s career intentions and the reality of the academic market behooves all science students to read this book and get involved more deeply in their career development and pathway options. I wish I had written it!”

Victoria A. Blodgett | assistant dean, Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs, Graduate School, University of Connecticut

“Full of practical tips and anecdotes from people . . . who have turned academic study into fulfilling careers in everything from marketing to community building.”

Christian Science Monitor

“Basalla and Debelius use wit, directness, and great anecdotal evidence to guide readers through the soul-searching decision to leave academia.”

Publishers Weekly

“As valuable for its can-do spirit as its specific advice.”

“[The authors] have filled this volume with insightful anecdotes, probing and worthwhile questions and a host of resources. . . for more specialized job searches. Basalla and Debelius illustrate just how skills acquired in graduate school research, teaching, and critical thinking . . . can be translated into desirable attributes of a post-academic job candidate. Hopeful, upbeat, and helpful.”

Virginia Quarterly Review

The reference tool for MAs and PhDs considering nonacademic career paths. The guide is comprehensive, hands-on, and much needed.”

Elaine Showalter, professor emerita, Princeton University

“‘So What Are You Going to Do with That?’ is a life-changer for doctoral graduates and a godsend for the Republic. Basalla and Debulius show us how to engage the superb and transferable abilities of PhDs.”

Robert Weisbuch, former president, Drew University

“I will absolutely be recommending this book to our graduate students exploring their career options—I’d love to see it on the coffee tables in department lounges!”

Robin B. Wagner, former associate director of graduate career services, University of Chicago

Table of Contents


1. Will I Have to Wear a Suit? Rethinking Life After Graduate School
Getting Your Head Ready
Should I Finish My Dissertation?
How to Use Your Grad School Years Wisely
So What Am I Going to Do?
Five Myths about Post-Academic Careers
Five Questions about Graduate School and Your Future
Your Eclectic Mix
Post-Academic Profile: Abby Markoe, A.B.D History of Medicine, Executive, Director, SquashWise

2. How Do I Figure Out What Else to Do? Soul-Searching Before Job Searching
Take Inventory
Break It Down
Looking backward: Seven Stories
Guilty Pleasures
“This Is Your Brain on Graduate School”
No Need for a #2 Pencil
Where Are All Those PhDs Anyway?
Create Your own Possibilities
Post-Academic Profile: Samantha Sutton, PhD in Biology, Life Coach

3. Asking the Big Questions: How to Figure Out If You Want Them and If They Want You
Asking the Big Questions
Answering the Big Questions: Three Strategies
Transitional Tales
So What’s Next?
Post-Academic Profile: Xiuwen Tu, PhD in Physics, Sun Power Corporation, Device and Characterization Engineer

4. This Might Hurt a Bit: Turning a CV into a Résumé
Getting Ready to Write a Résumé
Writing a Résumé: The First Draft
A Few More Words of Advice
After You’ve Drafted a Résumé
Case Studies and Sample Résumés
Cover Letters That Will Get You Hired
Post-Academic Profile: Alyssa Picard, PhD in History, Staff Representative for the Michigan Affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers

5. Sweaty Palms, Warm Heart: How to Turn an Interview into a Job
Before the Interview
During the Interview
After the Interview
What If the Interview Doesn’t Go Well?
The Job Offer (or Lack Thereof)
Adjusting to Your New Job
Post-Academic Profile: Scott Keeter, PhD in Political Science, Director of Survey Research, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press


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