Leaving Academia: A Practical Guide by Chris Caterine, PhD

Christopher Caterine, PhD

Chris Caterine, PhD, author of a practical guide to leaving academia

Chris Caterine, PhD was the third speaker in the CNY Humanities Corridor “Humanities Beyond the Academy” working group comprised of Cornell University, Syracuse University and University of Rochester.

Caterine, who holds a PhD in Classics, offered practical advice on approaching a job search outside of academia. He started off the conversation by acknowledging that many PhDs do feel a bit of an identity crisis at the thought of leaving academia BUT was quick to reassure participants that as they transition their mindset from academic to industry their intellect will still be stimulated and their new career path will be just as rewarding!

His talk stressed the need for building relationships, then progressed into the ‘how’ of building relationships with three main takeaways:

  1. Discover new careers through Informational Interviews – have short conversations to explore a job or industry that interests you.
    • An informational interview = data collection.
    • Remember to get a representative sampling to identify trends.
  2. Expand who you know and pay it forward through Networking – this is having a conversation exploring a common interest.
    • You – Person A ⇒Mutual Contact – Person B ⇒ Hiring Manager – Person C
    • The process is to ask a friend, family member, neighbor if they know someone in an industry that interests you. Ask for an introduction then have a conversation. People are hardwired to help!
    • Give them a way to help, not asking for a job but for some realistic, actionable steps: take a look at a resume, refer to a hiring manager, advice on skills. Make it easy for them to advocate on your behalf.
  3. Translate your academic experiences for non-academic contexts-the audience drives the message.
    • This is where you describe not what you do , but pull it up one level to how you do it (to invite them in), and why it matters (to them)
    • Talk about outcomes, use the language of the industry they are in (quantify for a business audience, connect with organizational mission for a non-profit)
    • Use common language, not academic lingo. For instance instead of saying “I work on poems in the Civil War on Cesar and Pompey.” you can say, “I analyze how language elicits an emotional reaction in people who read it.”