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Why did you decide to no longer pursue an academic career?
I haven’t shelved the idea of an academic career. But I wanted to explore what else I can do with a PhD. As a doctoral student we are trained to be academics but I learned early on that academia is saturated and there just isn’t enough space for all the graduating PhD. Particularly in fields like media and communications, where professionals with applied experience get equal preference (they are very much required, I am not debating that). Therefore, it is pertinent to explore other options after a doctoral.
What does an average day in the life look like for you?
I have a 9 to 5 job; something I dearly missed in my previous lives as a doctoral student and as a journalist before that. Usually, I am up by 5:30, hit the gym most mornings, and out of the house for work by 8 am. At work, the day starts at 9 am and for me, it mostly involves research related work and depending on which stage of the project I am at I could be working on anything – proposal, lit review, design, data collection, analysis – the usual drill as in academia. I set off for home by 5 to 5:30 pm. Home by 6:30 pm allows me enough time to cook dinner and watch some TV or read some books. Wind down for the day. Catch-up on daily events with friends and family.
How does the research you do in your current position differ from an academic position?
The research I currently conduct is more applied than what I have done previously. Secondly, it will get published much faster than academic research. Third, the work environment is very fast-paced and collaborative, so it is not a lonely job. Fourth, the subject of research is vastly different from what I have done in the past. Currently, I focus on public opinion and policy research. As a communications scholar, I was mostly focused upon the media environment and diversity issues.
What resources did you use when making the career transition to an alternative career?
I mostly started looking into alternative career paths. Redesigned and repurposed my resume (not CV). It is important to realize that we (PhDs) need to highlight our knowledge that’s relevant to the job profile and identify our transferable skills as a PhD. For example, all doctoral have some knowledge of project management by virtue of working and managing their research projects (sometimes more than two at the same time). Having a PhD can sometimes throw off recruiters. Many people often advise against putting a Ph.D. on the applicant’s resume. But I never paid heed to that advice as I strongly felt that my PhD contributed a whole lot to who I am today, my skills and knowledge. I would therefore always recommend adding the PhD on your resume, own it, and show how it translates to the job profile you are applying at. That said, do not list all your publications on your resume, but just the relevant ones. It is important to identify what’s important for the job you are applying to.
I further used LinkedIn and Glassdoor to identify potential jobs in my preferred locations. But one of the most important lessons learned was the need to follow companies that you are interested in and also try to network with the current employees in those companies.
How has your emotional health changed since leaving academia?
I feel a lot lighter, definitely. I have a regular work schedule and every day is exciting. I have set aims and goals for my job, and while deadlines are present here as well, I think there is a better balance. No one expects you to be working on weekends. That allows me to be involved with activities outside of work and contribute to professional organizations as well.
I loved working on my academic research. But unlike academia, where it can get lonely trying to figure out research, teaching and service all at the same time, in my current profile I am focused on researching and conducting new studies. I am venturing into new areas such as policy research, something that I wouldn’t have thought can be related to my academic expertise in the field of media and communications. But as a doctorate, our brains become fine-tuned towards critical thinking and conducting research, and that has been my selling point. I think we expect too much from academics. I definitely dislike the ‘publish or perish’ mentality. It is important to identify that as a Ph.D. you are an expert in not just your field, but also in conducting research, and managing complicated projects.
What is your PhD about?
I have a PhD in Mass Communications.
How does having a PhD help you in your current position?
A PhD was a requirement for my current position. The knowledge and experience we bring in terms of conducting research is important to the organization I am working at. Quite a few of my colleagues here have a PhD and they are all experts in various fields such as economics, history, security, political science, among others.
What advice would you give others looking at an alternative career path?
Don’t expect to find a job that EXACTLY matches your expertise or skillset. You have to be flexible and willing to learn. Also, unlike academia where searches are as simple as ‘associate’ or ‘assistant professor,’ for positions similar to what I do, keywords can be varied – research analyst, senior analyst, policy analyst, program manager, research director, etc. Set up search alerts with such keywords on sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor. You will have to do a spot of research to arrive at those keywords.
Tell us about yourself
I am from India. I grew up in the eastern city of Kolkata and spent most of my life there prior to moving to the US for my doctoral studies in 2014. While in Kolkata, I completed a Bachelors and Masters in Sociology, a post-graduate diploma in Mass Communications, and worked as a journalist with the print daily, The Telegraph, India. My parents are both highly educated and they always persuaded me to pursue higher studies, gain more knowledge and experience, and explore new opportunities. My husband, also a doctorate, is a Civil Engineer and works in the industry. We are based in Vancouver, Canada.
How can my readers connect with you/find out more?
Twitter (@SreyoD), LinkedIn (https://ca.linkedin.com/in/sreyoshidey)