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Your book has been in print since 2001, and the University of Chicago Press just released a third edition. How did you first get interested in this subject?
My dear friend and co-author Sue Basalla and I ended up writing the book that we wish we had when we were trying to figure out our own careers. Sue decided before she finished her dissertation not to pursue a career as an academic. We spent long hours discussing various options and trying to figure out what else she might do. I was unsure about what I might do after graduation--but interested in exploring possibilities. We both started tracking down alums from our program who had gone on to interesting careers and shared these stories with each other periodically. After one marathon phone session, we said, "These are great stories! We've got to write a book!"
In your book, you talk about several “myths” associated with non-academic careers. What do you think is the most pervasive of these myths?
The biggest myth is that grad students who don't get tenure-track jobs are failures. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We interviewed hundreds of graduate alums employed outside the academy who have found great success and real career satisfaction.
As you were conducting interviews and writing the book, what was one of the most common challenges that graduate students faced when making the transition to careers outside the academy?
Many grad students don't know how to imagine or investigate lives outside the academy. They're hesitant to ask their advisors, and they're often unsure where else to go for advice.
What are some concrete ways that today’s graduate students can prepare for non-academic careers?
Research career options with the same energy and drive that you bring to your scholarship. Start early, and be open to unexpected possibilities.
If you could give one piece of advice to newly-admitted graduate students, what would that be?
Don't wait until your final year to start considering career options. Visit the career center early--and ask everyone you know about their careers and what they find satisfying about them.