By Amrita Mandal, PhD
“I know what my PI does, and I don’t want her job…but I’m not sure what else is out there. I plan to go on the faculty market, but I’m not sure of my chances, so I guess I should have a plan B.”
If the first few lines from the book Next Gen PhD by Melanie V. Sinche resonate with you, then it should definitely be the next book you read. In a world where the line between an academic and alternate career blurs with each passing day, Sinche presents an unbiased reality check on current job prospects for science PhDs. This book is an important resource for PhDs, postdocs, and even undergrads who aspire for a productive career and meaningful life.
The book is divided into three parts, with the author providing step-by-step guidance—from identifying your interests to landing your dream job.
In part one, Sinche encourages taking the time to do self-exploration and to not rush into accepting a job. This includes considering the type of lifestyle you want and the people you would like to be surrounded by in your career. Next, she debunks commonly held myths about which skills are most important to employers. She urges readers to consider the ‘organic skills’ gained during scientific training, such as project management, data analysis, and oral and written communication. She explains how to translate ‘organic skills’ into ‘transferable skills’ catering to a specific job.
Part two presents a hard-hitting truth: being a postdoc is not a career goal and should not be a terminal step. This part of Next Gen PhD provides resources on how to best utilize a postdoc experience. Sinche profiles six individuals from varied professions, covering how they each made the transition to their respective fields. The book has important insights on how to network, set up informational interviews, and explore fellowship and internship opportunities.
In the third and last part of Next Gen PhD, the author offers insight into performing a job search, building your individual development plan (IDP), interviewing and negotiating, and most importantly, giving back to the community once you have made the transition.
The book ends with an important reminder: “You are the architect of your own career.”
Next Gen PhD contains many exercises and examples to help with a career transition. Overall, I find this to be an up-to-date, data-backed resource that can help science PhDs find satisfying career paths.