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Conference Explores Careers Outside Academia

photo by Joshua Yim

-By Joshua Yim

A day-long conference aimed at helping Stanford doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers learn about alternative careers attracted over 300 attendees from a variety of disciplines on March 23.

PhD Pathways was started by Stanford Career Education, BEAM in 2015, but this year’s event marked the first time the conference was led entirely by current Stanford graduate students and postdocs.

More than 50,000 doctoral degrees have been granted in the United States annually since 2012—far more than the number of tenured professor positions that become available. This has led many doctoral graduates to explore careers in business, government, and nonprofits.

PhD Pathways was designed to educate students about careers in a variety of sectors beyond academia, teach them the important skills in those sectors, and present personal stories from professionals who have successfully gone down the non-academic path. This year’s conference featured more than 75 speakers and included career workshops, coaching sessions, and networking events.

The keynote speaker of this year’s event, Tina Seelig, advised attendees to “embrace the uncertainty and set an intention.”

“There isn’t a recipe, and experimentation is critical in how you find a path … There are incredible lessons every single day from the things that work out but even more important from the things that don’t,” said Seelig, who is a professor of the practice in Stanford’s Department of Management Science and Engineering (MS&E) and the author of the book What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20.

Patricia Gumport, Vice Provost for Graduate Education, praised the yearly conference, which has sold out for the past three years.

“PhD Pathways gives our amazing students and postdocs the opportunity to reflect on their future options through engagement with the spectacular people who have been assembled for the keynote and panels,” Gumport said. “This is a rare gift, and one that I hope the participants will all make the most of. If they do, they will have a new sense of possibilities, networking, and confidence as they move forward in their unique journeys.”