The post-ac trinity of transferable skills

A long time ago, I wrote the following post in another blogging venue (of mine, not somewhere else), and I’m reposting this here, since it relates to an ongoing conversation on Twitter for Jennifer Polk’s #withaPhD chats. I blame the title on my religious-studies background. 

The Post-Ac Trinity of Transferable Skills

When looking for a new career, career advice books (such as Richard Bolles’ bible of job changers, What Color Is Your Parachute? and a similar resource for those on the alt-ac / post-ac path, “So What Are You Going to Do with That?”: Finding Careers Outside Academia, by Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius) usually ask the reader to narrow in on their “favorite transferrable skills.” I’ve gotten the impression from my casual reading of post-academic blogs that three skills often top the list of what we academics and wannabe post-academics do best, including in no particular order:

  1. Research
  2. Writing
  3. Teaching

One might call them the trinity of our transferrable skills. I think I might have been surprised to find these at the top of my list. After all, aren’t I trying to get away from some of these skills — or isn’t the idea of getting away from them implied by wanting to leave academia?  Wrong, it turns out. There are many otherr ways to apply each of these skills, and our favorite (and least favorite!) aspects of each skill can offer important clues to the kind of post-academic or alt-academic career we want to have.

This list of words is just the beginning, however. The real question the job-changer has to ask is, what do I want to do with these skills? What kind of research? Quantitative, qualitative, or simply poking aimlessly around on the Internet? What kind of teaching? Does it matter if it’s undergraduates, technical trainees at a corporation? Perhaps it’s less formal teaching that really floats one’s boat, like showing a friend how to complete a new knitting stitch, or tutoring a young person in the finer aspets of “their, there, and they’re.”

My point is that just knowing I have these particular skills will probably not be enough. In order to figure out what I most want to do, I will have to think more carefully about what I’d like to do with each of them, and over the next couple of weeks, I plan to do just that and to report back on the results here.

Although I only got half-way with this “project” on the other blog, I think I will return to it here, in order to set out more fully how my thoughts have developed over the past — oh my — almost two years since I wrote that post! 


I'd love to hear your thoughts!