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By JENNIFER POLK | April 04 2014

The virtual conference I’m co-hosting in May is coming together wonderfully. Maren and I are thrilled with the line-up of panellists and presenters. We’ve got 23 PhDs lined up to speak about their career journeys and provide helpful advice. Although I share transition stories on this blog in the special Q & A posts, the […]

By JENNIFER POLK | March 31 2014

A couple days ago I picked up a “Business Self-Help” book (so says the back cover) that my dad recommended to me. He suggested (Forget a Mentor) Find a Sponsor because it explains why women and people of colour should seek out sponsors in addition to mentors. Doing so, research shows, will significantly increase their […]

By JENNIFER POLK | March 21 2014

At last night’s Versatile PhD meetup in Toronto, a fellow PhD told me about her experiences talking to professors about her current (non-academic) work. In some cases, they were positive, encouraging, and interested; in others, they were confused and dismissive. I share this anecdote because it reminds me of my own attitude during my doctorate: […]

By JENNIFER POLK | March 14 2014

Being part of a supportive community of people is extremely important to my wellbeing. Not having that during the latter years of my PhD is one reason it proved nearly impossible for me to imagine myself as a professor. And although I’m now in business for myself, I feel connected to a larger group of […]

By JENNIFER POLK | March 06 2014

On Monday I finish a coaching class. This will be the second professional development course I’ve done since getting my PhD in 2012. Back then, I’d never thought I’d see another classroom ever again! And, it’s true, I haven’t: My coaching courses are all over the phone! But still; you understand. I enrolled in the […]

By JENNIFER POLK | February 25 2014

Maureen McCarthy earned her PhD in English in 2013 from Emory University in Atlanta, GA. She is now the assistant director of advancement and best practices at the Council of Graduate Schools. Find her on Twitter @maureentmcc. What did you hope for in terms of employment as you completed your PhD? I was looking for […]

By JENNIFER POLK | February 13 2014

Earlier this week I spoke on the phone with Ysette Guevara, a fellow PhD and post-academic who runs her own business helping young people transition to adulthood. Our business values line up well, and so do our stories of career transition after our doctorates. You know how much I love meeting new people (aka networking), […]

By JENNIFER POLK | February 06 2014

Sarah-Louise Quinnell earned her PhD in geography from King’s College London. She’s now the learning and development manager for the online tutoring service Mactrac, which is part of Macmillan Digital Education. Find Sarah online at her website,, and follow her @sarahthesheepu. What did you hope for in terms of employment as you completed your […]

By JENNIFER POLK | January 31 2014

Over the past few months I’ve been in conversation with other post-academic business owners and freelancers, many of whom work with graduate students and PhDs. I had no idea such people existed during my doctorate, and it was only thanks to Versatile PhD that I got connected to Hillary Hutchinson, who was my coach for […]

By JENNIFER POLK | January 23 2014

I had a great notetaking and project management system when I was working on my Master’s thesis (on Canadians in revolutionary Russia). I used a free program called Scribe, which was developed for historians at George Washington’s Center for History and New Media. The program wasn’t particularly user-friendly, but with time and patience, I made […]

By JENNIFER POLK | January 15 2014

L. Maren Wood earned her PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She runs her own consulting firm, Lilli Research Group, which provides research support to institutions and professional development services for PhD job seekers. Follow Maren @lilligroup. What did you hope for in terms of employment as you completed […]

By JENNIFER POLK | January 08 2014

What’s your New Year’s resolution? If you’ve made one that’s work-related, chances are good that it’s to write more. That’s my goal for this year, too. I want to write every day, and produce more blog posts and pieces for publication elsewhere. Since mid-November I’ve been published by the Globe & Mail, Academic Matters, and […]

By JENNIFER POLK | December 13 2013

Let me tell you about an exercise that coaches do with clients. The most used coaching text recommends that we use the Wheel of Life, and many coaches use this tool with clients to help them sort out how they’re doing in different areas of their lives. To do it for yourself, draw a big […]

By JENNIFER POLK | December 02 2013

Joseph Fruscione earned his PhD in English from George Washington University in 2005. Since 1999, he’s taught university-level literature and writing courses at GW, Georgetown, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He’s now teaching first-year writing in GW’s University writing program. He’s published a book — Faulkner and Hemingway: Biography of a Literary Rivalry […]

By JENNIFER POLK | November 22 2013

Leah DeVellis is the coordinator of graduate services & professional development in Carleton University’s faculty of graduate and postdoctoral affairs. She tweets about professional development, social media marketing, entrepreneurship, and alternative academic careers. Follow her on Twitter @LeahDeVellis. Graduate students conduct cutting edge research, invent new technologies, write books, and start companies – and so […]

By JENNIFER POLK | November 19 2013

I want to write about how great I’m doing, how awesome my clients are, and how good I feel about being a post-academic businesswoman. All those things are true, but there’s more to my story. It’s time to fess up, recommit, and move on. (Can you tell I’ve been mired in Rob Ford news for […]

By JENNIFER POLK | November 08 2013

I never went on the academic job market. I thought about it, looked at job listings, read the wikis, and pondered what I might write about my teaching and research. But I was never moved to action. There were many reasons for this, ones that are familiar to any PhD or ABD on the road […]

By JENNIFER POLK | November 04 2013

A few weeks ago I flew to the U.S. for a vacation with my parents. The customs agent I spoke with at the Toronto airport asked me what I did for a living. For nearly a decade, I would have said, “I’m a PhD student.” This time, I said without hesitation, “I’m a coach!” When […]

By JENNIFER POLK | October 25 2013

As a graduate student I had relatively little support and guidance. I say this not to denigrate my supervisors or imply lesser service from my department or university. Not at all. In fact, I would have told you back then that all was well — I much preferred the hands-off approach to dissertating, feeling strongly […]

By JENNIFER POLK | October 23 2013

Peter Larson earned his PhD in biological sciences from Ohio University in 2003. He taught for 10 years at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he earned both tenure and a promotion to associate professor. For the past two academic years he served as chair of the biology department. He resigned from his […]