Association of Polar Early Career Scientists

Gritsenko, D. (2017): Changing Hats - A book for academics looking beyond academia. University of Helsinki.

Book review written by: Friederike Gehrmann (University of Helsinki)

Cahnging Hats.jpgThe number of PhD students is increasing whilst faculty positions are not. This means that in the US and the EU, about 80% of PhDs will pursue a non-academic job after they graduate. “Changing hats” offers guidelines for tranitioning between the academic and the non-academic world by showing the reader a more generic, outside perspective of the PhD.

The book begins by discussing the similarities between academic and non-academic positions (there are more than you think) and then elaborates on how they differ in their individual advantages and disadvantages. The development of a career is presented as an ever-changing process with many alternatives, challenges and drivers for change. I had the impression of an objective account of both career paths which gave me a good idea of the options, rather than trying to push me towards one or the other. I enjoyed that the author was not trying to tell you to pursue a non-academic career, even though the book is about changing into a non-academic career.

The third chapter dealt with personality tests which are used by employers as an assessment of applicants. I am not sure how frequently these tests are used, but I think they are only one of many small aspects associated with a change in career so I didn’t feel like there was any benefit in discussing these tests in a whole chapter.

Following this, there are several chapters with practical advice on transitioning between an academic and a non-academic career. These chapters were very inspiring, because they give the reader a fresh perspective on what they have achieved during their PhD that is beyond the academic units of measurement. It also encouraged academics to think about their skills in a more abstract rather than purely academic manner, because often neither the PhD nor the potential employer are aware of what a doctoral graduate can do and even which benefits they can bring to a company which non-academic employers may not have! In the academic world it is easy to forget that what is commonly expected of us as a basic skill may be unusually beneficial in another context. The book also entices us to not look at an academic career as a black-and-white path, but to become creative with what we enjoy and what we are good at as this may open up completely unexpected, new career paths.

Lastly, we must not forget to celebrate the achievement of earning a PhD degree as this goes a long way towards shaping our attitude about our future!

In summary, I found this book a good mixture of inspiration and practical advice as well as being easy and fast to read. The real challenge is to put the advice into practice when looking into non-academic careers, but this will eventually mostly come down to one’s own effort to familiarise oneself with the situation in one’s own job market and its opportunities.

The book is available as a Kindle edition for all regions. See for example:

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