Careers beyond academia – a general guide for PIs 

Session details

Date: 15 July 2022

Speakers at this session

  • Katie McAllister, Stakeholder Engagement Officer, Prosper 
  • Dr Andrew Holmes, Research Staff Developer, Prosper 
  • Prof Alexander Samely, Professor of Jewish Thought, Religions and Theology, University of Manchester 
  • Prof Catriona Waitt, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology and Global Health, University of Liverpool 
  • Prof Hilary Ranson, Professor of Medical Entomology, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine 

Session overview

This PI network session looked at how to support postdocs explore career options beyond academia.

Session outcomes

  • Greater understanding of the employment context for your postdocs.
  • Ideas for how you can support your postdocs' career development (and the benefits to you).
  • Learn from fellow PIs about what has worked well for them.

Session resources

Careers beyond academia

Prof Alexander Samely

Prof Catriona Waitt

Prof Hilary Ranson

Shared learnings

1. Awareness

Be aware of the challenges postdocs face and the opportunities available to them. 

  • 85-90% of UK postdocs go onto have careers beyond academia; only 10-15% of postdocs obtain a tenured academic position.  
  • A significant proportion of postdocs (30-50%) do not aspire to an academic career. 
  • There are hundreds of different career paths postdocs can take beyond academia. PIs couldn’t and aren’t expected to know about them all. 
  • Prosper has co-created 12 ‘Career Clusters’ that represent key areas of opportunity for postdocs, as well as a career exploration strategies guide. 

2. Approach and attitude

Supporting postdocs to explore careers beyond academia is an important aspect of career development, both for those postdocs who wish to move beyond academia and those who aspire to academic careers but might not achieve their goals. 

  • Be open to having career conversations, helping postdocs to understand their options and avoiding ‘privileging’ academia. 
  • Every postdoc is different – their knowledge of and interest in careers beyond academia will be different. 
  • Be aware that the term ‘industry’ (used by many academics, particularly in STEM subjects) can often mean anything that isn’t academia but its understanding and usage can vary depending on the speaker and listener. Referring to careers beyond academia as ‘industry’ can give the wrong impression to postdocs for whom ‘industry’ means a specific type of role.  
  • Some research subjects may appear closely linked to specific career clusters but be aware that postdocs don’t need to stick to a subject area. They may be interested in different subject areas and can find roles that use their skillsets and experiences in a whole variety of career clusters (for instance, a postdoc in life sciences isn’t just confined to the ‘Life sciences and pharmaceuticals’ career cluster). Encouraging your postdoc to explore multiple career clusters can give them a better understanding of their options and interests. 

3. Action

Whilst PIs aren’t expected to know every career path available to their postdocs, there are steps they can take to support their postdocs explore their options. 

4. Practical exercises

You can set your postdoc practical exercises to help them explore their options: 

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