About the Series
In the Trailblazers Beyond the Tenure Track series, current Princeton graduate students interview graduate alumni pursuing a range of careers beyond the tenure track. Collectively, these stories help graduate students develop a vision of the journey ahead by exploring the experiences of trailblazers who have gone before them.
"I wish I had been slightly more open to jobs beyond the academy earlier in my studies. Forming relationships outside of academia and learning about other careers is crucial to making the transition. There are so many resources now to help students with the transition from academia to the working world, and Princeton is a leader in this effort. Rely on the people who want to help there. Rely on the alumni network."
"I earned my PhD from the Department of Molecular Biology in the field of developmental biology, which is the study of how an organism develops from an early embryo to an adult organism. I learned a lot about genetics and cell biology which brought me closer what I wanted to do – become a diabetes expert. Almost everyone in my family has diabetes, so I always wanted to learn how to treat it. I’ve just finished five years as Associate Medical Director at ApotheCom, and I am an elected member to the Board of Education in Hamilton Township, NJ."
“When I’ve tried to “network,” I felt like the expectation was to always explicitly try to get a benefit from it, such as a referral to an open position. I think that comes across as very awkward. Instead, I think what's helpful is if you connect with people to find out more about their career paths. That can be obviously beneficial in figuring out what career you want, but also, I found that a lot of times if you're just yourself, often the person wants to help you, and they will offer to do things that you weren't expecting or didn't ask for.”
“I followed a very traditional path up until that moment when I started an internship at a mission-driven organization. By taking that internship, I really was able to see all kinds of new avenues and directions for my research and the skills I had developed over time in graduate school. Once I stepped out and took this internship, I saw a window open onto new possibilities..."
"Here at Princeton we also have the University Administrative Fellowship (UAF) program. As I started getting interested in that program, I realized that I had interests in working in Special Collections because of my background in manuscript research...."
“Connect with other students within your cohort who are looking at life outside academy. Strategize with them. Once you’ve got your first year under your belt, mentor others who ask for advice, even if you don’t feel like an expert yet. Trust me, you know more than you think!”
"I’m currently an Associate Policy Researcher at the RAND Corporation and a Professor of Political Geography at Pardee RAND Graduate School. I completed my PhD in history from Princeton in 2018. My doctoral dissertation examined how the expanding early modern French state and its agents iteratively developed a set of standardized imperial urban planning practices and, in so doing, helped establish geography (within European empires, at least) as a form of state authority making..."
" You can always pivot and look for ways to reinvigorate and reinvent your career. And I think that's been the biggest lesson I thought about post-tenure."
"...If you can finish your PhD at Princeton, you are more than capable of developing a new career trajectory even if it seems wildly different from what you specialized in at Grad School!"
"...it is important to establish an actual network of people outside of academia who can help you. This is key and something that graduate students often neglect."