This article originally appeared on Inside Higher Ed.
What can I do with my Ph.D. and how do I get started? Those are the questions that most often lead Ph.D. students from the humanities and social sciences to our advising offices. They expose complex issues such as a lack of confidence in the skills acquired during doctoral training, anxiety about unknown work and a feeling of disempowerment in the job search. They are the conversations that drove more than 80 career professionals from 56 universities across the United States and Canada to create an online tool to help bridge the knowledge gap between doctoral education and the realm of career possibilities. That tool is ImaginePhD, a free and confidential career-exploration and planning tool for the humanities and social sciences that launches today.
Powered by the Graduate Career Consortium -- a professional organization of university administrators leading career and professional development efforts for Ph.D. students and postdoctoral scholars at their institutions -- ImaginePhD has been in development for three years. To create this tool, we researched and analyzed national career outcomes alongside the skills and interests developed through humanities and social sciences Ph.D. programs. This research resulted in the creation of 16 job families: clusters of jobs organized and aligned with a core set of skills and interests. None of these career pathways require additional formal education (such as an M.B.A. or J.D.). To help users understand the range of careers within each job family, and transition strategies, more than 450 resources were curated specifically for the site.
Once the first iteration of the tool was built, we conducted 26 focus groups at 14 different institutions in the United States and Canada with 150-plus Ph.D. students and faculty to understand experiences with the tool so as to make it as meaningful and useful as possible. That process revealed the distinct role that values play in career decision making for Ph.D.s from these disciplines and the need for time and space to reflect and build community through career exploration.
It also became clear that a linear approach to careers would be quickly dismissed. Using the focus groups' feedback and suggestions, we refined the site to provide more distinct content, opportunities for reflection, a comprehensive values assessment and a planning tool that reflected their expressed needs.