The idea that a doctorate in history prepares one only, or primarily, to teach in a college or university is as contingent as any other, not only historically but also geographically. In Germany--the country that gave us the research university--doctorates in history and similar fields have traditionally been considered appropriate preparation for jobs in publishing, media, business, and politics. A first step towards adjusting graduate education to occupational realities would be to change our attitudes and our language, to make clear to students entering programs in history that we are offering them education that we believe in, not just as reproductions of ourselves, but also as contributors to public culture and even the private sector.The challenge for most of us, or at least for me, in training graduate students is to know how to help students learn what those alternatives are, how to help them determine what alternatives (including an academic career) they are best suited for, and how to help them prepare for the kind of career that makes the most sense for them. In today's Science magazine, Jim Austin and Bruce Alberts describe a free web application that helps graduate students in the sciences and engineering put together an individualized development plan. myIDP looks like an incredibly valuable resource for graduate students in STEM fields. If you're a graduate student, I encourage you to take advantage of it. If you know a graduate student, I encourage you to point them in its direction. Here's how myIDP is described on its front page:
You have put a lot of time and effort into pursuing your PhD degree. Now it's time to focus on how to leverage your expertise into a satisfying and productive career. An individual development plan (IDP) helps you explore career possibilities and set goals to follow the career path that fits you best.
- Exercises to help you examine your skills, interests, and values
- A list of 20 scientific career paths with a prediction of which ones best fit your skills and interests
- A tool for setting strategic goals for the coming year, with optional reminders to keep you on track
- Articles and resources to guide you through the process
There is no charge to use this site and we encourage you to return as often as you wish. To learn more about the value of IDPs for scientists, read the first article in our myIDP series.