Suggested reading for academics in transition

For academics considering the transition to the non-academic workforce, either for-profit, non-profit, or public-sector.

Keith Ferrazzi, Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time.  A great practical guide to networking.

Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.  New York: Picador, 2009. The job search can take time and be a slog, and keeping track of details over the course of a long project requires some planning. See especially Ch. 3, “The end of the master builder.”

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2011.  For those leaving academics, the part I particularly recommend is what happens when experts in one field make judgments about a part of the field in which they are not expert, or about another field altogether.  If you are used to trusting your supervisor’s judgment about all things, give these essays a read.

Molly Ivins, “The Women Who Run Texas,” in Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?.  Great essay on how women moved into the then-nontraditional job of being mayor, and where they got the skills to do that (hint: not at mayor school).

Kathleen Miller, Moving On: Essays on the Aftermath of Leaving Academia, is a good collection of essays by people in a range of roles who have left academics and gotten other jobs.  Bonus: inexpensive ebook!

Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don’t. New York: Penguin, 2012.  Statistical literacy is rapidly becoming not a nice-to-have but a must-have, and this book is a good guide to a number of real-life examples of statistics. Helpful for understanding how data and predictions are used and misused. Important for contextualizing the value of big data: what it means, what it is for, and how it is used. His blog,, is also interesting reading on a wide range of topics.  For an entry-level look at statistics, see Grady Klein and Alan Dabney, Ph.D., The Cartoon Introduction to Statistics. New York: Hill and Wang, 2013. Even if you find its comic-novel format hokey, it is an excellent introduction to this field for non-specialists.  Another excellent choice is How to Lie with Statistics, a classic.

Molly Wizenberg, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010.  A memoir, part of which is her story of leaving graduate school: how it happened, why it happened, and how she fashioned a new life.  If you like it, read the next stage of her journey, Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014).  Well written, strongly voiced, interesting; especially good for those considering leaving academics.

Job Transition Top 11 is an excellent list of recommendations for job-seekers from a former boss of mine, reproduced with his permission; it’s a free downloadable Word doc.  He has done several (senior) searches recently; this information is current as of March 2015, though most of it has no expiration date.

Please note: Except for the last item, I receive a small referral fee each time you follow one of the links above to Amazon and purchase the item from them.