Beyond Academia is a non-profit founded and run by UC Berkeley graduate students, dedicated to empowering PhDs to expand their career options beyond the professoriate. This year, Beyond Academia hosted its 12th annual conference virtually on Thursday, February 22 and Friday, February 23, 2024, drawing over 2,100 registrants from more than 50 countries. Attendees included Masters students, PhD students, postdocs, and faculty members not just from the UC Berkeley campus, but from universities around the world.

The conference’s objective was to provide Berkeley graduate students an opportunity to learn about the non-academic career trajectories of people with PhDs, and to gain important insights and skills for their own career exploration and preparation. Attendees got to learn about the current state of the job market, the key transferable skills that PhDs develop in graduate school, as well as tips and best practices for starting a non-academic job search.

Both days of the conference kicked off with keynotes addresses. On Thursday, Dr. Nick Edwards, the host of the Once a Scientist podcast, delivered the STEM keynote address. In his talk, Edwards shared his personal experiences transitioning from a PhD in neuroscience to a career in management consulting, and then on to founding his own company. Dr. Katina Rogers, author of the 2020 book, Putting Your Humanities PhD to Work, delivered Friday’s keynote speech. Rogers’ address focused on how graduate students can overcome the challenges of the academic job market, as well as how universities should reimagine graduate education in order to better serve students’ professional development. 

The conference also offered over 20 industry-specific panels featuring over 100 speakers who have successfully pivoted from academia into a variety of roles across sectors. Popular panels from previous years returned, including a panel on careers in nonprofits, one on research in industry, and another on consulting careers. New panels were also introduced, including one on careers in sustainability, and another on careers for regional experts. The latter was sponsored by Berkeley’s Global, International, and Area Studies and Institute for East Asian Studies, and focused on how PhDs who have specialized in a geographic region can wield their expertise to land jobs in policy, think tanks, tech companies, and archives. 

The conference also included 10 skill-building workshops with experts in the field of professional development. Attendees learned how to improve their presentation skills with Andy Churchill, prepare for interviews with Bethany Hopkins, and navigate the job search with Gertrude Nonterah. Karen Kelsky, author of the influential book The Professor is In and founder of The Professor is Out, offered a workshop on preparing for a non-academic career. A previous keynote speaker at the Beyond Academia conference, Kelsky returned to this year’s conference to discuss the art of translating academic experience into a non-academic resume or cover letter. 

Both days wrapped up with a virtual networking session, where attendees and panelists joined breakout rooms based on the different stages of their professional development. Attendees discussed everything from their first steps into career exploration to their current job searches.

The Beyond Academia 2024 conference was the final event from the organization’s calendar of events this academic year. Earlier in the year, Beyond Academia hosted a series of other events, most notably the annual 3-part Professional Profile Clinic in November. Rosanne Lurie from QB3 hosted a session on how to leverage your LinkedIn presence. After the workshop, students met one-on-one with recruiters to receive feedback on their resumes. The next day, students were also given the opportunity to receive free professional headshots from photographers.

To learn more about Beyond Academia’s mission, as well as its future events, visit Information about the 2025 Conference will be available on the website in Fall 2024.

About the author: Maria Almeida Reis is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History currently working as a Professional Development Liaison in the GradPro Office of the Graduate Division. Maria previously served as a co-director and the logistics lead of Beyond Academia.