Gaining Clarity in the Search for a Great Post-Academic Career

Updated: Jul 12

I've been feeling the need to move on from academia for a while now... the skills and qualities that are recognised and rewarded in the research space are just not what I have and want to use right now- read more in my story. But WHAT to do if it isn’t being an academic?!

If you've spent a few months going over and over different options, and laying awake at night waiting for inspiration to strike (like I did) it's time to take some action.

In all of the research on making a career change, the first step in moving forward is always to map out your strengths, and what you really want in your next career... what sort of workplace environment you want to be in, and what sort of work will suit you and your family, and what options you have where you live.

So, I've created this mapping exercise (that you can access once you join my email list) to help you gain some clarity about what your post-academic career might look like. Take a deep breath, print out or type into my Beyond-Academia Career Clarity Mapping tool, and use this blog post to guide you...

Here are some more prompts for each of the sections of the tool:

1) What are your strengths? There is evidence that when you do work that is in alignment with your strengths, you feel greater level of fulfilment and are more productive. You might have a great sense of your strengths already, and you might have done specific strength mapping exercises before, so you can just list these off, but if you are struggling, try using some of the free quizzes out there like the VIA Strengths Tool.

2) What do you like about your current role? Think about the actual tasks and things that you like doing in your academic role (e.g., conceptualising new research ideas), as well as the aspects of the role that you enjoy (e.g., autonomy, learning new things, etc)

3) What would you like to do more of? What are the things that you look forward to doing? Get a great deal of satisfaction from? Find that time passes so quickly as you are in the zone? Do you love advising your higher-degree students? Or sitting quietly writing up papers? Write it down!

4)How will your career work your life? Do you have kids? Want to travel? Need to be able to take the school holidays off? Add this to your wish list.

5) What is missing in your current role? What are you itching to do, but you can’t because you don’t have time and can’t justify it because it isn’t technically in your job description?

6) What would you like to do less of? What do you put off, and transfer from your to-do list week after week as you just don’t want to do it? Are there things that you could happily never do again?

7) Who do you want to work with? Who do you want to surround yourself with? Other academics? Creative types? List any ideas you can think of… Mine is smart, interesting people…

8) What sort of organisation do you want to work in? Small, large, not-for-profit, corporate? Or do you think you want to start your own business? Try to think of words that describe the sort of organisations you might like to work in. If you think you might like to be highly specialised, this is more likely to happen in a larger organisation, whereas if you want a broader role, you might prefer a smaller business. If you want to do it all, try starting your own business!

Summary- now bring it all together- what stands out when you look down the columns and across the rows, do any options jump off the page at you? Write them down.

SO, you’ve mapped out your post-academic career wish list! What stands out? What has become clearer for you? What do you still need to figure out? I’d love you to post in my Well Researched Closed Facebook group with your questions and new insights!


Dr Zali Yager is an Associate Professor in Health and Physical Education, and a leader in the body image research field. Zali has 15 years of experience in teaching, research and leadership in universities, and is currently transitioning to starting a not-for-profit research translation organisation, The Body Confident Collective, and this blog (and soon to be podcast) - Well Researched.

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