Staying in Touch With Academia After Leaving it

September 30, 2018

At some point, maybe straight after finishing your Ph.D. project or at a later point, you may decide to leave academia and look for a job elsewhere. You may find a job on a similar topic as your academic research, or you may end up working on a completely different one.

In any case, you will start in a new organization, meet new colleagues and get new collaborators.

This, however, does not mean that you need to cut all ties to academia. Working in academia is a job like any other, and when you switch jobs, it can be valuable, both professionally and personally, to remain in touch with academia.

You may want to return to academia one day, in which case you will need your academic network. If you do not plan to return, there may be interesting synergies between your former academic field of research and your new job. Or simply personal relations that you would like to maintain. All reasons why staying in touch with academia after leaving it can be worthwhile.

In this post, I share a number of ways in which you can stay in touch with academia and your former colleagues and students:

Finish the last publications together

If any work is in progress when you leave academia, one way of staying in touch with former supervisors, colleagues and students is to finish this work together, so that it gets published.

This will, depending on your role in the project, require more or less of your time, and before engaging into this consider if you are willing to spend your spare time on it.

But if you do decide to contribute, it can be a rewarding experience and satisfying once the research is finished and gets published.

Give a talk about your new job

It will likely be interesting for former students and colleagues from academia to hear about your new job, no matter whether it is closely related or not related at all to your research work in academia.

Therefore, offer to come by and give a presentation about your new job. You may talk about the company or organization you now work in and present some typical tasks and projects you are working on there.

By presenting this, you may inspire (Ph.D.) students about what they may do after their own time in academia.

Attend former colleagues’ Ph.D. defenses

When one of your former students or colleagues has his or her Ph.D. defense, attend the lecture, the defense or simply the celebration afterwards.

Even if you don’t have time to take an entire day or half a day out of your calendar to attend and entire defense, showing up afterwards to congratulate is also a nice courtesy. And a convenient way of staying in touch with former academic colleagues and students.

Give a talk about transitioning out of academia

Another type of talk you can offer to give at your former academic institution is about your experience in transitioning from academia into another kind of job.

This, too, may be inspiration for former students and colleagues, and at the same time it will strengthen the ties to your academic network.

Build bridge between new job and academic research

Try to see if you can build bridge between your former field of academic research and what you work on in your new job. This could bring insights into your new job that others may not have thought of, which could spark new ideas/concepts/techniques/products.

I did my Ph.D. in nanophotonics and afterwards joined the company TICRA to work on software and space technology. Seemingly not so related subjects, but computational electromagnetics is a common cornerstone.

About two years after joining the company, I was invited to an academic workshop to give a talk about projects and products in TICRA to an audience of researchers from my former field of academic research.

Once such a talk is prepared, it may easily be re-used, entirely or in part, as a presentation for former colleagues and students at your former academic institution.

Go out for a beer together

Another way to stay in touch with former colleagues from academia is to meet up for a beer – or a coffee or a bite – occasionally.

I do these kinds of meet-ups once or twice a year, and it’s always fun and interesting to meet both those that are still in academia and those that also left and work outside of it.

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