22 SES 03 B, PhD Careers and Employability
A recent study carried out by ADI – the national association of PhD students and PhD graduates – predicts that only 6.5% of current Italian Post-doc researchers will obtain long-term academic positions (ADI, 2016). The result is that an increasing number of PhD graduates is turning to the non academic labor market, often considering this as a second-choice option. The contribution from Italy will present an ongoing qualitative research based on narrative interviews addressed to PhDs graduates that experienced a professional transition and faced the challenge of "transferring" competences developed during the academic training into new contexts (OECD, 2012). The construction of the research sample entailed different choices, first of all the decision of interviewing PhDs coming from a wide range of disciplines in order to be coherent with the interdisciplinary nature of transferable competences. Another criteria for sampling was the diversity of professional trajectories in terms of destinations: from contexts more familiar with academic research (e.g. a big company research centers) to others more "unconventional". A key example of an “unconventional” context is the world of small and medium enterprises that is almost never mentioned as possible professional destination for PhD graduates although it accounts for the greater part of European (and Italian) entrepreneurship (Galimberti & Ratti, 2018). This variety enhanced the possibility to explore a wide range of of assumptions and dialogues coming into play during transitions. Big companies or public research centers are probably more used to understand the value of a PhD and to adopt ideas and languages more coherent with the academic ones. "Unconventional" contexts, on the contrary, in many cases don't even know what a PhD actually is and may offer more challenging and difficult encounters. Participants' narratives highlight moments in which their taken for granted assumptions and courses of action seemed not being useful anymore for making meaning in the new professional contexts. These situations are experienced as very challenging and disorientating events, often requiring a transformation of previously structured frames of reference (Mezirow, 2000). New learning processes may be triggered, resulting in new positioning on a variety of dimensions involved in transitions (Fenwick, 2013): explicit and tacit knowledge acquired during PhD training, one's own professional identity or aknowledgement needs. Dealing with all this issues is often a very demanding endeavour that cannot be resolved only through instrumental thinking but requires also relational and imaginative resources.
ADI (2016) VI Indagine Adi su dottorato e Post-Doc. Retrieved from: https://dottorato.it/sites/default/files/survey/vi-indagine-adi-postdoc.pdf Fenwick, T. (2013). Understanding transitions in professional practice and learning: Towards new questions for research. Journal of Workplace Learning, 25 (6), 352-367. Galimberti, A., Ratti, E. (2018). Continuity and discontinuity around the academia. The "FindYourDoctor" project as a space for researching and facilitating learning careers. In Merrill, B., Galimberti, A., Nizinska, A., Gonzàlez-Monteagudo, J. (Eds) Continuity and discontinuity in learning careers. Potentials for a learning space in a changing world. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers (In Press) Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning to think like an adult. Core concepts of Transformation Theory. In Learning as Transformation. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. OECD (2012). Transferable Skills Training for Researchers. Supporting career development and research. Paris: OECD Publishing
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