22 SES 14 C, Employability of Researchers Inside and Outside Academia
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 more and more PhD graduates turn to the non academic labor market, realizing a professional transition that points to a large variety of contexts. My research is aimed at interrogating these experiences: how professional destinations are chosen? How is it possible to translate previous learning experiences/competences in the new contexts? Which kind of effects are generated in terms of professional identity? The research is based on qualitative methods, specifically on biographical methods that are proven to be effective in exploring professional trajectories of PhD Graduates (McAlpine & Amundsen, 2016, 2018). I interviewed so far twenty PhD holders coming from a variety of disciplines (chemistry, physics, psychology, etc...) and employed in a variety of professional contexts: from international companies to small and medium enterprises. The interesting fact of collecting experiences taking place in different contexts is that a variety of assumptions may emerge. 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 is a PhD and may offer more challenging and difficult encounters (Galimberti & Ratti, 2018). For example the scientific attitude of exploring problems from many points of views could not be appreciated in a small context that tend to look for more "pragmatical" and immediate solutions. This could trigger a relational process of professional misrecognition and feelings of being useless or "overskilled" (Flisi et al., 2014). The results of these "disorienting diemmas" (Mezirow, 2000) could be very different: for some participants the lack of recognition from the new context originated frustration and the need to "protect" a previous professional identity. Others, on the contrary, succeeded in finding a creative solution , using their competencies for "changing the game" and developing a new professional identity. The preliminary results offer important insights into the relevance of a doctoral training for non-academic positions. It also highlights the necessity for junior researchers to be more aware of the implicit acquisition of competencies and the need to develop their capacity to promote these skills amongst potential employers.
ADI (2016) VI Indagine Adi su dottorato e Post-Doc. Retrieved from: https://dottorato.it/sites/default/files/survey/vi-indagine-adi-postdoc.pdf Flisi, S., Goglio, V., Meroni, E., Caetano Rodrigues, J., Rodrigues Ferro, M., Vera Toscano, E. (2014). Occupational mismatch in Europe: understanding overeducation and overskilling for policy making. Brussels: Publications Office of the European Union. 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: Brill/Sense Publishers. McAlpine, L., Amundsen, C. (2016) Post-PdD career trajectories. Intentions, Decisio-Making and Life Aspiration. London: Palgrave MacMillan McAlpine, L., Amundsen, C. (2018) Identity-Trajectories of Early Career Researchers. Unpacking the Post-PhD Experience. London: Palgrave MacMillan Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning to think like an adult. Core concepts of Transformation Theory. In Learning as Transformation. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
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