For life after PhD and postdocs, Aurora is here to help

Students nearing the end of their PhD or postdoc studies will have access to a new e-learning platform launched at York University to help graduate students navigate career options and next steps.

York University’s Career Centre and the Faculty of Graduate Studies present Aurora, an innovative e-learning platform by Beyond the Professoriate. This interactive and constantly updated portal is a one-stop shop of career-related information and inspiration.

“What we’ve heard from PhDs and postdocs is for more structured learning to be able to take the guesswork out of the career transition process,” said L. Maren Wood, cofounder of Beyond the Professoriate. “Aurora is our answer to that. We wanted to provide students with an opportunity while they’re still in graduate school to go through a more guided, structured approach to career exploration.”

Aurora’s resources include on-demand, self-paced learning modules that allow PhDs and postdocs to explore career options and discover ways to apply the skills acquired through their education. Its curated videos feature interviews with more than 170 PhDs discussing how they made the transition from academia to the workplace, plus advice from employers on how to sell your skills on the job market.

“A lot of PhDs don’t know how to identify all the skills they’ve learned from their years of study that would be valuable outside of academe,” said Carolyn Steele of the Career Centre. “Everything they’ve learned has a non-academic relevancy to it, cloaked in language they may not have at the tip of their tongues.”

An example of this: project management skills.

“Most PhDs do not identify as ‘project managers,’ and yet they’ve all done major research projects, which requires pretty extensive project management,” said Steele. “Being able to turn that process of designing and conducting a large, original piece of research into a project management profile … it’s terminology more than anything else.”

Aurora was designed and built by PhDs, and its soul is the interviews with former grad students sharing their experiences in a changing career landscape. The dozens of experts come from arts, social sciences, STEM, business and education.

“One of the things you learn in this space is how eager PhDs who have gone beyond the professoriate are to share their knowledge,” said Wood. “We really see ourselves as a service provider to connect PhDs who are working in careers with students and postdocs who need this information.”