...These are experiences and skills that will carry me through many dark days as a writer. But the same skills would have benefited me if I were leaving for the pharmaceutical industry, or for consulting, or to open a microbrewery. Everyone needs a problem solver, an articulate communicator, a thoughtful arbitrator. If graduate students can learn to approach their education as a series of learning opportunities rather than a five-year-long job interview, I think many who choose to leave would find that they had not wasted their time but rather that they had learned a great deal in a safe environment, while being paid, to boot. (emphasis CJ's)
...A few months ago, I attended an event sponsored by several local biomedical universities titled "What Can You Be With a Ph.D.?" The event was spread over numerous auditoriums and included panels on science writing; teaching at the elementary, high-school, and college levels; government jobs, both in bureaucracy and research; forensic lab work; nonprofits; finance; biotechnology; consulting; and, yes, even postdoctoral research. Roaming from panel to panel, I was amazed at the sheer scope of opportunity for science Ph.D.'s. The event reinforced that, as the world becomes ever more data driven, our experiences in collecting and analyzing data make us increasingly valuable commodities in any number of fields. Looking around, it became clear that we've been looking at this pyramid upside down.
Crucially, they [professors] must make it clear that leaving academe does not suddenly brand them a waste of their mentor's time... But too many young scientists are made to feel worthless because of their desire to leave academic science. It has to stop.Perhaps it's the fact that most chemistry graduate students (used to?) end up in industry. But your self-worth shouldn't be dependent on whether or not you can become a tenure-track professor and the vagaries of your mentor's evaluation, true or not.