The scariest part about leaving academia is not having that well-defined track to follow, writes Carolyn Beans, a PhD student at the University of Virginia, at the Nature Jobs blog.
"Many jobs outside of academia are highly specific: chief of an imaging facility, director of research administration for a cancer institute, associate director of a science museum," Beans writes, adding that "[l]eaving academia with the singular goal of obtaining any one of these jobs would be risky. The best we can do is identify a broader career category to work towards, such as science research, administration, or outreach."
She and some of her graduate school colleagues pulled together a panel of biologists who have pursued careers outside of academia. While they couldn't provide a sign-posted path to follow, Beans writes that the panelists did offer a few tips on how to start blazing your own way. For instance, the panelists suggested going on informational interviews to learn more about how people got into careers you are interested in or volunteering (perhaps while still in school so it isn't as much of a financial drain) to build your network and resume at the same time. Additionally, they suggested turning to the alumni network of your department — there are likely quite a few others who came before you who have left academia as well.