Doing Research Outside Academia as a Psychology PhD with Sherri Widen

Do you need a PhD? When I launched into the doctoral adventure, I wanted to teach at the same level the professors I worked with did. So for me, the answer was yes. In today’s episode, my guest, Sherri Widen, shares her journey and her reflections on the reality of the PhD career today and talks about how she found a path that led her to doing research and applying her expertise in child psychology at the community level, in the non-academic space.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • The huge difference between a CV and a resume
  • How projecting your whole self (not only your academic skillset) outside academia can help you find your place
  • How long in average you can expect to be on the job hunt in betweeen positions
  • What happens when your supervisor moves to another university during your PhD
  • The importance of finding a community when starting graduate school in a new city
  • Think if having an applied  aspect to your research can open doors for you, in terms of interdisciplinarity and collaboration, but also of widening your professional horizons

Do you enjoy Papa PhD? Leave me a comment here – one short sentence is enough! And be sure to include your Twitter handle – that way, I can thank you personally!

Sherri Widen

Sherri Widen has an extensive background in investigating the development of childrens concepts of emotions.

In 2013, she transitioned from basic research in developmental psychology to more applied intervention research in education settings with a focus on increasing childrens social-emotional skills to support their academic outcomes. In 2015, Sheri joined a team at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education and contributed to a text messaging-based parenting intervention designed to help parents support their preschoolers school readiness in literacy, math, and social-emotional skills. In 2018, she joined Committee for Children as the Director of Research, to help children thrive through our social-emotional learning interventions.

Thank you, Sherri Widen!

If you enjoyed this interview with Sherri, let her know by clicking the link below and leaving her a message on Twitter:

Click here to thank Sherri Widen on Twitter!

Click here to share your key take-away from this interview with David!

Sherri’s pearls of wisdom:

“My plan was to become a professor and to continue the basic research I was doing, but I think it’s really smart to open up some doors so that you have other options if that first plant doesn’t work out. So I think I could have made the transition to doing applied research in educational settings around social-emotional learning a lot earlier if I had considered that I needed a different plan or, at least, a backup plan. I think we get really focused in grad school on the one thing that we’re doing, and how we’re going to keep doing that and, really, grad school is the great time to look at other opportunities, get other experiences and see if there are other things that you could also really, really love.”

“It wasn’t until after I had my PhD that I realized that there were just so many PhDs on the market, right now, that it’s so hard to get a position as a professor. So when I talk to people who are going into grad school or part way through their progam, and they’re like “should I apply for masters or a PhD? What do I need?” I recommend that they go and look at positions that they’re interested in. So if you really want to be a professor, a PhD is a definite requirement. But for a lot of the positions I applied to before I got this one, a PhD wasn’t required. It was a nice to have. But you could get those kinds of positions with a masters degree, so I think that’s something to give serious thought to – how much education do you need to do the kind of job you want to do.”

This episode’s resources:

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