generic speaker image
Jennifer Polk - From PhD to Life. Toronto, ON, CA

Jennifer Polk

Coach & Entrepreneur | From PhD to Life

Toronto, ON, CANADA

Life and Career Coaching for Graduate Students and PhDs / Professional Development for Nonfaculty Careers / Online Community Builder





loading image





Jennifer Polk, PhD, is an entrepreneur, career coach, and expert on PhD careers. Since 2013, she’s worked 1-on-1 and in groups with graduate students and doctoral degree holders based in Canada, the United States, the UK, Australia, and elsewhere.

Jen has spoken on university campuses and at academic and professional conferences throughout North America on issues related to graduate education and career outcomes for PhDs. Most recently, she was a keynote speaker at the University of California, Berkeley’s Beyond Academia conference, in late February 2020. Jen regularly facilitates professional development workshops (now online) and delivers presentations for graduate students and postdocs.

Her writing has appeared in University Affairs, Inside Higher Ed, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Globe and Mail, and Academic Matters. Her University Affairs blog (2013–), “From PhD to Life,” won three gold awards at the Canadian Online Publishing Awards. She’s also contributed essays to three books: Moving On: Essays on the Aftermath of Leaving Academia (2014), Reflections on Academic Lives: Identities, Struggles, and Triumphs in Graduate School and Beyond (2017), and the forthcoming How to Get Your PhD.

Jen was co-founder of Beyond the Professoriate from the company’s founding until her departure in January 2020. Between 2014 and 2019 she co-produced and -hosted several online conferences attended by hundreds of graduate students, PhDs, and career education professionals. For several years she ran Self-Employed PhD, an online network of freelancers, independent consultants, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. She hosted #withaPhD chat, a twice-monthly Twitter discussion, for three years.

Jen is actively engaged in online conversations about careers for PhDs, especially on Twitter. Follow her there @FromPhDtoLife, or interact with her on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Jen earned her PhD in history from the University of Toronto in 2012, and an MA and BA from Carleton University.

Industry Expertise (2)

Professional Training and Coaching

Writing and Editing

Areas of Expertise (12)

Phd Careers

Graduate Education

Career Transition


Life Coaching

Professional Development

Career Coaching

Academic Coaching


Coaching & Training

Online Community-Building

Social Media for Academics

Accomplishments (3)

Best Blog or Column (professional)


Gold winner in the Business B2B category for my University Affairs blog, From PhD to Life

Best Blog or Column (professional)


Gold winner in the B2B/Academic category for my University Affairs blog, From PhD to Life

Best Blog or Column (professional)


Gold winner in the B2B category for my University Affairs blog, From PhD to Life

Education (3)

University of Toronto: PhD, History 2012

Carleton University: MA, History 2004

Carleton University: BA, European and Russian Studies 2002

Highest Honours; Minor in Russian language

Languages (1)

  • English

Media Appearances (5)

Hope for PhDs who want to leave the profession

History News Network  online


Video interview with Rick Shenkman. Recorded at the American Historical Association Annual Meeting in Denver, CO

view more

Finding your dream psychology career

Monitor on Psychology  online


Interviewed/mentioned by Laura Zimmerman in her article for the American Psychological Association's Monitor on Psychology. Print edition Feb 2017, vol. 48, no. 2, p. 54.

view more

Interview with Dan Otter and Scott Dauenhauser

Teach and Retire Rich podcast  online


Ep. 37: From PhD to Life

view more

Help for Academics Thinking Beyond the Professoriate

Camels with Hammers blog  online


Interview with Daniel Fincke.

view more

Laying the groundwork for multiple career paths before you graduate

ScholarStudio  online


Video interview with Daveena Tauber.

view more

Articles (8)

Yes, PhD grad, there is life outside the Ivory Tower

The Globe & Mail


Commissioned op-ed.

view more

Life beyond the PhD

Academic Matters


My own journey thus far.

view more

From PhD to Life: My Post-Ac Transition So Far

Moving On: Essays on the Aftermath of Leaving Academia


Chapter in an ebook.

view more

A Ph.D.’s Path to Entrepreneurship

Chronicle Vitae


First essay in a 3-part series for the Chronicle of Higher Education's new Vitae website.

view more

My Patchwork Post-Academic Community

Chronicle Vitae


Second essay in 3-part series.

view more

From History Ph.D. to Life Coach?

Chronicle Vitae


Third essay in 3-part series.

view more

What career coaches can do for PhD holders

University Affairs


May 2015 print edition, p. 52.

view more

PhD and then what? Life beyond the professoriate

It's Not Academic (Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario)


Contribution to HEQCO's blog.

view more