Podcast: How Teaching Experience Can Be Your Greatest Competitive Advantage

How teaching experience can be your greatest competitive advantage when starting a job search, switching jobs, or starting your own business.

For more than a decade, I worked at a research university developing programs and services specifically for graduate students, postdocs, and current faculty who wanted to learn not only how to teach, but how to prepare for jobs both within and beyond the academy.

Now that I'm an entrepreneur and have built and created my own business, I want to take a moment to share how teaching experience has been one of the most beneficial skills I've developed and use every single day.

It’s critical to know how to take the skills you have now and transfer them into the skills you need for the job you want (or the one you create!) in the future.  

How to Miss Out on Your Greatest Competitive Advantage

Many graduate students, postdocs, and academics looking for new positions meet with me and explain they have been told by an advisor or colleague, “If you’re not interested in a teaching position, then take it off your CV, don’t write about it in your cover letter, and don’t mention it in your interview. Teaching doesn’t matter for a position outside of academia anyway.”

If you take that advice, you are missing out on what could potentially be your greatest competitive advantage. Why? Because teaching experience can be your greatest competitive advantage.

In a study published on InsideHigherEd.com, researchers determined that graduate students who teach as part of their graduate school experience are more likely to finish their degree on time and they are more competitive for jobs.

After working with more than 7,000 graduate students and postdocs, I know teaching experience has become almost a requirement if you’re looking for positions in academia.

But what if you’re looking for positions outside of academia? Does teaching experience matter? What if you’re looking for positions in industry?

What if you’re interested in working for the government? What if you found a wonderful nonprofit you’d like to work for? What if you want to start your own business? What if you aren’t sure yet?

The skills you gain when you teach are relevant to all of these positions which is why teaching is such a valuable experience in graduate school and your postdoc career. If you have the chance to teach, you should.


Here are 10 transferable skills in teaching which will are valuable to any position in any profession:

  1. Communication skills
  2. Presentation and facilitation skills
  3. Organizational skills
  4. Feedback and evaluation
  5. Leadership and mentoring
  6. Management and supervision
  7. Creativity and innovation
  8. Listening and reflection
  9. Critical thinking
  10. Learning skills
I explained how to think about some of these transferable skills in a podcast interview for Cheeky Scientist radio. Click on the video to listen.  

What other transferable skills do you think you gain when you teach? Post your comments below!

Reference: Flaherty, C. (March 8, 2016). The power of grad student teaching. Insider Higher Education. Online at https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/03/08/study-suggests-graduate-student-instructors


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