A consortium of European research universities is calling for its members to support junior scientists’ efforts to pursue non-academic careers. The League of European Research Universities (LERU), which represents 23 institutions, says in a June publication that universities, supervisors and principal investigators (PIs) overemphasize an academic career path, even though more than 60% of all European research jobs lie outside academia (see go.nature.com/leru). The report cites a “critical need” for training and support programmes to help graduate students and postdoctoral researchers prepare for a wide possibility of career paths. It also points out that some universities have already launched such initiatives. Several, for example, have programmes aimed at helping PhD students and postdocs to launch their own businesses. LERU recommends that PIs and supervisors counter the common perception that any job outside academia counts as a failure. To further help young researchers gain experience and independence, LERU calls on the European Commission and other funding bodies to support research in which postdocs serve as project leaders.