Pursuing an advanced degree like a PhD opens up numerous career possibilities for graduates. While many PhD holders choose to continue their careers in academia, there is a growing recognition of the valuable skills and expertise they can offer in non-academic industries.
However, the transition from academia to the corporate world can be daunting, and guidance in this area is often lacking.
In this article, we will share how a PhD graduate has successfully made the transition to industry, to share insights and advice for those considering a similar path.
Reasons for Considering Non-Academic Careers and the Transition Process
When asked about his reasons for considering a job outside academia, a PhD graduate explains that after a year of doing his postdoc, he realized he desired more control over his research and opportunities for increased pay.
The transition process was a little bumpy due to the uncertainty of the timeline, but student successfully coordinated his exit with his PI and maintained a positive relationship. He acknowledges that transitioning to industry required rapid learning, but he embraced the challenge by being humble about what he didn’t know and taking on leadership opportunities.
After six months, a PhD graduate transitioned to another company and is now content in his position.
What Holds PhD Graduates Back?
According to a PhD graduate, the lack of direct experience in outside industries is a major obstacle for PhD graduates considering non-academic careers.
Most PhD holders have not worked in industry before, which makes it challenging to fully understand the options and nuances of different paths. Additionally, the absence of industry experience can make it difficult to secure positions, as companies often prefer candidates with direct industry track records.
Overcoming this hurdle requires convincing potential employers of the relevance and value of academic skills and experiences. While this can be daunting, he emphasizes the importance of focusing on positive connections and finding individuals who appreciate the worth of academic experience.
There are various reasons why PhD students may contemplate moving away from academia.
Some may desire greater control over their research or seek better prospects for career growth and financial stability. Others may be drawn to the dynamic and diverse opportunities that exist in industry.
Whatever the motivation, the transition process requires careful planning and preparation.
Insights from Supporting Others in Their Transition
Through his experience supporting others considering a career change, He has learned that many individuals seek personal validation and guidance in exploring new paths. Recognizing that making a career change can be life-altering, he reassures individuals that considering a new path is healthy and reasonable.
Exploring the world outside academia can provide valuable insights about oneself and open doors to unexpected and fulfilling career opportunities.
Tips for PhD Graduates Transitioning to Non-Academic Careers
Transitioning from academia to industry involves several important steps:
- Self-reflection: Take the time to reflect on your long-term goals, interests, and skills. Consider whether a non-academic career aligns with your aspirations and if the corporate world can provide the opportunities you seek.
- Research and Exploration: Explore the range of industries and job roles that may be suitable for your skills and expertise. Network with professionals who have made similar transitions, attend career fairs, and utilize online platforms to gather information and insights.
- Skill Assessment: Evaluate your transferable skills acquired during your PhD journey. PhD holders possess a wide range of valuable skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, data analysis, project management, and effective communication. Identify how these skills can be applied in non-academic settings.
- Networking and Building Connections: Expand your professional network both within and outside academia. Engage with individuals who have successfully transitioned into industry roles and seek their advice and guidance. Attend industry events, join relevant professional groups, and leverage online platforms such as LinkedIn to connect with industry professionals. Optimizing your profile, including specific details about your skills and experiences, can attract recruiters and provide valuable networking opportunities.
- Tailoring Your Application Materials: Customize your resume, cover letter, and online profiles to highlight the skills and experiences that are relevant to the industry roles you are targeting. Emphasize your accomplishments and demonstrate how your expertise can contribute to the organization.
- Gaining Industry Experience: Acquiring industry experience can be crucial in securing a non-academic job. Consider internships, volunteer opportunities, or part-time positions that allow you to gain firsthand experience in the industry of your interest. These experiences can also help you build a network of industry contacts.
- Developing New Skills: Identify any skill gaps that may hinder your transition and take steps to bridge them. Consider enrolling in professional development courses or acquiring certifications that are valued in your desired industry.