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16 Motivational Job Search Quotes (Or, In PhD-Speak: “The Rationale For Transitioning”)

“I have plenty of time to look for a job before I defend my thesis.”
What’s the rationale?

“I’m struggling to find time for my industry job search with everything I have to do in the lab and at home with my kids.”

“My postdoc doesn’t get over for another year so I’ll start my job search later.”

Famous last words. 

I’ve heard thousands of PhDs from all around the world tell me many reasons why they haven’t taken their job search seriously. 

If you’re not spending at least 2 hours of focused effort executing on your job search every day including weekends (not thinking about your job search and not skipping days), then you are definitely not taking your job search seriously. 

Getting a top industry job needs a lot of work and PhDs— despite being the most intelligent and hardworking professionals on the planet— are also human. They, like everyone else, feel a sense of discomfort, uncertainty and even pain when it comes to reaching out to strangers to get hired. It’s not easy to set up an informational interview, let alone get a referral. 

It’s not easy to spend 4-6 solid hours rewriting your resume and then another 1-2 hours targeting it separately for each individual job posting. 

So, instead, most PhDs go through a period of mental thrashing. 

They try to negotiate with themselves and others; building a false rationale as to why things shouldn’t be the way they are or why they’ve already done everything they can to get hired. 

In short, they build the strongest possible rationale against their need to get an industry job and against their need to put in more effort in their industry job search. 

Of course, this rationale is not based on objective fact and falls apart instantly when challenged even mildly.

Why You Must Build A Strong Rationale For Transitioning Into Industry

If you have a PhD, one of the best ways to fight the natural tendency to build a rationale against your job search (and against yourself), is to actively create rationale as to why you need to get hired in industry sooner rather than later.

The good news is it’s easy to build a case for transitioning into industry as soon as possible. 

It’s no secret that PhDs are paid less than they are worth in academia and that the pile of PhDs in academia is accelerating more than ever before, thus making PhDs worth even less than they were before in academia. 

To make matters worse, a large-scale study published in The Chronicle and done by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources found that PhD salaries in academia were down 5-8%. 

While industry wages and international inflation have increased to levels not seen in decades, academic salaries have decreased to their lowest levels since 2008. 

Are you ignoring the data? Are you telling yourself excuses like…

“I’m too poor to invest in any kind of training for my job search.”

“Besides, I heard that industry jobs don’t allow much freedom.”

“A friend of my friend told me that I should leave my PhD off my resume because it makes me look overqualified.” 

“An employer told me that I couldn’t get hired because I didn’t have one of the technical skills that they mentioned; so I don’t think I can get into that role anywhere.”


If so, the solution is to get motivated …but not in the temporary rah-rah way. No, you need to change your beliefs about your situation permanently. 

You need to know that you know that you know that the longer you wait to take your job search seriously, the more you will suffer. This requires building a strong rationale for transitioning into industry. 

The 16 quotes below will help you build a case for taking action in your job search. Do not hide from the angst, fear or annoyance you will feel as you read the quotes below. Use those feelings as energy to execute on your job search. 

Look up the data behind each quote and actively seek out why you do not have time to waste when it comes to creating a job search strategy. This is the only way to change your beliefs and thus your behavior. 

16 Motivational Quotes For Transitioning Into Industry

1. Industry PhDs are more successful than their academic counterparts

They are successful because they’ve decided to take their careers into their own hands instead of passively waiting for academia to take care of them. They’ve decided to be creative, buck the status quo, and define what success looks like for themselves. 

2. How could any intelligent PhD logically choose to stay in a system that uses them as cheap labor? 

PhDs in academia are treated as cheap labor. There are only two possibilities. Either these PhDs are actively evading reality and avoiding the data of the dire situation in academia. Or, they are ignorant of their poor situation. Unfortunately, both are decidedly unintelligent positions to take. 

3. The median postdoc pay annually is $45,876 while the median annual salary for industry PhDs is $92,272

The median postdoc pay annually is $45,876 (Nature; Emerald Study) while the median annual salary for industry PhDs is $92,272 (Science; NSF). On top of this, PhDs who do just 1-year of a postdoc continue to earn salaries that are less than PhDs who never do a postdoc for 15 years or more (Nature Biotechnology). Choosing to do a postdoc is choosing career failure. 

4. There is no nobility in working for free in academia. 

You have no excuse for not having an industry job lined up at the time of defending your thesis. No one respects PhDs who work for PIs and lifetime academics out of a sense of guilt and obligation. This kind of misguided behavior is often why industry employers refuse to hire PhDs who have spent too much time in academia. 

5. There is zero value in staying in academia after getting your PhD. 

There is no reason for you to stay in academia beyond your PhD. Industry employers do not want PhDs to get more academic experience after getting their PhD. No, they want these PhDs to get on the job training. Every company has their own standard operating procedures and proprietary methodologies. You cannot learn these in academia. 

6. If you wait to take your industry job search seriously until you defend your thesis or until your postdoc fellowship ends, you are in for a world of pain 

Nothing is worse in terms of your career than realizing you are now unemployed or working for free after spending decades in training and having a doctorate. Nothing is more obvious and embarrassing to industry employers than a PhD in this situation.

7. Industry employers desperately want to hire PhDs 

The only problem is they struggle to find the PhDs they need to hire. If you have a PhD, you must realize that the academic way in which you’ve written your resume and LinkedIn profile has likely made you invisible to industry employers. You spent a lifetime learning to speak the language of academia. Now, you must unlearn it. You must learn to speak the language of industry instead. 

8. If you have a PhD and are struggling to get hired in industry, it’s not because there are no jobs available for your PhD background. 

There is a misconception that if you have a PhD and are struggling to get hired in the industry, it’s because there are no jobs available for your PhD background. It’s not because you’re overqualified. It’s because you are invisible to employers. Rather, because you have no idea how an industry job search should be executed. 

9. Most available jobs are never posted online 

Most employers care less about your technical skills than your transferable skills and ability to carry a normal conversation. If you have a PhD, you can stay unemployed and keep making excuses as to why you’re unemployed, or you can humble yourself and be willing to learn how an industry job search works and what industry employers really care about. 

10. Industry PhDs are happier and more fulfilled than academic PhDs because they are rare, valuable, and treated with very high levels of respect 

Compare that to how you are treated and compensated in academia right now? The daily feelings of uncertainty you experience related to your academic work and your academic career are not normal. You were not meant to live and work in anxiety, fear and contempt. You were meant for something better and it’s waiting for you in industry. 

11. In academia, you are not valuable as a PhD 

That’s right! You are not valuable as a PhD in academia. Just look at what you are paid. The reason you are not valuable is because of supply and demand. There is an oversupply of PhDs in academia. This means in terms of your knowledge and the work that you can do, you are worth less in academia. 

12. Academic PhDs are a dime a dozen 

An industry PhD is a diamond in the rough. If you’re an academic PhD, you’re likely surrounded by other PhDs. Most of those in your immediate vicinity have the same education level and training that you do. In industry, however, you are extremely rare. This, in turn, makes you exceptionally valuable

13. Imagine someone with years of experience in industry asks you to join their team and in exchange for doing so will pay you two to three times as much as you would make in an academic postdoc, would you accept their offer?

If someone with several years of experience in the industry asks you to join their team and in exchange for doing so will pay you two to three times as much as you would make in an academic postdoc, provide you with 3-6 months of on the job training to ensure you would be successful in your role, directly contribute to your retirement, be open to giving you additional benefits like a company car and company housing, and give you a plan for getting promoted in terms of your job title and salary regularly. Would you accept their offer? This is what is waiting for you in industry. 

14. Employers desperately want to offer you a secure space to do meaningful work that leverages your PhD, and they want to compensate you generously for it. 

Employers want to offer you security to do meaningful work that leverages your PhD. They want to compensate you generously for doing meaningful work. Are you confident enough in yourself to accept their offer? Ready to be that successful? Are you ready to follow the steps you need to follow to get hired into a top industry career? Or, are you afraid of success? Are you afraid to humble yourself? Are you unwilling to approach your job search as a student? 

15. How would it feel to come to the end of your career knowing that you could have been more and done more? 

What regrets would you have if you were never truly recognized or compensated for your work? If all the things you told yourself about your work in academia being valuable or noble turned out to be lies? What if your entire career only served to advance the careers of your PI and other lifetime academics? Is that a rationale for working?

16. Being an author on an academic paper with limited viewers will never lead to anything valuable in the real world

Being an author on an academic paper that only a few people will ever read; which will never lead to anything valuable in the real world. For instance something like a treatment, device, drug, product or service that will tangibly help humanity is not success. True success is having a direct and positive impact on the world now in your lifetime. Therefore, don’t squander your chance to do this by staying in academia.

Concluding remarks

As PhDs we have the natural instinct to create something valuable that contributes to the welfare of humanity. We want to do meaningful work. In order to create a truly positive impact on humanity, you have to move out of academia into a well paid industry job. Make yourself noticeable to employers online. You show your employers that you’re committed to a specific industry role. Don’t let industry intimidate you. You have to build up a rationale for transitioning, not a rationale against your industry job search process or yourself. Therefore, find the right rationale. So, start thinking and acting as a successful industry professional. 

If you’re ready to start your transition into industry, you can apply to book a free Transition Call with our founder Isaiah Hankel, PhD or one of our Transition Specialists. Apply to book a Transition Call here.

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ABOUT ISAIAH HANKEL, PHD

CEO, CHEEKY SCIENTIST & SUCCESS MENTOR TO PHDS

Dr. Isaiah Hankel is the Founder and CEO of Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by millions of PhDs and other professionals in hundreds of different countries. He has helped PhDs transition into top companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Intel, Dow Chemical, BASF, Merck, Genentech, Home Depot, Nestle, Hilton, SpaceX, Tesla, Syngenta, the CDC, UN and Ford Foundation.

Dr. Hankel has published 3X bestselling books and his latest book, The Power of a PhD, debuted on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list. His methods for getting PhDs hired have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Nature, Forbes, The Guardian, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine and Success Magazine.

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

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