5 Factors PhDs Forget To Consider When Transitioning Into Industry

A time came when I’d had enough of the academic environment.

I was depressed and felt stuck.

Getting out of academia seemed impossible, but I knew that it was what I had to do.

But, I was frantic.

I was running away from the issues I had in academia, and suffering from a heavy dose of imposter syndrome that made me believe I wasn’t qualified for any of the industry positions I saw advertised.

Anything seemed better than what I was facing in academia.

I started submitting applications online — lots of them.

Many of the applications I sent never even received a response. It was frustrating.

I came to a turning point when I opened a rejection email from a job I applied for, and felt relieved.

Why should a rejection make me feel relieved?

Clearly, this was not a position that I truly wanted, but my desperation had led me to apply for any job that my skills seemed suited for.

I decided I should be going about this job search in a different way.

Instead of applying for as many jobs as possible, I took some time to reflect.

What did I want from a job?

What type of life was I searching for?

What are my core values?

I knew I wanted out of academia, but that didn’t mean that I wanted any job outside a university.

By implementing strategies to fight the depression and imposter syndrome I was suffering from, I realized that I had skills that were very desireable in industry.

There was no reason I couldn’t get a job that I loved, and be paid well for it.

Once I stopped running away from academia, and started moving strategically toward the industry position that was right for me, I could see success in my future.

How Neglecting Job Motivation Is Sabotaging Your Industry Career

When you search for the industry job you want, you usually search by job title.

But, your job title is one of the least important aspects of an industry position.

You need to figure out what is motivating you to transition into a specific position, or to a specific company.

There is more to finding a satisfying job than a title or money.

According to a recent study by the Society For Human Resource Management, one of the most important factors in job satisfaction is transparency and trust in senior leadership. However, nearly 70% of employees do not trust senior leadership.

The same study also found that 46% of employees are not satisfied with the career growth opportunities in their current position, and this dissatisfaction is a large factor in why employees leave their current position.

To find a job that you are satisfied with, it’s important that the senior leadership are trustworthy, and that there are ample career growth opportunities.

Further, according to the Harvard Business Review, once you earn more than $75,000 per year, salary and compensation becomes only a minor contributor to overall job satisfaction.

Indeed, according to INC, 64% of employees were willing to get paid only $40,000 if they were able to work in a job they love.

Everyone has a slightly different priority set.

It is important that you determine what factors are important for you to achieve a high level of job satisfaction.

Understanding your own personal job search motivation will allow you to ask the right questions at an interview.

You will be able to set yourself apart from other candidates and be certain that you are transitioning into a position that fits your values.

5 Job Attributes You Must Consider To Get A Fulfilling Industry Career

As a PhD, you deserve a rewarding career.

But, the desperation that comes after years of underpaid work as a PhD student and postdoc can lead you to take any position that will pay well.

Don’t make this mistake and forget to consider the professional lifestyle that you want.

You must consider the key aspects of a company before it’s too late and you end up in a job that you hate.

Here are 5 key attributes of a company that you should consider before signing a contract…

1. Career growth and trajectory.

Having a clear path for career growth is the number one factor for employee satisfaction.

It is even more important than salary and compensation.

You do not want to be stuck in a job that does not have a defined way to move forward.

This is why it is important to focus your job search on more than just a job title.

What will you do after your initial job title?

What opportunities are there for you to grow within the company?

What is the career trajectory for this role?

You should ask these types of questions during your interview.

This demonstrates that you are serious about the position, well-prepared for the interview, and it also shows a level of commitment to the company.

But most importantly, it will allow you to assess whether the company is the right fit for you.

As a PhD, you deserve a position that has ample opportunity for growth.

2. Company culture and values.

The culture of a company can dictate if you will be happy or miserable in your industry position.

Determining what the culture of a company is like requires you to do your research.

Look up the company’s mission statement and corporate strategy. This is likely found on their website in the “about us” section.

Does this message resonate with you? Do you agree with their ideologies?

It’s important that you identify with the purpose and mission of the company, because it indicates that the company’s culture is a good fit for you.

But, culture is about more than just the mission statement. It’s also about how the company does business.

Do they communicate by email, phone, or instant messenger?

Does everyone arrive 10 minutes early, or is it okay if you are a few minutes late to work?

Will you have the opportunity to meet with upper management?

Do the employees feel valued and respected?

Each of these characteristics contributes to the overall culture of a company.

You should ask questions about the company’s culture during your interviews.

You could ask, “What is something a previous job candidate did after getting hired that made them fit in with the company culture very well?”

This will give you a good picture of what the company values, and if those values are appealing to you.

Another great way to learn about company culture is to set up informational interviews.

In these situations, you can ask a current employee about the work environment, and use their experiences to help you determine if the company is a good fit for you.

3. Salary and compensation.

As a PhD student who is just graduating, or a postdoc who is tired of being paid less than a librarian, the importance of salary and compensation is obvious.

You deserve to be paid well.

But, great pay for a boring job isn’t the way to go, either.

You should find a position at a company that has a culture you agree with, and meets your career growth requirement.

Then, you can negotiate your salary.

Many PhDs fail to negotiate their salary and lose out on thousands of dollars they could have been earning.

In industry, they expect you to negotiate your salary.

Do not feel bad about negotiations and always keep a positive attitude, as it’s a win-win situation.

You get the pay you want and the company gets a high-quality employee.

If you’re not sure how to negotiate your salary, here are a few resources:

12 Tips On How To Negotiate A Job Offer To Increase Your Starting Salary In Industry

Negotiate A Higher Starting Salary With These 5 Email Templates

How Savvy PhDs Negotiate Salary Contracts Higher

4. Work-life balance.

Before you decide on a job title that you want, you should decide what type of professional lifestyle you want.

Do you want to travel for work?

Do you want to have the option for extended vacations?

Do you want to be able to work from home, occasionally?

Asking yourself questions like these before you decide on a position will help you find a job that you will truly be happy with.

Once you know what work-life balance you want, you can conduct informational interviews and ask the right questions at site interviews to learn about the company’s view of work-life balance.

5. Location.

Where do you want to live and work?

Like in real estate, it really is all about location, location, location.

Are you looking to relocate as you transition into industry?

Do your research about the different locations and decide what is important to you.

Close to family? In a big city?

Check to see if the economy in the location is on an upswing, indicating growth.

Also consider what the commute to work will be like.

In some places, it is possible to live very close to your work, while in other places this may not be possible.

Places like Los Angeles have incredible amounts of traffic. Think about these factors as you decide what location would be best for you.

Do not execute your job search as merely a way to get away from academia. As a PhD, you deserve to have a fulfilling job that you enjoy. To reach that goal, you must take the time to figure out your job motivation, and then implement a strategic job search to reach your goal. To figure out if you will enjoy a position, you should consider the career growth trajectory for the position, the culture of the company, the salary level and compensation, the work-life balance, and the location. Each of these factors is important in finding an industry position that will leave you fulfilled.

To learn more about the 5 Steps That Lead To A Great Industry Career, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association.

Join Cheeky Scientist Association
Get Free Job Search Content Weekly
Catherine Sorbara, Ph.D.
Catherine Sorbara, Ph.D.

Cathy has a PhD in Medical Life Science and Technology and is COO of the Cheeky Scientist Association. Cathy is passionate about science communication including translating science to lay audiences and helping PhDs transition into industry positions. She is Chair of Cambridge AWiSE, a regional network for women in science, engineering and technology. She has also been selected to take part in Homeward Bound 2018, an all-female voyage to Antarctica aimed to heighten the influence of women in leadership positions and bring awareness to climate change.

Similar Articles

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, April 10th 2021

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, April 10th 2021

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, April 3rd 2021

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, April 3rd 2021

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

How To Tell Your PhD Story And Use It To Sell Yourself In Industry

How To Tell Your PhD Story And Use It To Sell Yourself In Industry

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

You were so excited to take charge of your future and transition out of academia.  You hired an expert to craft the perfect resume. You lined up interviews, and the hiring managers seemed impressed. You felt confident. Then came the question… “And why do you want to leave academia?” You figured the answer was obvious. Doesn’t everyone already know academia isn’t the most financially rewarding path—especially after the investment you made in a PhD? “But what is it about this job in particular that makes you want to take the leap? Are you just looking for a better salary?” That’s…

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, March 27th 2021

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, March 27th 2021

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

5 Curses Of Staying In Academia (After Getting Your PhD)

5 Curses Of Staying In Academia (After Getting Your PhD)

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Staying in academia is one of the worst career curses in a PhD’s life. The sooner you realize that, the better it is for your career.  You need to get your PhD. Since this is an incredible way to learn not only how to master a field, but also how to push it forward. PhD is a training position where you learn how to do research and analysis, how to deal with uncertainty, how to face failure, how to think creatively and how to innovate. All these skills are of incredible value in industry.But after getting your PhD, your entire…

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, March 20th 2021

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, March 20th 2021

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

Understanding Top PhD Jobs In Altac Fields Is Not Easy, But This Will Help

Understanding Top PhD Jobs In Altac Fields Is Not Easy, But This Will Help

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

A repeated misconception that plagues PhDs when faced with career choices is that their doctorate could be a liability in the job market.  Career counselors are still telling doctoral students that a PhD will make companies view them as overqualified or too independent, instead of guiding them to the top PhD jobs available.  These advisors will tell you that cultivating strong professional relationships, attending networking events, and relying on your mentors are the best options to find a rewarding career post-graduation.  However, years spent doing research prepare you for almost any strategic role in modern industry. Another misconception that may…

7 Lesser Known Industry Careers That PhDs Rave About 6 Months After Getting Hired

7 Lesser Known Industry Careers That PhDs Rave About 6 Months After Getting Hired

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Here is the funny thing that most PhDs don’t understand - your PhD is incredibly valuable and so are you, BUT you are not above the job search process. You and your PhD don’t give you a free pass to not have to learn to speak the language of industry, to not have to follow up, to not have to learn industry buzzwords and transferable skills; to not have to practice behavioral questions, on and on. Being smart, proven, or successful in one area does not make you any of those things in another area. Get over yourself. Otherwise, you…

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, March 13th 2021

Best Of Transition: PhD Jobs & Job Search Strategies, March 13th 2021

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Every week, we at Cheeky Scientist scour the Internet for the best articles on topics that help in the search for the Best of Transition: PhD Job Search in the industry. Our two consultants independently search for the most informative articles in the categories of networking, CVs/resumes, interviews, transferable skills, academic blues, industry positions, and business acumen. Our consultants vote on a top article for each category and a top overall article for the week – if it’s a recent article that can help readers find and acquire PhD jobs, then we want to include it in this weekly digest.…

Top Industry Career eBooks

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel

The LinkedIn tips & strategies within have helped PhDs from every background get hired into top industry careers.

20 Most Popular Industry Career Tracks For PhDs

20 Most Popular Industry Career Tracks For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD & Arunodoy Sur, PhD

Learn about the top 20 industry careers for PhDs (regardless of your academic background). In this eBook, you will gain insight into the most popular, highest-paying jobs for PhDs – all of which will allow you to do meaningful work AND get paid well for it.

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Learn how to craft the perfect industry resume to attract employers. In this eBook for PhDs, you will get access to proven resume templates, learn how to structure your bullet points, and discover which keywords industry employers want to see most on PhD resumes.