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.

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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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.

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