Written by: Jeanette McConnell, Ph.D.
During my PhD everything I did revolved around the lab and my experiments.
Dinner plans were timed to coincide with when my experiments would finish.
The office floor became a bed when the reaction was just taking too long.
I printed out and read academic journals before I went to sleep.
And although this did work for a while – eventually I was burnt out.
What about the other parts of me?
What about the athletic side of me?
What about the creative and crafty parts of me?
What about my family and friends?
I spent so much time focused on my PhD work that the other things I enjoyed faded into the background.
I felt one dimensional.
Something had to give.
This was one of the biggest factors that made me realize I wanted out of academia.
When I did make time to see my friends, many of whom had industry jobs, their job was just one small part of what they did.
They had lots of time (and money) to spend on doing fun things!
But I was sitting there, poor and tired from spending all my energy in the lab.
I couldn’t do this for another 5-10 years as a postdoc.
Like many PhDs I realized that I wanted to transition into industry where I could do more than just work all the time.
As PhDs we may be nerdy, but we enjoy spending our time on more than just research.
We’ve put together a list of the top ways PhDs who work in industry enjoy spending their free time based on a poll of Cheeky Scientist PhDs who have made the transition.
Here are the top 5 ways PhDs enjoy spending their new free time after transitioning into industry…
1. Spending time with family and friends.
33% of surveyed PhDs reported spending time with family and friends as how they enjoy spending their extra spare time since transitioning into industry.
In academia, the negative culture makes it a good thing to stay overnight, to work 16 hour days, to become completely exhausted.
As a graduate student or a postdoc you’re lucky if you get a few days off for the holidays to spend with family.
But, you can get away from that mentality in industry.
Your time is respected and valued in industry.
If it’s important to you to have ample time to spend with your family and friends, you just need to find the right company that aligns with your values.
That’s why it’s so important to understand a company’s culture before you get hired.
Do informational interviews with employees and ask questions about work expectations.
“The freedom to work from home when I want or to leave the office when the work is done, not based on the clock, is pretty awesome.” – Industry Ph.D.
It is totally possible to have completely free weekends and to leave work by 5 pm everyday if you want.
You just need to do the research to find a company where you can have that lifestyle.
There are companies that support working parents or where you can work remotely.
Some companies will force you to leave the office by a certain time and will block you from checking email while not at work.
After transitioning into industry many PhDs spend less time working and spend more time with the people they love.
2. Traveling to fun new places.
25% of surveyed PhDs reported traveling as how they enjoy spending their extra spare time since transitioning into industry.
“I’m going on my second travel of the year (unheard of as a postdoc).” – Industry PhD
As an academic PhD the only travelling you probably get to do is going to a conference.
Hopefully the conference is somewhere you want to go.
And even that only works if you get grant funding.
Because as a grad student or a postdoc the measly stipend you are paid is not enough to fund any sort of traveling.
Once outside of academia, many PhDs finally have the time-freedom and the money to travel.
“Travel, travel, travel! Always wanted to travel and live abroad, and felt stuck back home while in academia. Since I transitioned, I’ve traveled 10+ countries and 20+ different cities.” – Industry PhD
Both for work purposes and for leisure.
Many PhDs take a vacation for the first time in several years once they transition into industry.
Where will you travel to after you transition into industry?
3. Playing sports, hiking, and just enjoying taking time to exercise.
22% of surveyed PhDs reported playing sports and exercising as how they enjoy spending their extra spare time since transitioning into industry.
“I’ve been exercising or dancing every day since [I transition into industry]. My current goal is to do a handstand.” –Industry PhD
Often as a PhD student or a postdoc, your health (both physical and mental) take a back seat to your project.
A major side effect of this is that many PhDs lose the ability to exercise regularly or play sports while they are in academia.
This is so unfortunate as regular exercise is so important to both mental and physical health.
And how are you supposed to do good work if you are unhealthy?
But once transitioned out of academia lots of PhDs rediscover their passion for exercise.
“I discover running. Everything started during a lunch break, when my team members convinced me to join them for Business run.” –Industry PhD
Whether is running, sport, hiking, swimming or going to the gym PhDs find time for and value these activities once they transition into industry.
Do you have a favorite activity that you have been neglecting while in academia?
4. Reading for fun – not just reading academic journals.
12% of surveyed PhDs reported reading (not academic journals!) as how they enjoy spending their extra spare time since transitioning into industry.
“I enjoy the pleasure of reading again (non-work or non-self-help related literature)! I just finished Foundation by Isaac Asimov (all books of the series).”
While in academia there is so much pressure that every moment of your life should be focused on improving your research.
Why would you waste time reading a sci-fi novel when you could be reading the dense 13 page methods section of an important academic paper?
So often as a PhD student or postdocs you completely neglect your passions outside of the lab.
But in industry, it is totally possible to explore the other facets of your life.
“Reading! Since I am not doing the crazy editing hours, I have time for my favorite hobby.” Industry PhD
To take the time to read and read for enjoyment.
Think about it, when was the last time you read a book that had nothing to do with your research?
For many PhDs, reading is something they love to do (face it we are all nerds) and they have found the time to enjoy reading since transitioning into industry.
5. Being artistic and creative.
8% of surveyed PhDs reported creating art as how they enjoy spending their extra spare time since transitioning into industry.
“I knit before bed instead of working, analyzing data or writing up results.” – Industry PhD
It takes A LOT of brain power to complete a PhD.
And the all consuming culture of academia makes it difficult to ever really “turn off’.
So, even if you did have a bit of spare time during your PhD it’s hard to use that time to be creative and artistic.
After leaving academia many PhDs are able to find the space to be creative again.
Whatever that means to you.
It could be painting, knitting, sculpting, writing, taking photos – whatever creative outlet you enjoy.
What do you wish you had the time to create?
Lounging at home and relaxing.
Volunteering in the community.
Cooking and baking.
Making the transition into industry is a wonderful experience for PhDs. Finding a position in industry that supports your desired lifestyle and allows you the time to explore what it most important to you is incredible. A few of the things PhDs have reported enjoying doing in their new found free time are Spending time with family and friends, traveling to new places, playing sports, hiking, and just enjoying taking time to exercise, reading for fun, and being artistic and creative. What are you most excited about having time for after you transition into industry?
To learn more about how you can transition into an 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.
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