Employers Are Hiring PhDs Because They Learn Faster Than Other Job Candidates
“Why would any employers hire me…
I don’t have industry experience, my skills don’t match the positions I want, and I’m not hearing back from any positions I’ve applied to…
Plus, I don’t know anyone in industry.”
I heard this from a PhD recently who was mentally broken from their job search.
They had been applying to jobs for months and either hearing nothing back or getting rejected very quickly.
When they asked their peers for insights as to why, they heard the usual stuff, “maybe you’re overqualified?” Or…
“Actually, you’re underqualified because you don’t have industry experience.”
“You can’t get hired into THAT role with industry experience.”
Or, this brilliant gem…
“You should just do a postdoc.”
Look – getting hired into a PhD-level job is challenging, but not because you and your PhD lack value. It’s because you don’t know how to communicate your value.
Industry employers seek out PhDs for a variety of reasons, the biggest reason being because PhDs can learn on the job very quickly, and because they help others on their teams learn quickly.
But, are you communicating this to employers? Do you know this about yourself?
How To Confidently Communicate Your Value As A Self-Directed Learner
I often get asked what is the number one skill that I think PhDs have and every time I’m quickly able to respond with “learning how to learn”.
PhDs learn faster and more autonomously than any group of people in the world.
In fact, PhDs are doctors of learning because they’re doctors of philosophy and philosophy is knowledge and the ability to ascertain knowledge.
In today’s rapidly changing job market, employers are constantly on the lookout for candidates who can adapt quickly and learn autonomously. PhDs are at the top of this desired pool, and it’s not just because of their specialized knowledge or research skills.
So, why don’t more PhDs communicate their self-directed learning skills?
The biggest reason is Imposter Syndrome…
According to the California Institute of Technology, people suffering from Imposter Syndrome persistently see themselves as inadequate or as failures despite information indicating that they are adequate or successful.
These people chronically experience feelings of self-doubt and intellectual fraudulence.
One study reported in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that people who frequently suffer from Impostor Syndrome, labeled as impostors, perform less and are more anxious in general than those who suffer infrequently, labeled as non-impostors.
Impostors also feel worse and suffer a greater loss in self-esteem than non-impostors after a perceived failure.
Other studies show that Impostor Syndrome is strongly correlated with self-sabotage and feelings of shame.
You can have all the value in the world, but none of it will matter if you don’t know your own value and feel like an impostor.
If you’re a PhD and want to transition into industry, you must overcome your fear of not being good enough and realize that employers want the skills you have, especially your skills in the areas of self-directed learning, problem-solving, synthesis and communication.
5 Reasons Why PhDs Learn Faster Than Other Job Candidates
As a PhD, you can learn faster and better than anyone.
But, no one will communicate these traits to employers for you. You have to communicate with them.
To help you in this regard, below are 5 key reasons why you and other PhDs learn faster and better than other job candidates, and why this makes you a prime candidate for employers who prioritize quick and independent learning.
1. Advanced research skills.
PhDs are trained to dive deep into complex subjects, dissect large volumes of information, and distill the essence of their findings.
This skill set is directly transferable to learning in a new job role. Employers value PhDs because they can independently undertake comprehensive research to overcome learning curves, allowing them to grasp new concepts and systems at a pace that outstrips other candidates.
2. Critical thinking and problem-solving.
A hallmark of a PhD education is the development of critical thinking.
PhDs are adept at analyzing problems from multiple angles, questioning assumptions, and developing new hypotheses.
When confronted with new information or tasks in a professional setting, they can deconstruct the problem and form innovative solutions.
Their trained instinct to approach problems methodically enables them to learn not just quickly, but also with a depth that ensures robust understanding and application.
3. Tenacity and perseverance.
The journey to a PhD is not for the faint-hearted. It requires a significant amount of perseverance and resilience, qualities that are indispensable when learning new skills or adapting to a new job.
PhDs have weathered the storm of rigorous academic challenges, often over many years, which means they’re unlikely to be daunted by complex, unfamiliar tasks in a new role.
Employers appreciate this tenacity, knowing that a PhD will not shy away from challenging learning experiences.
4. Self-directed learning.
PhDs are, by necessity, self-starters. They have spent years managing their own projects, setting goals, and meeting deadlines without close supervision. This autonomy in learning and development translates seamlessly into the workplace.
Employers can trust PhDs to take initiative in their learning process, identify their own knowledge gaps, and seek out the resources needed to fill them. This level of self-directed learning ensures that PhDs can upskill themselves effectively without the need for constant hand-holding.
5. Ability to synthesize and communicate complex information.
An often overlooked but critical aspect of a PhD’s education is the ability to synthesize complex information and communicate it effectively to different audiences.
In a professional context, this means that PhDs are not only fast learners but are also able to teach and explain concepts to their colleagues, enhancing the collective knowledge of the team. Employers value this dual capability because it means PhDs can help elevate the entire team’s understanding of complex matters.
In conclusion, the intellectual rigor and personal qualities that PhDs develop during their academic pursuit are precisely what make them stand out as fast and autonomous learners in the professional world. Their research prowess, critical thinking, perseverance, directness, and communication skills provide a potent combination that can be applied to almost any field. For employers, hiring a PhD is not just about the depth of expertise they bring; it’s about investing in someone who can quickly adapt, learn, and contribute to the company’s success from day one.
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.More Written by Isaiah Hankel, PhD