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Give Yourself The Gift Of Leaving Academia Forever

My last year in academia, I didn’t have enough money to fly home for Christmas.

So I spent it in Iowa City, mostly alone. 

I was broke (of course) so I decided to shovel snow out of driveways for $10 per driveway. I remember thinking how ridiculous it was to be a PhD shoveling snow for money.

“What I wouldn’t give to have a better job”, I thought. 

That was the gift I wanted for Christmas and the holidays. 

A better job. 

Not to be a student or a postdoc or an academic PhD getting paid less than I was worth. Not even to be a PhD in an entry-level job working beneath people with their Bachelors. 

…but a great job, where I could do meaningful work and be paid well for it. 

That’s when I started applying for industry jobs. 

It did not go well. 

I spent 6 months hearing nothing back from employers but automatic rejections. And this is exactly where most PhDs are today. 

Applying and getting nothing in return but silence or AI-driven rejections. 

I didn’t get hired until I learned what industry employers were really looking for and how to communicate my skills so they understood my value.

Once that happened, I was able to leave academia and never look back. 

This is the gift that I want you and every PhD to have this year. And this is a gift you and every PhD should be seeking too. Why? 

Because academia is broken and there’s no way to unbreak it. 

Why PhDs Are Rushing To Transition Into Industry This Year

It’s not exactly a secret that life is much better for PhDs once they leave academia. 

Yet, so many of us stay in academia much longer than we should. Why? 

I believe it’s because PhDs have a very high tolerance for pain. We also believe – or have been trained to believe – that anything good must be very, very hard. 

Poor? Can’t afford a house. Have roommates in your 30s? Sleep on a futon? Work 18 hours a day? PI, advisor or boss never appreciates you? They never say anything affirming? You feel guilty and a sense of dread every day? 

I must be headed in the right direction! 

That’s what we think as PhDs. It’s crazy. 

If you’re not stretched to our limit, we feel off. But, you can stretch yourself intellectually and be appreciated, and be paid well. In fact, you’ll be more creative and grow faster under these conditions. And this is why this should be your last year in academia. 

It’s time for you to leave academia. 

Embarking on a PhD journey is an arduous and exhilarating experience, often driven by a passion for research and discovery. However, the academic path is not the only avenue for PhDs to apply their expertise and skills. 

The world of industry offers a plethora of opportunities that can be more fulfilling and rewarding for PhD holders. Here are compelling reasons why PhDs should consider stepping out of academia and into the broader landscape of industry. 

5 Reasons Industry PhDs Are Happier & More Successful Than Academic PhDs

One of the most controversial things I talk about is – not why PhDs should leave academia, not how academic journals copyright our PhD research and sell it back to us – but why industry PhDs are happier and more successful than academic PhDs. 

Yikes – this makes some people so angry. But it also helps and empowers a lot of PhDs too. So, I’m going to lay out this argument in more detail. Here are 5 reasons industry PhDs are happier and more successful than academic PhDs:

1. Superior resources and funding. 

One of the most significant advantages of working in industry is access to superior funding and resources. 

Corporations typically have larger budgets for research and development compared to academic institutions. This financial backing allows for the procurement of state-of-the-art equipment, access to advanced technology, and the ability to fund ambitious projects. 

The result is often faster and more impactful research outcomes. For PhDs, this means the ability to work on cutting-edge projects without the constant pressure of securing grants, as is common in academia. 

2. Enhanced prestige and appreciation.

A second advantage is the enhanced prestige and appreciation PhDs get in industry. 

In recent years, there has been a notable shift in the perception of PhDs in the corporate world. Once primarily sought after in academic and research institutions, PhDs are now increasingly respected and valued in industry for their specialized knowledge and research capabilities. 

Companies recognize the depth of expertise and analytical skills that PhDs bring, making them highly sought after for roles in research and development, data analysis, and strategic planning. 

3. Better work-life balance.

A third advantage and a very significant benefit of transitioning to industry is the potential for a better work-life balance. 

While academic positions often demand long hours, including evenings and weekends spent on research, grant writing, and teaching, industry roles tend to offer more structured hours. 

Many corporations are also adopting flexible working policies, further enhancing work-life balance. This structured environment can lead to less job-related stress and a more sustainable career path.

4. Teamwork and more open cross-functional collaboration. 

Industry culture often emphasizes teamwork and collaboration more than academia. 

In industry, PhDs usually work as part of cross-functional teams, bringing together diverse skill sets and perspectives. This collaborative environment can lead to more innovative solutions and allows projects to move forward more efficiently. 

Moreover, working in teams provides an opportunity for PhDs to expand their professional network and develop new skills beyond their specialized field. 

5. Clear milestones and faster career progression.

Career progression in industry can be more dynamic and rapid compared to academia.

In the corporate world, promotions are often more frequent, and there are diverse paths for career advancement. PhDs can move up the ladder to take on leadership roles, transition into different departments, or specialize in niche areas within the company. 

The clear career trajectories, coupled with performance-based appraisals, provide tangible goals and motivations for continuous professional growth. 

For PhDs, transitioning to their first industry job can be a significant career milestone, characterized by better funding, increased respect, improved work-life balance, collaborative teamwork, and promising career advancement opportunities. The industry offers a dynamic and resource-rich environment where PhDs can apply their expertise, innovate, and thrive in their professional journeys. 

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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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