How To Find Great Companies Hiring PhDs Now (+Take The First Step)

I thought I was doing what PhDs were “supposed” to do.

After 10 years of hard work, I was reaching a major milestone: my thesis. 

But, in the back of my mind, I knew I was treating my thesis like a means to an end.

How could I not?

I was a 32-year-old student, who had never actually worked a day in the field, turning over stones for a groundbreaking discovery. 

Sure, I knew my stuff and had confidence (I was a PhD after all). But there’s a certain type of confidence that you can only earn through the mundane rank-and-file aspect of a field. 

So, I put everything else aside. 

I focused on the only goal—my thesis—and figured everything else would fall into place. 

I mean, it had to… right? 

Then the day I was waiting for finally arrived and passed. And, I realized that more than half of my life was staring at me in the face. 

Okay, now what? 

I didn’t know it then but deciding to enter academia, instead of preparing myself for an industry role, set me up for a lifetime of drastically lower wages and satisfaction than my peers. 

Did you know the average PhD in academia makes $40,000 less per year than their peers in industry? 

As they say, your entry-level salary dictates your income for the rest of your career. 

 You’re making the right choice by looking for companies hiring PhDs now. Nothing against academia. It’s just not for everyone. 

Now, here’s what I’ve learned about the search.

How To Find Companies Hiring PhDs Right Now

I wish someone had told me to spend more time thinking about the finer qualities of a workplace before I started looking for any companies hiring PhDs right now

We’re all individuals, but individuals can’t change a company’s culture. 

Be gentle with yourself but don’t take the first offer just because it’s offered. 

1. Build a casual professional network

Have you heard about the infamous “hidden job market” of roles and positions nowhere to be found on company websites and job listings?

87% of applicants surveyed say they either heard of the open position from a friend or through a professional network. 

You must build a casual professional network gradually to find those companies hiring PhDs now or later.

In other words, you have to make friends with others at your level in your industry on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.

2. Analyze descriptions and consider other skills you might need

Your PhD experience isn’t enough—not even when expanded into a resume, CV,or regurgitated 2,000-word LinkedIn profile. 

Examine the available roles. What skills do they require? And you need them, too. 

Specifically, focus on your hard and soft transferable skills like communication, teamwork, and  industry-specific programs or software.

3. Understand the company’s structure and potential

A single industry position is never a means to an end, especially for PhDs. 

Always keep your options open. Don’t overlook listings you consider beneath you because being “overqualified” as a PhD is a total myth.

Understand the company’s structure and ask about opportunities to advance during an interview. Strategize and plan specific questions.

If applicable, admit to the hiring manager that you’re new to industry work but excited to gain meaningful experiences and looking for opportunities to grow with the company. (Yes, even you, a PhD.)

Managers LOVE to hear this from every applicant.

4. Join a PhD job referral network

Did you know there are thousands of PhDs across every field, just like you, talking about companies hiring PhDs right now?

PhDs looking for meaningful work, especially those  transitioning to industry after years or decades in academia, face a ton of the similar setbacks and challenges. 

Worse still, we convince ourselves that our problems aren’t valid. We chose to pursue a doctorate, and over 40% of people with doctorates are unemployed according to unofficial estimates.

Joining a PhD referral network breaks this isolation. You realize you’re not alone, and learn from others’ experiences. Find companies hiring PhDs now, and start to make some friends. 

Your PhD Won’t Get You Every Role You Bother To Apply For

Even PhDs can’t walk into an interview, answer a few questions, and then hear the words “when can you start?”

You can’t push the right buttons at companies hiring PhDs right now and expect jobs to pour out.

The hiring process is mechanical, tedious, repetitive, and pretty soul-crushing. 

That’s why you must…

Expect To Feel Insecure And Run-Down Eventually

Even if you jump straight into the job search for postdoc positions around age 30-40, you might be competing against 50+ applicants with 10 to 20 years of experience behind them.

Don’t let it beat you down. Just prepare for insecurity and burnout. It’s normal.

Prepare To Put In The Energy

PhDs must put in more energy to show we’re committed to  industry work and not just padding our CV.

Follow-up calls after submitting your application and post-interview calls both matter tremendously. Stay on their radar by showing they’re on yours. 

Don’t Waste Effort Finding Companies Hiring PhDs Now If You Still Lack The Right Resume

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re imagining yourself in the hiring manager’s position. You think they want to hear about your thesis, whatever you learned during your latest research or all the discoveries you made during your PhD experience. 

You might think those things are interesting, but the industry hiring manager doesn’t care. They have a job to do, and that’s finding someone adequately prepared to fill the position as quickly as possible. 

Your resume must reflect the things they need to know to fill the role—and not a single bit more. 

I don’t say this to beat you down. I don’t want you spinning your wheels looking for companies hiring PhDs now, submitting applications, and going through interviews only to end up more resentful than ever. 

I know you have what it takes. 

Just treat the process like another experiment, by admitting you don’t know many things and seeking the truth.

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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Isaiah Hankel, PhD is the Founder and CEO of the largest career training platform for PhDs in the world - Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by 3 million PhDs in 152 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. Isaiah Hankel received his doctorate in Anatomy & Cell Biology with a focus in immunology and is an expert on biotechnology recruitment and career development.

Isaiah has published two bestselling books with Wiley and 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.

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