Cheeky Logo
Ready To Transition Into Industry?
Apply To Book A Free Call With Our Transition Specialist Team

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.

Book a Transition Call
Get Free Job Search Content Weekly



Dr. Isaiah Hankel is the Founder and CEO of 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. Hankel has published three 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

Similar Articles

5 Positions In Biopharma Perfect For Any PhD

5 Positions In Biopharma Perfect For Any PhD

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

It was by chance that I even considered a career in biopharma.  As far as I was concerned, academia was all there was. The world of industry was a big question mark to me, and that was fine. I found myself working on a postdoc, waiting for a tenure-track position to open up.  At first, it was exciting: a real, paying job as a PhD-level scientist. I showed up early, stayed late, and was happy to do it.  But a change happened, gradually. There was so much repetition in my day, and so much emphasis on performing tasks that required…

Don’t Ignore These 6 Powerful PhD Job Search Trends

Don’t Ignore These 6 Powerful PhD Job Search Trends

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

What does your job search strategy look like?  If you had to describe it in 2 or 3 sentences, what would you say?  I ask because, if you’re reading this, you’re in the market for a job. Working with PhDs for more than 10 years, I’ve learned one thing is true above all others: The right job strategy is what’s going to get you hired. That’s right: I’m saying that a concrete job search methodology is more important than anything else in your job search.  It’s more important than your skills, your degree, your personality – more important than you,…

Top 5 Industry Career Tracks For PhDs

Top 5 Industry Career Tracks For PhDs

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

From the time I started graduate school, there was only one point in the future that I could focus on: the finish line. I was swept up in my own expectations and also caught up in what I thought was expected of me. But something I hadn’t given much thought to was what I actually wanted to do. I was about six months away from defending my thesis. That’s when I started to give some serious thought to what would happen after I added the “Dr.” to my name. It’s when I began to admit to myself that academia was…

15 Questions To Ask Employers To Show You're Industry-Ready

15 Questions To Ask Employers To Show You're Industry-Ready

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

I know many PhDs who moved from one lab to another or one adjunct ship to another and never really had to interview. Because academia is such an isolated environment most PhDs already know most of what they need to know about the culture, pay, and what’s expected of them. This familiarity gets them in the habit of not asking questions during industry interviews and blowing it spectacularly.  I kept bombing my early industry interviews and I couldn’t figure out why – I knew I was the most qualified candidate they’d interviewed. Many of the interviewers told me so. I…

Spin The Hard Knocks Of Academia To Your Advantage To Get Hired

Spin The Hard Knocks Of Academia To Your Advantage To Get Hired

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Something that comes up a lot when I talk to new PhDs is that they think they don’t have enough on-the-job experience to apply for the high earning jobs they’re perfect for. I see this imposter syndrome prevent PhDs from even trying to apply for jobs – and puts a stop to their journey to getting hired in industry. So they settle.  For academia, where they don’t have job security.  For jobs that pay less and don’t value their abilities.  For a job they’re not interested in and don’t want, but they think it gets them “started” in industry when…

A No-Excuses Look at Virtual Networking

A No-Excuses Look at Virtual Networking

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

A lot of PhDs ignore a crucial part of their job search – virtual networking. You may think that because you’re spending a lot of time going to conferences, attending lectures, setting up face-to-face meetings, and checking in with one or two connections when you need a reference or referral that you’ve established your professional network.  Virtual Networking Casts A Wider Net, Even After The Pandemic Nope, you’re networking by halves if you’re only networking in-person. I kept seeing a former colleague of mine at conferences really making the most out of his time networking in person. Everybody knew this…

What To Do When You Feel Invisible On LinkedIn

What To Do When You Feel Invisible On LinkedIn

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

LinkedIn is unlike any other social networking platform.  The similarities are hard to ignore: you post updates – sometimes pictures –  share your opinions and comment on posts others make. But at its core, LinkedIn is very different than Facebook or any other friend-finding, video-sharing, community-connecting network.  LinkedIn is designed specifically to introduce professionals to other professionals. The site’s primary mission is to remove the barriers that make it difficult to connect with peers, your target companies, and the right opportunities.  What kind of opportunities, you might ask? What’s so great about having connections? As a PhD transitioning into industry,…

6 Rewarding Careers In Research Policy, Funding & Government

6 Rewarding Careers In Research Policy, Funding & Government

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

An indomitable spirit is a rare quality, but not among PhDs. Perseverance is a prerequisite that comes standard with every doctorate.  It seems like there’s no shortage of things that can stand in the way when you’re pursuing a terminal degree. Yet I’ve only met a handful of PhDs who weren’t cut out for the hardships of academia. They made it past the gauntlet of frustrating academic advisors, endless hours in the lab, and year upon year of compounding stress. But there are some things that arise that you simply can’t prepare yourself to push through. Sometimes life happens. PhDs…

A Pitch-Perfect Elevator Script For PhDs In Industry

A Pitch-Perfect Elevator Script For PhDs In Industry

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

I had heard of the term “elevator script” before my first industry interview.  Was I sure what it meant? No. But I got the gist of it: introduce yourself in a compelling way during an interview or networking session. Don’t annoy someone in an elevator. I dismissed the idea of learning more about it than that If I remember correctly, I told myself that it was nothing more than a remedial gimmick. One of those unnecessary “life hacks” that clueless people gobble up to calm their nerves before an interview.  Definitely not something a PhD graduate with a background in…

Top Industry Career eBooks

63 Best Industry Positions For PhDs

63 Best Industry Positions For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD & Arunodoy Sur, PhD

Learn about the best 63 industry careers for PhDs (regardless of your academic background). In this eBook, you will gain insight into the most popular, highest-paying jobs for PhDs – all of which will allow you to do meaningful work AND get paid well for it.

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel

The LinkedIn tips & strategies within have helped PhDs from every background get hired into top industry careers.

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Learn how to craft the perfect industry resume to attract employers. In this eBook for PhDs, you will get access to proven resume templates, learn how to structure your bullet points, and discover which keywords industry employers want to see most on PhD resumes.