Is The Cheeky Scientist Association Worth It?

The professor I was speaking with took a full step backward. 

Her eyes widened.

I had just casually repeated a piece of feedback I received on one of the graphs that I had created for a lab presentation verbatim: “I hate your colors.”

I had shared the comment solely to illustrate that data visualization didn’t come naturally to me. 

Sure, I wouldn’t recommend critiquing someone’s work this way.

But I had heard so much worse in academia

On top of that, I had been bullied repeatedly into apologizing anytime I showed any sign that such comments had hurt my feelings.

At this point in my career, I honestly believed that such negative commentary must be generally “acceptable,” and I was just “too sensitive” if I had a problem with it.

Apparently not.

This professor’s response was a wake-up call. 

The negative PhDs that I had been around in academia for the 60+ hours that I worked each week—more time than I spent around my own spouse— had gaslit my sense of reality and self into oblivion.

On the outside, it looked like I had everything under control. I still did good work. 

A few professors had even asked if I planned to apply for faculty positions based on my postdoc research despite the fact that it wasn’t published yet.

On the inside, however, I was a complete wreck.

I needed to get out of academia. 

According to the alumni who had already transitioned into industry, my PhD was valuable outside of academia. 

However, without a robust job search strategy—one that would help me identify an industry position that I would enjoy as well as secure such a position— I was stuck.

Why PhDs Need Industry Job Search Training

I spent a long time thinking that my negative experiences in academia were outliers, and I must be an extraterrestrial for wanting an industry career instead.

But in reality, my experience isn’t uncommon.

According to The Guardian, up to 42% of academics say they’ve been bullied.

Bullying and other unprofessional behaviors can have serious consequences; targets are at risk of developing a variety of mental and physical health problems.

It’s no wonder that 51% of PhD students reported having two mental health issues in a study summarized in Technology Networks.

Conducting a job search on your own while battling one of the health conditions that are common among PhDs is practically a non-starter. 

And job seekers are facing new challenges in the current market.

Per a Monster.com survey, 95% of workers are seeking a new role in the midst of what some have termed the “Great Resignation.” 

As such, competition for jobs is stiff.

However, PhDs can and already are competing in this market despite career gaps, negative academic advisors, visa challenges, and more.

What’s their secret?

Industry job search training.

By investing in support for navigating the job search, many PhDs are securing coveted industry roles right now regardless of the circumstances.

cheeky scientist

7 Things That Happened When I Took The Actions Recommended By Cheeky Scientist

I was one of the PhDs who decided I needed help for my job search and joined the Cheeky Scientist Association (CSA) to get that help.

Don’t get me wrong. 

I took my sweet time making this decision.

At the time I joined the CSA, I was postdoc, my spouse was unemployed, and I’ve always been hesitant about spending money.

But I had to be honest with myself.

I had tried finding a path to industry on my own. I attended my institution’s career events and read free articles online. I had even made an effort to meet PhDs who were already in industry. It just wasn’t enough.  

I realized that if I kept using these same approaches, I would end up with the same result: stuck.

So I changed my approach and started following Cheeky Scientist’s job search methodology.

Here’s what resulted…  

1. I Learned My Value As A PhD

It’s easy to lose sight of your unique skills in academia. I had.

Everyone I was around had a PhD. Everyone around me was good at research. Most had more publications than I did. Some had technical skills or a therapeutic background that were way more in demand in industry than mine.

I didn’t think I was special.

And in academia, I probably wasn’t. 

Outside of academia, however, the situation was different.

Through the CSA, I learned that industry employers value transferable skills over specific technical skills or backgrounds. I found out how my PhD and postdoc work demonstrated that I already had these skills and how they set me apart from other job candidates.

I realized I had something to offer industry, and I began to feel valuable again for the first time in a long time.

2. I Figured Out What Industry Career Was Right For Me

Like many PhDs, I wasn’t sure at first what industry positions to target.

Prior to my postdoc, I had planned on aiming for a Research and Development role. However, a year into my postdoc, I realized I was tired of bench work.

What else could I do?

I had some ideas. 

But I questioned their soundness.

I mean, before graduate school, I thought an academic career was a “good idea.” Yet, I was completely miserable on the academic path. I didn’t want to make the same mistake again.  

For direction, I turned to the Cheeky Scientist career map. This map covers the 40+ top industry careers for PhDs. 

More importantly, it came with advice I hadn’t heard anywhere else: “Consider the professional lifestyle you want.”

By thinking about what I wanted my life to look like- what activities I wanted to focus on and what I would need to do to achieve them (e.g. travel, deal with high stakes, etc.)- I gained the clarity I needed to make my choice. I was able to set a clear target, which made it much easier to progress in my job search.

3. I Expanded My Industry Network And Found New Friends

During my PhD and postdoc, I attended my institution’s career events and spoke one-on-one with industry PhDs. I even connected with around 5 of these professionals on LinkedIn!

I rated these networking efforts as excellent because they went beyond what I saw other PhDs doing.

In reality, my networking was woefully insufficient.

I needed to add 5 LinkedIn connections in a few days, not a few years. I also needed to follow-up with my connections to truly network.

I worked on adjusting my strategy accordingly. 

At first, it was really hard and my progress was slow. However, over time I got better at it.

And I got results, even though I wasn’t perfect. (I’m still not!)

I gained access to the hidden job market and referrals that turned into opportunities. I also made true friends that I continue to turn to for advice and support.

4. I Became Visible

Even while I was in academia, I heard that PhDs were in demand in the industry.

Frankly, it was hard to believe. 

But I didn’t think these professionals were lying.

I rationalized, “Maybe what they’re saying just doesn’t apply to me. It’s probably true that OTHER PhDs are in demand because of their specific background, achievements, etc.

I came up with a million reasons why I wouldn’t be a sought-after industry job candidate.

But the truth is that there was just one: I was invisible.

This fact was good news to me.

Why?

Because I could change it. 

And by following the CSA’s LinkedIn training, I did. 

I changed my headline. I filled out my profile sections. I learned how to pay attention to my Social Selling Index (SSI) score

As with my networking, my LinkedIn is still a work in progress.

But I’ve already dramatically increased my visibility and received recruiter contacts.

5. I Became Accountable For My Job Search

Before I joined the CSA, I was the only one who I was accountable to in my job search.

Like many PhDs, this lack of external accountability presented a challenge for me.

After all, my academic advisor expected research progress.

I was frequently bombarded with comments such as:

When are you going to complete these experiments?

Or 

Have you figured out how you’re going to follow up on these results?

I was terrified of disappointing them. I thought if they decided they didn’t want to support me that my career was over. And I needed to succeed in my research to keep them happy because I’m pretty sure they didn’t care about my industry transition goals.

So guess what got put off?

That’s right. My job search!

It was easier to disappoint myself than someone else.

Fortunately, Cheeky Scientist’s private support groups provided a means to make external accountability work in favor of my job search.

The Cheekies I engaged with in the groups would check-in with me about my progress with the job search training and I would do the same for them. 

Once I became accountable in this way, I found it much easier to carve out time for my job search.

6. I Transitioned

Before I joined the CSA, I thought my job search was hopeless. 

Honestly, I continued to struggle with feelings of worthlessness and doubt about whether I would ever be able to land an industry position even while I was in the CSA.

I had so many reasons why I thought I would never transition:

  • I only had 1 first-author and 1 co-author paper from my PhD research even though it took me 7 years to graduate.
  • Both my PhD and postdoc mentors insisted that publications were all that mattered in industry.
  • A department head had told me that based on my PhD record, I would probably have to do a second postdoc before I would be able to transition.
  • I was geographically restricted in my job search for family reasons.

But I took steps anyway. 

One at a time. 

I wasn’t always consistent. But the actions recommended by the Cheeky Scientists Association added up.

My mindset changed. I started focusing on reasons why I could be great in my target role instead of reasons why I couldn’t. 

And then it happened. 

I landed a contract with my first client, and I achieved my goal of becoming a freelance medical writer.

Hooray! 

7. I Found A Path To Advancing In My Career And Becoming A Leader In My Industry

My transition isn’t the end of my career story.

I’m still following Cheeky Scientist’s job search training.

Why?  

Because it helps me continue my career growth.

I used to wonder how Cheeky Scientist could say: “We turn PhDs into confident and successful industry professionals” when the organization focuses on the job search.

Just because someone is successful in their job search doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be successful in their job.

While this statement is true, I’ve found that Cheeky Scientist’s job search methodology confers more than just the know-how for obtaining a job.

When you implement the Cheeky approach, you gain access to insights into your target industry. You learn how to decide whether or not an opportunity is a good fit for you. 

You build business acumen and marketing skills to sell yourself as a job candidate. 

You develop strategic relationships and improve your communication skills.

Guess what you need as a PhD to advance in industry?

That’s right. The above.

As such, you can come to the CSA without hope for anything more than an endless cycle of postdocs and still end up with all the tools you need to climb to the top of your industry if you desire.

Concluding Remarks

Cheeky Scientist was definitely worth it for me. It helped me transition into industry. More importantly, it helped me realize my value and find a role that allows me to do meaningful work and fits my lifestyle. It can do these things for you too.

To learn more about transitioning into industry, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the waitlist for the Cheeky Scientist Association.

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
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ABOUT AMANDA JOHNSON

Amanda holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology. As a Freelance Scientific and Medical Writer, Amanda produces deliverables for a variety of sectors within industry. When she’s not writing, Amanda enjoys going for a run in the great outdoors.

Amanda Johnson

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