Chief Executive Officer Cheeky Scientist
Join Isaiah as he discloses why technical skills don’t make PhDs valuable in the job market and what skills you should highlight instead
Here’s a quick rundown of this week’s episode…
- First, Isaiah tells the story of how he realized that technical skills didn’t make him valuable in his first industry position
- Next, Isaiah explains why many PhDs overlook their transferable skills and why this jeopardizes their careers
- Finally, Isaiah discusses why your technical skills will soon be if they’re not already obsolete and why your value lies in your transferable skills
From This Week’s Show…
How Isaiah Realized That His Technical Skills Weren’t As Impressive As He Though
When I landed one of my first industry jobs, I was obsessed with adding value to my team by talking about things like “statistical significance,” “reproducibility,” and a hundred other academically-minded concepts.
What I didn’t realize at that time was that this language was awkward and irrelevant for the position I was just hired into.
So, when I brought these topics up, the people who hired me were like, “What‘s this kid talking about? Is he trying to teach us a basics stats class right now? We’re not an academic lab functioning on $50,000 a month – we’re a 100 million dollar plus a year company.“
“We need you to focus on bigger, more business-minded concepts like integrating your efforts within our Agile project management system, gaining awareness of our brand, helping us develop some new conference collateral, and ensuring our R&D product pipeline stays full.”
I knew the general definition of these words and could understand them somewhat in context, but I couldn’t converse intelligently about them relative to the company’s specific goals, products, processes, and larger vocabulary.
If you want to get hired into an industry job, you have to start speaking the language of industry, and this starts with understanding which skills industry employers value the most.
Why You Need To Understand The Value Of Transferable Skills
Your transferable skills are the softer skills that transfer from sector to sector, company to company, and job to job in industry.
Unfortunately, most PhDs cannot fathom the idea of their skills being labelled soft. These PhDs struggle to list even the most basic skills that industry employers are hoping to see them communicate: project management, time management, writing and editing, and market knowledge.
These sound too simple, and academia has taught you that simple means less intelligent and less valuable, when most often the opposite is true.
Most PhDs don’t even list research, analysis, work ethic, innovation, comprehension or problem solving on their resumes or LinkedIn profiles.
They’d rather posture and list niche-specific skills that sound impressive (but are skipped rather than read), like fluorescence microscopy, real-time PCR, quantum mechanics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and anything with the words “qualitative” or “quantitative” in it.
I know what you’re thinking “I have a PhD! What did I do all my advanced technical training for if I can’t use it to get hired?”
You have a PhD? Me too. So what? Guess who are some of the most overworked and underpaid people in the world right now? Despite all their education and advanced technical training, most PhDs are not successful when it comes to their careers.
Your Technical Skills Are Already Obsolete
Perhaps you spent your time in academia developing some extraordinarily complex laboratory technique. Perhaps you became an incredible computer programmer. Did you study for two years straight to master a field and then spend several years compiling a thesis that helped push a niche scientific field forward?
Great – the technical skills you learned along the way will be obsolete in a few years if not a few months from reading this. In fact, many of them are obsolete right now.
I still remember walking into my first site visit at a Global 500 industry company. As part of the visit, we were allowed to tour the facility and were taken to these gigantic labs that were each the size of a football field and full of hundreds of millions of dollars of advanced robotics doing thousands of experiments in real-time.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I couldn’t fathom the amount of data that was being generated every minute. That’s when I came face-to-face with the reality that all of the technical skills that I learned in academia were meaningless.
The only skills of any value were those related to my ability to understand these robotic systems, to manage them, and to manage the technicians working alongside the robotics, and my ability to strategically map out which experiments to run next. In short, I realized that my transferable skills were valuable, not my technical skills.
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.