Hosted By

Isaiah Hankel
Isaiah Hankel
Chief Executive Officer Cheeky Scientist
PhD students

Join Isaiah as he shares how PhD students can have a job lined up with their graduation date

Here’s a quick rundown of this week’s episode…

  • First, Isaiah explains why PhD students should focus on their job search
  • Next, Isaiah reveals how lack of specific milestones holds PhD students back in academia
  • Finally, Isaiah describes how PhD students can have a job lined up with their graduation date

From This Week’s Show… 

Why PhD Students Should Focus On Their Job Search

If you are a PhD student, you may have several questions regarding your future.  How soon should I start my job search? If I’m a PhD student, what should I be doing, degree or job search? If I’m a first year, a second year, a third year, fourth, fifth, or even beyond a fifth, what can I do? How can I avoid the most common fate of ending up unemployed after I defend? Or I am a PhD student, I have defended and now I’m unemployed and even more broke. I’m working for free, while trying to do a job search. Some PhD students have also faced an awkwardness once they confessed to their PIs that they would like to graduate. 

How do you get around this? What are the activities you should be doing? How do you make an employer wait for you? Because you started your job search and you don’t have a defense date. Surely, there’s going to be some stress there. But that’s a good stress to have as opposed to being unemployed. The reason that this is so challenging is because there’s so much uncertainty. The path has not been laid out before. The academic department that you’re in is very vague on this on purpose. But the one thing they’re not vague on is that the mentors advising you cannot impede your career progress. 

Take charge of your career. Move ahead. Learn about the process and the best practices. Such as when you send your resume on a Monday, you can increase your hireability by 40-50%. Recruiters come in the most motivated on a Monday. They read through all the resumes and mark the ones they want to call back. And if your resume is in on a Monday, your odds of getting a call back again just jumped to between 40 to 50%. 

PhD students must focus on their job search as early as possible to avoid being unemployed after graduating. 

Lack Of Specific Milestones That Holds PhD Students Back In Academia

If you’re a PhD student, you are not crazy for wishing to advance your career. You are not crazy if you want to know the next step in your career. Neither is your desire to set a milestone, some actual goal or target weird. The academic mindset is flawed. They’re making it vague and not giving you a target on purpose so they don’t have to commit. Think of how hard you’ve worked for the promise of authorship on a paper. That’s what blows me away when I think about it. And when you’re out of academia, you’ll think about it too. But the order of the names so that our name could be second instead of third on a paper, that’s how small the stakes are now in academia, but they feel so massive. The authorship order was also used against me.

My PI said I couldn’t graduate with my paper since it’s a shared first author. That’s not in the graduate student handbook, at least not in my institution. You don’t have to have a first author paper to graduate from my institution. They said let’s look at all the figures in the paper to see what percentage of data I contributed to the paper. This happens a lot at different universities. That’s why they don’t make specific milestones.

But this is your life. It’s your career. You don’t want to only live on a stipend that’s about $1,400 a month. Not a penny put away for retirement.  Get a job, graduate and leave. 

How PhD Students Can Have A Job Lined Up With Their Graduation Date

Know that a mentor can’t kick a PhD student out. Stand firm. I can tell you from my situation, they have far less power than they’re making you believe. They are your mentors therefore they have an obligation to you. Your PI has to provide a safe environment for you to be trained in, and has to make sure that you can make progress. Instead they want to isolate you, maybe make you quit.

Don’t allow that to happen. You’ve produced new data. You’ve gone beyond mastering a field to pushing it forward. You have a story. A thesis is formed after years of dedicated research. That’s your leverage. And you’ve earned it.

Even if everything is going smoothly for you, you have to execute a job search. The most time intensive part of your job search is building up an industry network and industry credibility. You have to turn away from an academic mindset and the academic social norms. Rather turn towards an industry mindset, and industry, social norms. You have to start speaking the language of industry.

PhDs are highly valued in industry, highly valuable innately. 

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