Hosted By

Isaiah Hankel
Isaiah Hankel
Chief Executive Officer Cheeky Scientist

Join Isaiah as he shares about unemployment and the professional values important for PhDs to get hired into top industry positions

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

  • First, Isaiah explains why many PhDs face unemployment
  • Next, Isaiah reveals why PhDs should not feel held back by a sense of duty
  • Finally, Isaiah describes the professional values important for PhDs to avoid unemployment 

From This Week’s Show… 

Why Many PhDs Face Unemployment

Unemployment is one of the biggest fears in the life of a PhD. Many PhDs end up unemployed for a variety of reasons. It is important to convey the reality to PhD students on what was in front of them, as well as to post-docs who had been chasing postdocs, lest they face unemployment. Many of them end up with stints of unemployment. For some their postdoc tenure ends after several years, for others it may be sooner. 

There are several reasons why PhDs end up unemployed. Many PhDs even pursue jobs that do not require a PhD degree, and stay complacent in their academic engagement. A lot of PhDs are realizing right now that there is no academic recovery, that post-pandemic academia was not the part of the recovery. In fact, things got worse. There is a lot of data from tenure professorships, full-time adjuncts trickling all the way down to the fellowships indicating that academia has not made it out of the fall since the pandemic. Tenure track positions are scanty. PhD stipends have seen a 5 to 8% decrease. The academic wages are going down and more PhDs continue to end up unemployed.

Academia has a modest number of career options left. It cannot support the increasing supply of PhDs added into the system through increased graduate enrollments.

PhDs Should Not Feel Held Back By Duty To Work For Academia

While student enrollment into undergraduate programs has decreased since the pandemic; enrollment in graduate programs have increased. There are more PhDs than ever before in history. And none of them are being trained on how to do anything outside of academia. The career counselor departments in academia are led by lifetime academics, who have never had an industry job. This is the reality of the situation.

Although part of it can be attributed as a  failure of the system, there’s also another aspect to it. That’s a personal responsibility of the PhD themselves. As PhDs you have to have self-awareness and professional awareness. It’s noble of you to do extra work in academia, to finish the paper. But you have to be aware that in doing so you are advancing their career, not yours. If you’re one of the rare PhDs who has been able to overcome obscurity and invisibility to get hired in the industry, then do not be held back by some false sense of duty to your PI professor advisor. Rather you have to have professional awareness and  move forward with your career. If you do not want to face unemployment, especially a PhD coming out of a graduate program, have a job lined up when you defend your thesis. 

 Data suggests about 58 to 82% of PhDs will face unemployment. You don’t have much time. Stop working for free even after you have successfully defended your thesis. Your PI or your advisor should never allow that unless they’re giving you part of their salary. Do not ever let your PI, professor or advisor make you feel guilty or make you feel like it’s your responsibility to work for free.

Professional Values Important For PhDs To Avoid Unemployment

Only 1.6% of the population has a PhD. PhDs are an elite population, highly sought after in the industry. Your values, your expertise are in the industry. And as a PhD, you have to understand yourself. You have to create self-awareness because it translates into professional awareness. Lack of awareness is the number one reason that PhDs face unemployment. A lack of professional awareness and lack of understanding yourself dictate your success rate. Values, social norms and the language are the three key things needed now for PhDs to transition into respectable positions in the industry. 

Your values get you to your goals. There’s a set of academic values. These values end up achieving the end goal of academia. It has placed a value on learning only. Academia has set little or no value on translational work. Academia has concepts, they don’t focus on development. Almost zero development work is done in academia. Some places are trying to change this, but that has led to a bunch of people getting stuck in a learning loop. Really good at talking theory, but unable to produce anything that will sustain academia. So when people stop donating money and when there’s no more room to increase tuition for undergrads to prop up higher education, you get the result of those academic values.

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