Cheeky Logo
Ready To Get Hired?
Apply To Book A Free Call With Our Transition Specialist Team

3 Strategies For Motivation And Accountability During A Job Search

Do you know anyone who actually enjoys the job search process?

Let me rephrase that: Do you know any PhDs who enjoy it?

As difficult as a job search can be, your degree can turn it into something else – something worse…

A nightmare.

Getting my PhD was no easy feat, but at least I knew what I was doing at my university.

I knew my lab, I knew how academia worked, and I had expectations for my average day.

Human behavior is strange in this way: Sometimes, we prefer a miserable known to a mysterious unknown.

I didn’t know what to expect from industry, and this kept me from holding myself accountable.

This was just when I ought to have been pushing hard toward my industry career.

But after I graduated, it felt so good to escape from my advisor.

There was no one to look over my shoulder – no one to criticize my failures.

I wasn’t accountable.

I just basked in the quiet of my apartment.

Meanwhile, my savings account was officially dry.

What finally motivated me to change my life was shame.

I was ashamed of how I was living – making excuses about missing rent, lying to family about how my job hunt was “going okay.”

I had worked myself almost to death for my advanced degree…

Only to act like this?

So I found ways of making myself accountable.

When there’s no one to report to, you have a lot of freedom on your hands.

This means you have to devise a system of personal accountability.

To build and implement this system, you may have to get creative.

Good thing you have a PhD.

How Developing Internal Motivation Will Make You More Accountable

phd laughing at unaccountably hilarious joke

As with most long-term projects, consistent accountability requires motivation.

Research done at the University of Rochester identified two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation is the kind of curiosity that drives you to pursue knowledge all the way to mastery.

PhDs almost always have a lot of this motivation.

Loving your field of study and wanting to advance it is what made you push your way through a doctoral program.

Intrinsic motivation derives from natural satisfaction – when the task is its own reward.

The problem is that intrinsic motivation rarely drives a job search.

What PhDs need is extrinsic motivation.

This kind of motivation drives some pursuit through a “separable outcome.”

In other words, the task is not its own reward – you’re doing it because of something you’ll get out of it.

The most effective way to develop extrinsic motivation is through internalization.

You must take external rewards and make them feel like they are internal.

If you want that industry career, you need to hold yourself accountable during your job search and recreate the power of intrinsic motivation

So how do you do that?

Get Hired By Following These 3 Strategies For Job-Search Accountability

The parts of internalization are:

  • Autonomy: The sense that you are in control of your actions (and therefore the outcome of your choices)
  • Competence: The sense that you are capable
  • Relatedness: The sense that you belong in some group that is pushing toward shared goals

These three components will fuel your motivation and help to keep you accountable.

Accountability means being responsible for how you spend your time.

If you can learn to obtain satisfaction from that responsibility—and you can—you will be able to stay on track during your job hunt.

You will be persistent.

And in a job search, persistence is half the work.

Here are 3 ways to internalize a strong sense of accountability and become an unstoppable job-searching machine.

1. Build a system to record your goals and monitor your progress.

phd studying and studying accountability

You need a record and a planning system – something to indicate how much work you’ve put into your job search and how you will move forward.

With no documentation of your job search process, it is too easy to lose track of your progress.

You will also forget what your goals were.

Your planning system can be as simple as a spreadsheet – something that records all the applications you’ve filled out, networking contacts you’ve reached out to, interview preparations you’ve checked off your list, etc.

It may be helpful to reward yourself on a schedule so that you can obtain short-term gratification.

An industry job can feel like a distant goal, and it doesn’t hurt to reward yourself in small ways throughout your job search.

Not only will a system like this keep you aware of your output, it will remind you that you are competent.

Careful documentation is a sign of mental power, and having a record of all the steps you have taken in your job search will indicate competence.

Only a competent candidate would pursue their career in this style.

And who is operating this whole system?

You are – the control and willpower belong to you.

This way, you will cultivate a sense of autonomy: another component of internalized motivation.

And that motivation will be a bright-burning fuel for your accountability process, keeping you on track and moving toward your goal: an industry career transition.

2. Get involved with a group that keeps you accountable.

phd browsing on laptop

Without Cheeky Scientist, I don’t think I could have transitioned.

I had the skill, the intelligence, and creativity to adapt to industry standards and find a job…

But I didn’t know that at the time.

Cheeky helped me locate these powers within myself.

Human beings are a deeply social species, and even the most introverted of us benefit from relationships.

PhDs looking for industry careers need a network exactly like what the Cheeky Scientist Association offers.

The more involved you are, the greater the rewards you will reap from your group.

In my case, Cheeky Associates knew exactly how I felt – they shared their own transition experiences, answered my questions, and acted as living evidence that PhDs can do just about anything they set their minds to.

My friends and peers were there every step of the way to follow up after I interviewed with a big company.

Or after I spent the weekend pumping out custom-written cover letters to give to my industry connections when they offered to refer me to their employers.

I aspired to accomplish what other successful PhDs in my group had accomplished…

Even if it meant dragging myself to a networking event and staying until I met my “connection quota” for the evening.

A group of like-minded people provides a sense of relatedness for its members.

This is another powerful way to internalize your sense of accountability: Your personal membership can make pursuit of that group’s goals innately desirable.

Your motivation to keep up the job search will be internalized.

And the positive feedback from the other members will build your sense of competence too.

It is not only unnecessary to search for a job alone – it’s less advantageous.

Smart, competent PhDs use the tools at their disposal to get the industry role they deserve – and that means tapping into the human resources of a like-minded group.

3. Experiment with different strategies to keep things interesting.

You don’t want to be trapped in the same process day after day.

If your job search feels like it’s dragging, it will be much harder to hold yourself accountable.

You don’t want to reach the point where you have become so bored with routine that accountability becomes a chore.

Remember that the key is to internalize motivation, and that means tying your job search closely to autonomy, competence, and/or relatedness.

Avoid boredom by mixing up your job-search tactics.

The best way to get a lead on a job is through networking.

And networking is a field wide-open with creative potential, which means that you can approach industry contacts in a lot of different ways.

You can build out your LinkedIn network and stay on other professionals’ radars by writing weekly articles that add value.

Or you can introduce two different contacts who seem like they can add value to each other.

From cold-calling to hosting your own networking event, the only limit on your networking potential is you.

Networking with industry professionals will enhance your sense of relatedness by making you feel like a member of the “industry group.”

This sense of relatedness can make you feel worthy and competent – who built out a network of important industry contacts?

You did.

And you did so autonomously.

Autonomy brings with it a sense of self-ownership – you own your actions, which makes it easier to stay accountable to yourself.

Plus, the more diverse and exciting your networking process, the more motivated you will be to maintain the effort it requires.

So remember that the 3 key things to focus on are autonomy, competence, and relatedness. By prioritizing these, you are helping to internalize your motivation to stay accountable for your progress toward finding an industry job. You can begin internalizing these things if you build a system to record your goals and monitor your progress. Then,get involved with a group that keeps you accountable. Finally, it’s a good idea to experiment with different strategies to keep things interesting. Keep pushing toward your future job, and don’t lose hope.

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


Sarah Smith, PhD, holds a degree in Biochemistry. A tireless science consultant at large, her rigorous pursuit of pristine labwork is unflinching. Yet Sarah’s keenest passion--guiding emergent academics into the business world--stems from personal experience with the transitional struggles she would have no PhD face alone.

Sarah Smith, PhD

Similar Articles

5 Miscalculations That Are Holding You Hostage In Academia

5 Miscalculations That Are Holding You Hostage In Academia

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

As a PhD student, I felt more and more lost the closer I came to graduation. That’s because I had started to doubt that I knew what I wanted anymore. You could say I was torn, but that would be an understatement. I was absolutely wracked with indecision. My original plan had been to continue on in academia.  I was going to apply for a postdoc.  Then on to Assistant Professor.  And so on. However, I was starting to see a real pattern emerge among the PhD graduates I knew. I liked to check in periodically with those colleagues and…

Is Cheeky Scientist A Scam? Who Shouldn't Join The Association

Is Cheeky Scientist A Scam? Who Shouldn't Join The Association

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Is Cheeky Scientist a scam?   Has anyone here had any experience with the Cheeky Scientist Association? Is Cheeky Scientist worth it?  What’s the deal with Cheeky Scientist? Is Cheeky Scientist legit? PhDs are trained to be critical.  In academia and in life, every decision they’re faced with is made with extreme prejudice. Examining facts, collecting resources, and determining what is a trustworthy source of information is one of their biggest strengths.  PhDs have superior critical thinking skills, so it makes sense for them to carefully consider any investment – even if it’s an investment in themselves. And in almost every…

Should You Delete Your PhD From Your Resume? The Answer May Surprise You

Should You Delete Your PhD From Your Resume? The Answer May Surprise You

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

If you have a PhD, you’re overqualified for an industry job. PhDs are lab rats and can’t understand business. You can’t get a job without industry experience. Do any of these sentences sound familiar to you? Have you been looking for an industry job unsuccessfully and have reached a point where you ask yourself if your PhD has any value whatsoever? These sentences are myths, commonly said by either academics who don’t understand anything about industry, or by other job candidates who don’t want to compete with PhDs. Hiring managers for PhD-level industry positions want the best candidates possible. After…

4 Skills PhDs Have That Employers Are Desperately Seeking

4 Skills PhDs Have That Employers Are Desperately Seeking

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

The number of PhDs wanting to transition out of academia increases every year. Initially, most of these PhDs were recent graduates and postdocs.  But as the crisis in academia has gotten worse, we are seeing a lot of adjunct and even tenured professors wanting to leave. They feel professionally unfulfilled in academic positions because they are overworked, work in uninspiring roles, and/or are paid marginal academic stipends, fellowships, and wages.  Far too many PhDs are unable to find any meaning or joy in their academic careers, which negatively impacts both their professional and personal lives. Unfortunately, many of these PhDs end up…

The Exciting (or, Dreadful) First 90 Days Of A New Job. Here's What To Expect

The Exciting (or, Dreadful) First 90 Days Of A New Job. Here's What To Expect

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Like many PhDs, I thought I could jump into my first industry position ready to hit the ground running. Much to my surprise, this was not the case.   During the first few months of my new position, I felt like I was drowning. Everything I thought I knew about my field, how research is conducted, and how companies operate was turned on its head. I was not prepared for this major shift, and it showed. I waivered between trying to impress my managers and sitting mute in meetings, intimidated by everyone in the room. If I had known what…

The Inside Scoop On The Industry Onboarding Process

The Inside Scoop On The Industry Onboarding Process

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Nothing could prepare me for the shock I received walking into my first industry onboarding experience. Literally, everything was different from what I had experienced in academia. The processes, the culture, the pace – absolutely everything. I also had no idea what onboarding meant. I heard the word tossed around but, to me, it was just the process you went through to get all the mandatory paperwork out of the way. That was so far from the truth. My first onboarding experience lasted almost 6 months. Yet, throughout that whole process, I had no idea that I was still being…

The One Productivity Hack Every PhD Needs To Get Hired In Industry

The One Productivity Hack Every PhD Needs To Get Hired In Industry

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

If your job search isn’t producing results, perhaps you’re doing too little. Or, just as likely, you’re doing too much… too much of the wrong things. You may think “If I just spent more hours of the day searching and applying for jobs, I’m sure to land a job eventually.” But investing more time into a job search without a strategy is time wasted. An effective job search strategy is one that conserves our most precious resource: our mental energy.   Protecting your mental energy is the one productivity hack that every PhD needs to get hired in industry. As…

3 Factors PhDs Must Consider When Deciding Company Fit

3 Factors PhDs Must Consider When Deciding Company Fit

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

If you recently started your job search, you probably feel the pressure of proving that you’re a good fit for the industry roles you’re applying to.  You have to carefully craft your cover letter, resume, and LinkedIn profile, and prepare for countless interviews just to prove you’re  qualified for a position.  This pressure can make you feel that employers hold all the power, and the only thing that matters is convincing them that you’re the best candidate for the role. Don’t let this pressure make you neglect other key components of a successful career, like company fit.  You’ll likely accept…

8 Work Qualities PhDs Should Assess When Planning A Career Move

8 Work Qualities PhDs Should Assess When Planning A Career Move

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

If you have a PhD, you’re among the 2% of the population who has committed to push a field of knowledge forward.  That makes you one of the most innovative people in the world. This is something special. As such, you deserve to work in a position where your tenacity and ability to solve problems are out of good use. Where you feel satisfied and are rewarded for your job. That’s why I encourage all PhDs to look for an industry position, because academia is a dead end where dreams go to die. However, you have to be strategic when…

Here's What Others Are Saying

"I'm happy to share that I'm starting a new position as Senior Manager, Project Management -Medical Affairs at Horizon!"

Geeta Peverada

Geeta Peverada

Senior Manager, Project Management - Medical Affairs

at Horizon

"I aced the interview, I signed yesterday and begin next month!"

Sinduri Vuppala

Sinduri Vuppala

Field Application Specialist

at Bruker Daltonics

"I signed with ASML for 117k! (asked for 120 and they came up from 110) plus a 10% target annual bonus."

Andrew Dawes

Andrew Dawes

Senior Applications Engineer


"Hi Isaiah, I hope you are good....I did receive and accept a job offer!"

Debadrita Pal

Debadrita Pal


at Sanofi

"I want to notify you I have gotten an industry position...Thank you and Cheeky Scientist for the lessons which made my job search strategy and CV more competitive."

Michael Dioha

Michael Dioha

Senior Energy System Analyst

at Clean Air Task Force

"Going with Nyxoah! Thank you for all your help Isaiah!"

Pratik Chhatbar

Pratik Chhatbar

Senior Clinical Research Scientist

at Nxyoah

"I proceeded with the offer we were discussing and i signed the contract a few days ago. I would like to thank you so much for your support throughout this process. it was really helpful and beneficial!"

Samir Tohme

Samir Tohme

Project Engineer, Optical Development & Simulation Expert

at EDL Rethschulte GmbH (FEV Group)

"I am happy to share I started a new job as a senior research scientist in medicinal chemistry at x-chem Montreal."

Nicolas Wlodarczyk

Nicolas Wlodarczyk

Nicolas Wlodarczyk Senior Research Scientist

at X-Chem

"I'm happy to share that I'm starting a new position as Clinical Scientist at Arvinas!"

Ana Luiza C. Zaninotto

Ana Luiza C. Zaninotto

Clinical Scientist

at Arvinas

"I have been quiet here for a while but happy to finally share that I've transitioned! It was a long and challenging journey towards transition, being at another full-time job plus being a toddler mom, but I am so thankful I found this supportive community that has helped me and motivated me throughout."

Shobana Sekar

Shobana Sekar

Senior Bioinformatics Scientist

at Roche

"I am happy to share that I'm starting a new position as a Research Scientist at Cellecta, Inc.!"

Chaitali Saqcena

Chaitali Saqcena

Research Scientist

at Cellecta, Inc.

"I'm happy to share that I'm starting a new position as Founder at Relearning Earning!""

James Wadsworth

James Wadsworth


at Relearning Earning

"I am happy to share that I'm starting a new position as a European Portfolio Manager at Scientific Instruments!"

 Shikha Acharya

Shikha Acharya

European Portfolio Manager

at Scientific Instruments

"The decision is final - it is Cormetech!"

Carlos Vargas Garcia

Carlos Vargas Garcia

at Cormetech

"I am THRILLED to share that I am starting a new position... my sincerest thanks and gratitude to all the inspirational people who've I met along the way in my journey as an aspiring MSL, who helped make this happen."

Leandra Mangieri

Leandra Mangieri

Medical Science Liaison

at Allergan Aesthetics

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.

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.

AI & ATS Resume Filters

AI & ATS Resume Filters

Isaiah Hankel

In today's competitive job market, understanding the impact of AI is crucial for career success. This involves ensuring your resume stands out in the digital realm, mastering your online presence, and being aware of how AI assigns reputation scores. Discovering how to leverage AI to your advantage is essential, as it plays a pivotal role in shaping professional opportunities.

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.