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The Number One Reason PhDs Fail To Get Hired In Industry

Today, I want to talk about the number one reason you are not being hired.

You might think it’s because you are overqualified or underqualified for your target position.

Or that you just can’t get hired because you lack industry experience.

But the number one reason you are not getting hired is because you are invisible to industry hiring managers and recruiters.

They simply don’t know who you are or the value you bring to the table.

Understanding and accepting this should encourage you to change the way that you approach your job search. 

Only then will you increase your chances of getting into a career where you can have an impact and are compensated fairly.

This is what one of our members had to share, once they got hired in their dream industry position.

I am excited to let you all know that I have accepted a job offer as an associate consultant! Having just defended my PhD, this means that I will start working in my new job right away without any gap. I would like to thank this group for guiding me in the right direction, teaching me about the importance of networking and reaching out to people, and showing me ways to demonstrate my transferable skills.

We live in an attention economy and as a PhD who has spent their entire life in academia, you are likely attention poor.

But you can change your approach and stop being invisible. 

number one

You Need To Change Your Approach If You Want To Gain Visibility

As PhDs, we’ve trained for years to keep to ourselves. To become isolated in the ivory tower of academia. 

And in our isolation, we create a fictional image of the industry landscape. 

We tell ourselves stories that fit our situation. 

That our PhD background is too niche or we lack some specific skill on the job posting, and that’s why we’re not being contacted by hiring managers.

But since creating Cheeky Scientist, I have seen thousands of PhDs getting hired into a variety of industry positions, no matter how niche their PhD or how little industry experience they had. 

The number one thing you need to do if you want to get hired is to commit to gain visibility. You will achieve this by reaching out to people, following the right strategy, and communicating your value in a way that resonates with industry employers and employees.

This might be uncomfortable at first. 

Getting off the top of our mountain peak of higher education and starting at the bottom of another mountain is uncomfortable.

But, if you want a PhD-level job, you’re going for a job that’s in the top 0,1-0,5% of jobs available. You can’t just wing it and expect one of those jobs to miraculously finds you.

3 Things You Need To accept If You Want To Get Hired In A PhD-Level Job

So, how do you change your approach to stop being invisible and finally get hired?

Number one: You have to change your mentality and commit to the process. Even if it is uncomfortable. 

Below, I’m going to discuss three things that you have to accept if you want to stop being invisible. 

Time and time again I have seen PhDs getting breakthroughs in their job searches once they accept each of these three points.

1. Technical skills are not going to increase your visibility

Despite what they say publicly, most industry companies care very little about your technical skills, your specialty skills. 

They can teach those skills to any new hire, especially a PhD who will learn new things faster than most employees.

You have seen me talk about this before. 

If you are uploading thousands of resumes to job hiring sites, filling your LinkedIn profile with technical jargon, and spending hours talking about your specialty skills when a recruiter contacts you or you get an informational interview, you are wasting your time. 

Applying to industry positions with a resume filled with technical skills is not going to get you any attention.

Most companies use applicant tracking system software to instantly filter out more than half of all applications. So, your technical resume is probably not even being read by a human being.

And in the off case it is, you might actually be burning bridges instead of gaining visibility.

Most industry hiring managers and recruiters don’t have a PhD. They don’t understand the niche technical skills that you developed during your PhD.

If your resume or LinkedIn profile are filled with technical skills, recruiters and hiring managers are going to reject your application. 

Worse, these gatekeepers will never go back to a LinkedIn profile once they have rejected an application. 

Many top employers have a mandatory 6- to 12-month waiting period before they will reconsider you for a position at their company.

So, stop focusing on your technical skills when it comes to your job search.

2. You are invisible by choice

Maybe there were a number of times when you were invisible by ignorance.

But if you are reading this, especially if you have been following Cheeky Scientist for a couple of months or a couple of years, ignorance has gone away.

Let’s admit the truth. You are invisible by choice.

You can get an employer’s attention, you can build a healthy network of industry employees. You can follow the right strategy to get hired. 

If you are still invisible it’s because you don’t want to go through the uncomfortable process of reaching out to industry employees and start building your network. 

If you are telling yourself that you are not being hired because you don’t have experience or because you don’t have the right skills, you need to bear some responsibility and admit that you could work harder, change your approach, and think differently.

I want to take away those excuses because I want you to get hired. 

It is so much easier to say that you are not being successful because of the lack of some skills, some certification, some degree, some experience…

But the hard truth is that you are not getting hired because you refuse to reach out to meet employers and employees. 

It’s your refusal to have challenging conversations, to do the new things required by people in industry that’s keeping you from transitioning.

You have lots of tools at your disposal to get an employer’s attention. 

You can find everything you need to know about an employer on their website, they might even have a careers page that gives you specific information about how to get in touch with them. 

You can find every employee who works at a given company on LinkedIn. You don’t even need to be a premium member. 

Just go to the company’s page and click on the number of employees. 

You can email these employees or simply pick up the phone, call their office, or ask to speak to someone in the hiring department.

There is no excuse for not reaching out and increasing your visibility. 

3. You have to speak the language of industry if you want to get hired 

You already know you can’t just rely on technical skills if you want to get noticed, you need to reach out to industry employers and employees.

But there is a right and wrong way of reaching out. If you want to stop being invisible instead of burning bridges, you need to speak the language of industry.

You have to understand industry etiquette and the steps of the hiring process to avoid wasting your efforts.

We already discussed that uploading your resume to fortune 500 companies’ job sites is a waste of time because 98-99% of those companies use applicant tracking system software to filter their candidates.

Creating the best resume is a waste of time if you are applying online instead of handing it to a referral.

At the same time, you can waste amazing interview skills by not having a strong resume or LinkedIn profile because there are people in the hiring committee who will base their decision on your application package alone.

Maybe you spent three days completing every section of your LinkedIn profile, but failed to correctly reply to recruiters once they started reaching out to you. Once again, you’ve wasted your time. 

There’s a long process here. Your job search has to be done correctly. 

This is not academia. If you are executing a poor and sloppy job search, you are wasting your time and it’s time to stop.

I just want you to start thinking about the importance of communicating your PhD value to your audience, using your audience’s language in a way that’s easiest for them to consume.

This might sound like bad news, but really it’s good news. It means you can instantly put yourself in a better position to get hired and become more visible by learning industry etiquette before starting your job search.

Concluding Remarks

The number one reason you are not hired yet is because you are invisible to industry employers. The sooner you accept that truth, the sooner you can change the way you approach your job search and start getting actual results. Stop focusing on your job search, take responsibility for the fact that you are invisible right now, and focus on reaching out to people in a way that they understand. Only then will you stop being invisible and get hired in the PhD-level position you deserve.

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.

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Dr. Isaiah Hankel is the Founder and CEO of Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by millions of PhDs and other professionals in hundreds of different countries. He has helped PhDs transition into top companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Intel, Dow Chemical, BASF, Merck, Genentech, Home Depot, Nestle, Hilton, SpaceX, Tesla, Syngenta, the CDC, UN and Ford Foundation.

Dr. Hankel has published 3X bestselling books and his latest book, The Power of a PhD, debuted on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list. His methods for getting PhDs hired have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Nature, Forbes, The Guardian, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine and Success Magazine.

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

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