How to get a job in business when you’re handicapped with a PhD #AMSRS 


In a breakout session, Clifford Lewis spoke about why companies should hire people who have PhDs. He gave many solid reasons why someone with a phd is a good investment. Now  I’d like to consider this thought from another angle.  

Forget why someone should hire a phd.  Consider how you as a phd can get a job in private business. What are the negatives you bring to the business world, because you do bring negatives and they aren’t insignificant.  

  1. Every project isn’t rocket science. For the most part, we aren’t saving lives. Every business problem does not require a comprehensive review of existing research, a twenty page methods proposal, and careful selection of the most technically correct method. Know how to use your best judgement about what is accurate enough and actionable enough. Know when to quit fussing with minuscule technical issues and press on. 
  2. Get it done in three weeks.  Sure, it would be nice to nitpick through every possibility over six to twelve months. That’s what you did in your phd.   But you’ve been paid because you’re supposedly experienced enough to know how to do the right things without spending all the time to research what is the right thing. Get.  It.  Done.  
  3. Use real words.   You’ve learned some fancy words over the years and those words have helped to you talk to academics.  Now put those words away.  You’re talking to business people who have their own language.   Don’t force your delightful vocabulary on them. YOU need to learn a new vocabulary.  
  4. Don’t talk down to people.  Just because you know a lot about one specific topic doesn’t mean you know more than everyone or are smarter than everyone.  If this is what you think, go back to academia. In the business world, you won’t realize when the person you’re talking to knows WAY more than you but they aren’t cocky and arrogant like you. 
  5. Don’t force people to call you Doctor Pettit. I know you worked hard for that title.  It’s an honour to be able to use the title. But really, get over yourself.  While you put in long exhausting days to get your degree, other people put in long exhausting days building a business.  They too were broke and ate cup of noodles along the way.  They too dug for quarters in the couch to make ends meet.  Use your precious title when it makes sense and that does not mean with your coworkers.  

Why is it hard for a phd to get a job in the business world! Because PhDs have a history of being annoyingly arrogant. Before you came around, other people made your career prospects more difficult. But this can stop with you.  Speak like a real person, be respectful of other people, work with deadlines in mind, and it will be far easier to find an awesome job with an awesome boss.  

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