Danger: PhDs at work (outside academia) #phdlikeaboss

Having read a lot of career-related blogs and comments written by PhDs/ABDs/adjuncts/academics in the past few months, I’ve been struck by the lack of confidence some folks have in their own skills and abilities. Typical comments I’ve seen include ‘Academic training hasn’t given me any skills I can use in the outside world’ or ‘I can’t turn my academic CV into a resumé’, or other variations on these themes. This kind of thinking is a real psychological barrier to getting a job outside of academia and I really want to do something to help. I already wrote a post on the 20+ transferable skills a PhD gives you. I appreciate though that it can sometimes be difficult to identify your own skills, and see how they can be put to work in non-academic job situations.

So to help to bring these skills to life for you, I’m going to tweet a post at the end of each day, when I feel I’ve used a skill in my day job which I learned when doing my PhD (these days I’m a project manager for a values-based bank). The tweet will contain a short description of the situation, identify the skill I used, and finish with the hashtag #phdlikeaboss, to make it easy to search for and archive. All in 140 characters! You can follow me @chrishumphrey.

Update – see below for my tweets from February and March 2013:

Further reading – discovering your potential

Discover the 20+ transferable skills that make PhDs totally employable, by Chris
What do you want to be when you grow up?!, by Chris

The Four Steps to Finding Your Passion, by Stephanie Huang

About Chris

I've made the transition from a PhD in Medieval Studies, into a career in business, consulting and project management. But I want to give something back to the researcher community, and help everyone who's facing the challenge of finding work outside academia. Jobs on Toast is a way for me to share my insights and experience, helping you to make a successful career change. Use my five-step plan to get started right away!

6 thoughts on “Danger: PhDs at work (outside academia) #phdlikeaboss

  1. I’ve been thinking about this too but I do wonder whether this is a reflection of the fact that no-one has told that they’re learning ‘x’ skill when they’re doing some particular PhD related task.

  2. Hi Anthea, yes good point – since many skills are acquired ‘on the job’, rather than through direct training, there is no clear mechanism to help PhDs to extrapolate or infer their transferable skills. So it can feel like these skills are lacking, when it’s really the awareness of the skills that’s the issue.

    What are some solutions to this problem? Who has the responsibility for improving awareness – supervisors? The university careers service? The individual themselves?

  3. Hi Anthea, just read your post, you make some very good points about the degree of awareness that PhDs have about their own skills. Project management is a great example – everyone does it, but do they know they can do it?!

    I definitely agree that people are more empowered if they know what they can do. Certainly in the UK there is a drive to make postgrads more aware of their marketable skills – what about other countries though?