What is the biggest struggle that PhD scientists have in industry?
It’s not a lack of skills.
It is thinking and working habits learned in a research lab that don’t work in a company setting.
There’s a lot of discussion on LinkedIn about the struggles PhD scientists have moving into industry recently, and for good reason.
While there is a growing realization that most of us will not have academic careers, most of us still grad
uate and head out into industry will little understanding of how the industry game is played.
It’s very different than what we learned brought success as a graduate student. While the skills we learned are very useful in industry, some of the thinking and working habits that we learned are not.
✅ One of these is our habit of looking for the ‘right answer.’ ✅
This is a habit that began when we wereyoung and went to school where we found that if we knew all the right answers on the tests we were given, we would get a good grade. 🅰️
We learned that if we were smart and had the ‘right answer,’ we would succeed. We learned that there was a ‘right way’ to do things, and that if we found that ‘right way,’ we would be successful.
And this pattern continued all the way up into university where we were took a predetermined set of courses and passed them all, we would receive a degree. 🎓
I call this ‘formula’ thinking, because like a formula, if you have all the elements of the formula correct, you get the outcome you are looking for. A formula describes the ‘right way’ to do things.
As scientists, this habit is reinforced even more, because our job is to figure out how the universe operates…to find the formula or the ‘right answer’ that we can publish in books and journals. And we can rely on that ‘right answer’ working. Always.
But that is that’s not how the ‘real world’ works.
The real world is more like a game, where there are many ways to win. In a game, you have competitors, and you may have to change your strategy as they change theirs.
In a game, there is no ‘right way’ to win.
And in your job in industry, there is also no ‘right way’ to win. Everything you do, from designing a career path, finding a job that fits your strengths, to developing a successful product, depends on human beings and the economy and many other factors…most of which cannot be predicted.
In your career, there is no ‘right way’ to succeed.
If you want to be successful, treat it like a game and stop looking for the ‘right way’.
Instead, look for a way to win the game with the strengths you have, and the people you have around you, and the way you see the playing field.