I interviewed some PhD grads who currently work in industry but…

I didn’t get permission to share their advice on this blog. *sigh*

They were all fantastic to talk with and their advice was top-notch, however, I learned that for complicated reasons which I’m too naive to appreciate right now, sharing opinions and goals publicly can have a real impact on a person’s industry career! Also, it’s important to realize that for the people that I spoke with, their journeys are very personal and it’s important that they are able to tell their experience in their own words when they are ready, and not have it told by someone else.

I think that for most of us PhDs, we know somebody working in industry, so it isn’t difficult to reach out and ask industry yourself, if you are interested.

Here’s how I did it:

  1. I asked around professors and graduate students for contact information e.g. e-mails of graduated students in industry
  2. I cold-call e-mailed these industry PhD people expressing my interest in learning about their experiences and being modest in my own lack of knowledge with industry
  3. Usually, they wrote me back happy to help me out, and we would schedule a time when I could call them
  4. When I called I would try my best to be polite and I would have some prepared questions, such as (but not limited to)
    1. What do you work on for projects?
    2. What kinds of skills do you need to do your job?
    3. How did you acquire these skills while in grad school?
    4. How did you make the decision to go to industry?
    5. How did you make the transition to into industry?
    6. What were some of the important factors on your resume that landed your current job?
    7. Where you do you see yourself after 1 year? After 5 years?
    8. What kind of salaries can be expected in this field (please don’t press them for their specific salaries – this is kind of a touchy subject)
  5. Don’t forget to thank them for their time! And maybe ask if you may follow up with them in the future (I followed up with most of these people 1 year later)

I would like to add that even though I can’t share what I learned from these conversations, I think that these kind of closed door discussions are excellent because these graduated students can offer you their candid opinions on life, and these are the best opinions to get!

If I had to do this again, I might even suggest sending an e-mail blast to the grad e-mail list asking to talk to any students currently in industry. I think that a lot of alumni still check their grad e-mails and I have a hunch that if you did this you might get flooded with responses.

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