Four Things to Do Now, to Help Transition to Life Beyond Your PhD

Four Things to Do Now, to Help Transition to Life Beyond Your PhD

I listen a lot to Gary Vee (Gary Vaynerchuk). In a podcast1, he talked about 80% of football (NFL) players going bankrupt.

And it got me thinking about why so many PhD graduates (and students) struggle with the transition from PhD student to researcher. Transitioning from PhD student to life beyond their PhD. To working outside academia. Gary Vee gave four reasons; and I've translated those into their equivalents for PhD graduates (and students).

  1. Not building their network as they go - Gary talks about players not making use of the network they have access too when they have it. The network they gain as they go from college football to the NFL. As a PhD student you meet so many new people. At some points it feels like you meet new people everyday. Yet, few students think to add these people to their networks. Students don't send a thank-you or nice to meet you email. Students tend not to connect with them on LinkedIn. Students tend to forget who these people are. And when it comes to getting a job beyond their PhD, students have found all of these people, rather than being able to build on earlier interactions.
  2. Not developing their personal brand - Gary talks about personal brand as it (primarily) relates to social media. But it can be anything. And it does need to be beyond their peers (other NFL players). Researchers build their personal brand all of the time. It’s just limited to other researchers and discussing the pointy end of their research. Researchers talk about track record - that's personal brand. Researchers talk about grant success - that's personal brand. Researchers talk about publications - that's personal brand. But if researchers want a career with relevance beyond academic research, then they need a personal brand that transcends research. And I'm not talking about wanting a non-academic career. I'm talking about having impact outside academia. Making industry connections. Translating research into practice.

Make most of your

PhD - build your

network as you go

  1. Poor investment decisions (not spending their money wisely) - Although relevant to football players, it’s probably less relevant to PhD students. But it is also worth noting that the PhD stipend is probably the largest amount of money (as small as it is) you've earned in your life to that point. And over spending will mean you have less saved for when you need to make a transition to work, that might include a period of lower or even zero income.
  2. Not thinking about your life beyond football (PhD in the case of research) - I reckon this should have been number one. Not number four. This is relevant to footballers as much as it is researchers and PhD students. If you're not thinking about what happens beyond the current grant. Your stipend. Your PhD. You won't be ready for it. You won't know what to expect. You won't know what to do. You won't know how to handle yourself. The data suggests the only 1-6% of PhD graduates will have a long-term academic position. That means more than 90% WON'T have one! Think about it. Prepare. You'll probably have a better academic career as a result.

Dr Richard Huysmans has helped more than 200 PhD students, early career researchers, and established academics build their careers. He has provided strategic advice on partnering with industry, growing a career building new centres and institutes as well as establishing new programs. Richard is driven by the challenge of helping researchers be commercially smart. His clients appreciate his cut-through approach. He knows the sector and how to turn ideas into reality. To find out more, call 0412 606 178, email ( or subscribe to the newsletter.


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