How and Why a Ph.D. Can Succeed in Business (Opinion)

How and Why a Ph.D. Can Succeed in Business (Opinion)


Perhaps it was the dissertation’s isolation in the pandemic years that got me, or the fact that I finally felt at home again in my hometown of California after years of commuting for academic work. Perhaps it was a combination of things that got me to drop out of academics. But the most important – and the most positive – is the appointment in the CEO search world and in a thriving PhD team.

The CEO search industry, a form of high-end recruitment that focuses on roles from manager to CEO, has proven to be an excellent way to enter the business world. Its requirements of polished soft skills and a few hard skills mean that a Ph.D. can seamlessly transition into space and thrive. Furthermore, through the knowledge I’ve gained since my move, I’ve learned that searching for CEOs is by no means the only industry hiring for skills that Ph.D.s have in abundance, with consulting firms, businesses, and startups among them.

When looking for alternatives to the academic market, PhD holders often adhere to the idea that their skills cannot be transferred outside the higher education system. But visionary business leaders understand that the Ph.D. comprises a reasonably large pool of skilled and savvy contacts with the drive and dedication to be effective contributors and managers.

For example, while it is well known that management consulting firms like Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey & Company take home more MBAs than any other industry, a less well-known phenomenon is their growing interest in the Ph.D. as part of a long-development trend he calls Walter Keschel III “The Rationalization of Business” in his book masters of strategyIncreasingly, these consulting firms and the companies they influence are looking for talent in the rotting buildings of the humanities and social sciences departments to better deal with the changing demands of the workplace.

In my company, for example, Ph.D. Graduates can apply to Paid training for three months It may lead to full time employment. Our project managers look at four core areas of a graduate student’s skill set when we try to fill positions at the managerial and executive levels, whether for internal or external recruitment and promotion.

  • Fast fluency with new topics. Business leaders are constantly switching gears between new customers, projects, and problems, and they need to approach these issues with authority and decisiveness. PhD holders necessarily develop such skills in the classroom, in workshops, and across countless interdisciplinary areas of research. The ability to quickly learn and master new material gives the Ph.D. a strong advantage in work environments.
  • Communication and presentation skills. The core of the business world is communication and persuasion, both of which are skills that the Ph.D. is well equipped to employ. Whether in the seminar room, teaching undergraduates or sitting at a conference board, many PhD holders polish off well-designed presentations, communicate information effectively and respond to audience questions and comments with tact and diplomacy.
  • Management and organization skills. Many PhD holders have the diligence, organization, and leadership acumen to keep projects on track, work closely and effectively with teams, and stay focused on bigger picture concerns while solving daily challenges. They exemplify these management skills by teaching, managing long-term projects, organizing departmental events, and navigating institutional bureaucracies. These skills make Ph.D.s well-trained for entering a management level company.
  • Innovation and thought leadership skills. The PhD’s ability to research, evaluate, and critically examine information and trends enables them to analyze company processes, systems, behaviors, and data to imagine new ways of working. The ability to look from the outside with a critical lens and then recommend actionable innovations is a skill that employers cannot overlook.

All this does not mean that the transition into business is without a challenge. In the end, one of the greatest difficulties of leaving an academy may be the loss of identity and a sense of distinct purpose that an academic career can inspire. My transition into the business world was, no doubt, rather emotional.

But it was also useful. During that time, I learned that the skills, goals, and identities that a Ph.D. acquired during their time in higher education would not disappear or be in vain. Many employers look for the creativity, critical thinking, and passion that PhD holders bring to their workplace, and good managers mentor their employees to channel them effectively.

At my company, I have found that this approach to dealing with talent has paid off tremendously in terms of enhancing employee loyalty, creating a workplace culture of open collaboration and rewarding and elevating Ph.D.s who consistently outperform peers from other backgrounds. Such work is not available to everyone, but it is available to those who are looking for it.



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