I quit my PhD! What now?

Published: April 22, 2022

I quit my PhD

In a seminar for doctoral students, we look at strong and weak parts of a CV. After we discussed how we can put the many highlights of Elizabeta’s career into the best light, Gregor starts to grumble: “I think I have the exact opposite of all these brilliant experiences.” Twelve pairs of eyes turn on him. Their owners can’t wait to learn what has disgraced his past so much. “Aborted doctorate,” he adds. “Do I just leave a gap there and hope that nobody notices? Or do I write bluntly: Professional loser who didn´t get along with his supervisor?” Uncertain giggles mix with nodding. Nobody envies him for having to place something like that in his resume.

Make an unpleasant decision in a messy situation – a highly relevant skill for an industry job.

The same Gregor had caused a hearty laugh just half an hour earlier. We talked about the difference between university and industry. He had leaned back, stroked his beard and let us know:
“The most important thing for me is the timeline. In industry everything is determined by tight project management. At university time is measured in, let’s say, geological
dimensions. Projects are running until death separates you.”
Most industrial employers are happy with their doctoral employees. If there are problems, the complaints are always the same: The scientific qualifications are rarely lacking. Rather, companies criticise the lack of adaptability to the new culture in industry and the different way of working. From this point of view, an abandoned doctorate can even be viewed positively. If projects run badly, you need a number of skills. Biting through is one of them, as everyone who has completed a doctorate knows. Gregor also shows that he can make an unpleasant decision in a messy situation – a highly relevant skill
for an industry job where the pace is different than at university.
Of course, you should never speak negatively about former employers. However, there are many reasons why an employment relationship can become unproductive. That’s why
you don’t have to hide bumpy spots in your resume.
Just describe what you did, why you took certain decisions and what you learned from it.


This article was originally published in Nachrichten aus der Chemie (02-2020). See the German original here.

If you´re interested in selling yourself in the job application phase- whether you finished your PhD or not- then you might like our talk Score your first job: the application phase.

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