Clemente, E. et al.
31-year old PhD graduate Dr. Jane Smith was recently shocked to discover that spending five years on her research project (which was “mostly pipetting”), while neglecting every other aspect of her life had not, it turns out, “opened many doors” for her, and in fact failed to equip her with the basic interpersonal skills required by most jobs outside academia.
“As a PhD student, I spent most of my time optimizing a supposedly novel DNA isolation method, which meant spending most of my week pipetting small volumes of various colourless fluids,” said Dr. Smith. “Sadly, the exquisitely fine motor control over my right thumb and the painful tendinitis that resulted from all those hours are hardly “relevant skills” when applying for a position as a sales manager in a biotechnology product development company.”
She also lamented that her ability to survive for extended periods of time on a strict diet of ready-made meals and coffee was not an advantage, but merely a requirement for many science office jobs.
“I can’t even put that I “work well in a team” because I’ve only worked with machines since my final group presentation in Bio 201.
Also, it seems that spending several years learning increasingly more about increasingly less will hardly give off the impression of someone who is “versatile” and “flexible,” which she says comes up on a lot of job postings. As for being a “people person”… Well, let’s just say I spent more time with the fruit flies I isolated DNA from than another human being during my PhD.”
Despite the inherent disadvantages, some recruitment managers deliberately seek out PhD graduates as a cost-cutting source of labor.
“Oh I love PhD graduates,” said recruitment manager Michael Cook. “They have excellent problem-solving skills, an outstanding ability to perform under pressure and, crucially, they thrive in poor working conditions and won’t ask to be paid for working extra time or for a salary that matches their qualifications.
“We just like to play hard to get with them really,’ continued Cook, “if they get very desperate to find a job, they’ll settle for anything.”