After I finished my Ph.D. project, I joined a PostDoc position in another University, and now I decided to join the industry as I find it more dynamic more result driven and more challenging. However, I was rejected for many industrial positions as they were looking for someone with at least 2-3 years of experience in the industry.

I even heard harsh criticism from HR or even some old colleagues that I'd better look for academic and research-based positions than industrial ones. Even I received harsh comments like "You are not qualified to work in a company". However, I'm sure those people too have switched from academia to industry at some point in their career!

I always explain to the recruiting staff that what I was working on during my PostDoc project was a project given by an industrial partner and with metrics and expectations on the industrial scale. Doing so, I want to convince them that I am familiar with some of the main concerns in industrial projects and etc.

But what I face at the end is that total years I spend on my Ph.D. and those 2 years of PostDoc were thrown right out the window and I was disqualified in the recruiting process, even for non-senior positions!

P.S.: Before starting my Ph.D., I worked in a big company for 4 years in a full-time job and in another company for 2 years in a part-time job (while I was an M.Sc. student). However, those jobs were related to another industry and another field of science than what I studied during my Ph.D. and what I pursue as a career now. Also after finishing my Ph.D., I worked in a company for 4 months, but I left the company due to family reasons (relocation...).

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    What is N, the number of rejections you have had so far?
    – Fattie
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 19:14
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    You'd go back in time and do some internships in industry during your schooling so you'd have "real years of experience." Not a useful answer now, but FYI to others wondering about this that are earlier in their trajectory.
    – mxyzplk
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 20:27
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    Use the hidden job market. If you don't know what that is, google it. Also, apply using referrals. If you use a referral, you can get past the initial screening of HR. Even if you can't get a referral, always try to contact the hiring managers first, not HR. Do that even if the hiring manager ends up referring you to HR, or to the company job portal. Just make a note in your application that the hiring manager is the one who directed you to the job portal (if that's what happened). Commented May 25, 2021 at 20:28
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    Keep looking. It seems like some of the places you have applied for might've found you "overqualified", which should not be interpreted as a negative statement about you at all.
    – Pete W
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 20:53
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    Does this answer your question? How do I get industry experience if I don't have industry experience?
    – gnat
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 21:52

2 Answers 2


You're going to have to start at the bottom, like everybody else. When I started in industry with a PhD and one year's post-doc, I was treated just like any other new graduate. I was placed one step higher on the pay scale, but that was it.

It wasn't until another 5 years of working in industry that I got "senior" in my job title.

  • 1
    Yep, academia only gets you to the starting line in most industries. Others it's actually a point against you.
    – Kilisi
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 23:34
  • Yes, based on my short experience in the industry as a data scientist, I understand there are many key differences between Academia and industry in terms of the goals, atmosphere, work ethic and etc. But, I didn't perceive the industry as a completely different realm that needs years of training and experience to survive there. It's easily lernable, especially for highly educated people.
    – Bob
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 13:37
  • It sounds a bit weird that you weren't kind of fast-tracked into a team lead position or something like that (which seems to be the default route for people switching to industry after getting their PhD, as far as I observed). Maybe this differs by field, though, most of my contacts are in applied CS. Commented May 30, 2021 at 13:42

After my PhD I became increasingly unsatisfied with academia, and decided that it was not my cup of tea.

When I started job hunting most of the companies I applied for gave me the same feedback you have received, topping it with "just because you have a PhD you want to be paid more while being able to do less".

I kept on searching and applying, using what I was getting during the interviews to sharpen my own introduction to the companies, until I landed in a small company with the same attitude as above, but which wanted to hire a PhD. Formally because they had an ongoing research project funded by the European Union, actually because they had tax discounts for hiring PhD.

I spent there one and half year, and that helped me to add something to the work experience in my resume. Then I moved to two more jobs in small companies within a year, and after that more serious companies started looking at my profile, and I was hired by one of them.

TL, DR: it takes a lot of patience and perseverance, but keep applying: try to understand what companies want that you can offer, and use any chance you have to gain experience which you can reuse in a company and which you haven't developed during your PhD. And don't be afraid to start from the bottom, if that gives you something that you can reuse later on.

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