I have a feeling this question has been posted before, but I wanted to ask as my situation is slightly different. I've recently decided to leave my PhD program in the social sciences in order to look for work. I've basically come to the conclusion after completing 3 full years, courses, and fieldwork that I don't want to be an academic but would rather put my skills to use with NGOs, non-profits, or the public sector. In many ways, the last hurdle of the PhD (i.e. writing the dissertation) seemed more like a barrier to what I wanted to do, rather than something that would bring me closer to it. I left because I wanted to go in a new direction, not because I wasn't sure that I was capable of finishing.
Anyways, my main concern right now is how to present this discrepancy on my resume. As I've been a TA and doing research projects since getting my MA, I've decided to list my years as a TA, and the rest under the position of "Researcher." I figure that the situation is a little too complex to really explain in a resume or cover letter, and that most employers will be able to read between the lines that I was probably in a PhD program. I've basically been marketing myself on my resumes/cover letters as a "researcher" with lots of research projects under my belt, without specifically stating under the "education" section that I have a partially finished PhD. The issue here is not the PhD (which I have left), it's how to accurately represent my experience and skills while in the PhD program. My motivation for putting "researcher" is that throughout my graduate studies I designed and carried out research as an "investigator" (under a supervisor's project), and "principal investigator" (my own project).
I figure that the 3 years of PhD work on research projects gives me (and any other former graduate student) skills that are valid to most employers. I just want to be able to address this discrepancy honestly and enthusiastically in an interview, rather than clumsily addressing it in a cover letter/resume. What do you guys think? Is this the right strategy to take?