Mar 26, 2021 | Finding Your Tribe As a PhD.

written by Natalia Bielczyk, Welcome Solutions, a reprint from the ECR Life blog.

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What Type of Work Environment Do You Prefer?

PhDs develop their careers in multiple directions. Some of them hop onto governmental organizations. Others join corporations and consultancy companies. Some PhDs launch their own businesses. However, one question comes back over and over again in conversations with PhDs who transition to industry. This question is, “How do I best format my resume?” But perhaps, it is not the most fortunate question to ask, but rather, it should be, “Which tribe do I fit into?” Namely, what type of work environment do you prefer?

We also developed a special, intensive career transition program tailor-made for PhD students and graduates who seek to start new careers in industry; please find all the information and registration links HERE

Why Resume Does Not Contribute All That Much to Your Career Management.

At first, asking about the resume sounds legitimate. After all, the way you format your resume clearly matters, as it influences your chances in the job market to land the job. But at the same time, it is a misfortunate question to ask. Why is this the case? Well, there is one issue that pops up here: Did you make sure that you are applying for the right job in the first place?

Some PhDs transitions to white collar jobs in industry much smoother than others. These are the people who spent at least 80% of their job search time on learning. Namely, in the transition process, they focus on learning about themselves, studying the general structure of the job market, and looking for a group of professionals who think and act alike. In other words, on looking for their tribe. And after they had found the right tribe, getting a job — either by applying for jobs or by means of networking — is only the remaining 20% of all the effort.

Career Management 1.0.1.: The Tribes in the Job Market.

What is a “tribe,” actually? Well, although every company and organization values strong working ethic, they have a different culture and organization. Some of them prefer flat management structures, while others are strictly hierarchical. Some of them promote almost unconstrained creativity, while others require adhering to strict procedures.

However, when you take a helicopter point of view at the job market, you can notice patterns. There are categories of environments which develop according to certain rules. In these environments, employees share personal values to some degree, and are usually acknowledged and promoted for specific types of competencies and achievements. A well-suited environment can make a huge difference to your level of work satisfaction. This is why looking for your tribe is so important for your career path.

Let’s talk about the academic tribe for once. In terms of working culture and mentality, academia is quite uniform. The vast majority of researchers worldwide are liberals rather than conservatives. The academic working style has the same casual and non-procedural demeanor in every country.

Some values are generally appreciated in academia, and promoted throughout the academic career. These are: diligence, scientific rigor, high-quality technical writing, strong working ethic, the ability to foresee the impact of your findings, and choosing the right projects accordingly. One could also argue about creativity as a crucial factor of success in academia, but opinions vary here.

Of course, differences exist among countries. However, in general, we are connected to the same global hive mind, well represented by the Academic Twitter community. For this reason, we often take many aspects of professional life for granted – which can lead to many surprises and disappointments.

White Collar Jobs Are Associated With a Variety of Working Cultures.

The situation is different when we find ourselves out there in the open job market for the first time. We soon realize that industry is much more diverse than academia. What is not welcome in one working environment might be highly rewarding in another one. For instance, most startup founders love to see unconventional and edgy solutions to everyday problems, while corporate managers prefer you to stick to the procedures and find ways to become maximally efficient within this framework (or, “industry standards,” as they use to call it.)

In academia, we are mainly evaluated for the quality of the scientific content. On the contrary, in jobs related to (social) media, the way you express yourself and your personality can matter much more than what you produce. In white collar jobs in public institutions, your PhD will be recognized as a source of authority, while in private companies, employers will value your profit-making potential rather than your theoretical knowledge and education history.


You can encounter diverse scenarios in the open sea of employability in the job market. Therefore, it is important to question all the assumptions about jobs and the job market that you’ve developed in academia. Start interacting with professionals who have a different view, working style, or represent different values than you. You might feel surprised when you discover that despite both of you have strong working ethic, you still live according to different rules. And, you will soon realize that you resonate with some more than with others.

Many of them will have similar life and professional goals, and (mental) habits. Perhaps they will even understand you without words, share your sense of humor, and make you feel at ease around them. And when you knock at their door asking about jobs, they will likely see a material for a coworker in you. They might even create a new position to hire you and keep you around. And in that case, the way your resume is structured and phrased barely matters. And that’s the Career Management 1.0.1.

Do you still hesitate upon where you should start looking for your tribe at the job market? Perhaps a little mental experiment can help you. Namely, think about people who work with you. How would you prefer them to feel when you enter the room? Depending on the answer to this question, you might have preferences for different types of working environments. This exercise is described in detail in the blog post entitled “How Would You Like Them to Feel?

So, What Type of Work Environment Do You Prefer?

The bottom line is: transitioning between two different career tracks requires free exploration and multiple human interactions. Start with finding “your people” and then, quite possibly, you won’t even need a resume anymore. Instead of asking yourself where you might find the highest number of vacancies, or the highest salaries, ask yourself what type of work environment you prefer.

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Please cite as: Bielczyk, N. (2021, March 26th). Finding Your Tribe As a PhD. Retrieved from

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