Finding Your Flock As a PhD.

Last updated on January 29th 2024

Jul 26th 2022

written by Natalia Bielczyk, Ontology of Value, a reprint from the ECR Life blog.

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This text was fully written by humans.


  • The most common question PhD graduates ask themselves is: “How do I best format my resume?” while it should be, “Which tribe do I fit into?”

  • In this article, we introduce the concept of tribal cultures in the job market.

  • We also explain why you should interact with multiple working cultures before making the final decision which direction to go.

What Type of Work Environment Do You Prefer?

Today, the numbers are brutal: only a smile faction of PhD graduates has space to stay in academia. In these conditions, planning for a career switch after PhD has become a plan A rather than plan B. As a consequence, today, academic career has effectively become an alternative career path. So, don’t fall for the prestige trap – there is so much to explore outside the ivory tower!

PhDs develop their careers in multiple directions. Some of them hop onto governmental organizations. Others join corporations and consultancy companies. Some PhDs launch their businesses.

However, one question comes back over and over again in my conversations with PhDs who transition to the industry. This question is, How do I best format my resume?”

But perhaps, it is not the most fortunate question to ask, but rather, one should start with soul searching. Try asking yourself: “Which flock do I fit into?” Namely, what type of work environment do you prefer? 

Living academic life, we often fall for a so-called paradox of scientific expertise: we live in a bubble, surrounded by people of similar interests, and develop a belief that our way of learning and conducting projects is THE best or the only way. In fact, there are multiple environments where we could develop and do research as well.

We developed a special, intensive career development program tailor-made for PhD students and graduates who seek to start new careers in the 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 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 transition to white-collar jobs in the 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 flock. 

And after they had found the right flock, getting a job — either by applying for jobs or using networking — is only the remaining 20% of all the effort.

Career Management 1.0.1.: The Variety of Working Environments.

What is a “flock,” actually? Well, although every company and organization values strong working ethics, they have different cultures and organizations.

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 of 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 own flock is so important for your career path. You can find broad descriptions of the working cultures that have formed in the job market and their characteristic behaviors in the book “What is out There For Me? The Landscape of Post-PhD Career Tracks” by Natalia Bielczyk.

Let’s talk about the academic flock 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, a 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.

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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.

Do You Wish To Broaden Your Horizon? Network!

You can encounter diverse scenarios in the open sea called the job market. Therefore, it is important to question all the assumptions about jobs and the job market that you’ve developed in academia.

So, start interacting with professionals who have a different view, or working style, or represent different values than you. You might feel surprised when you discover that despite both of you having a strong working ethic, you still live according to different rules. And, you will soon realize that you resonate with some of them 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. For more advice on how to network like a pro, please check our other articles:

Networking Opens Doors.

In general, networking is what opens doors in professional life. According to research, even in academia networking is the key factor for career success!

And when you knock at the door asking about jobs, your hosts see 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 about where you should start looking for your optimal working environment in the job market? Perhaps a little mental experiment can help you. Namely, think about the 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?

Lastly, consider inviting professionals working in a field interested for you to informational interviews. Asking strangers for a kind conversation and collecting valuable information is easier than you might think. Please find more information in our article “Before a Job Interview: How To Conduct an Informational Interview.”

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Conclusion: So, What Type of Work Environment Do You Prefer?

The bottom line is: that 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. 

If you would like to discover which type of work environment you naturally fit best, try the Ontology of Value® Test! This test was designed specifically for professionals with academic education, to help them decide which career path to explore next, given their natural abilities to create value as a professional.

It is not only a test but also quality time that will allow you to look deep into yourself and focus on yourself and on your professional future.

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Are you planning to upgrade your career to the next level or change your career path? Are you pondering your options? Don’t be alone in the process – join us at our live online Ontology of Value® Career Mastery Program!

At this intensive online training, you will focus on discovering your identity as a professional, and learn effective career development strategies for landing great jobs.

We will help you choose the right career path, assist you in landing your new job, and teach you self-navigation strategies that will guarantee your success in professional development, and serve you for a lifetime!

Please find all the information about our incoming, game-changing program here:

Please cite as:

Bielczyk, N. (2021, March 26th). Finding Your Flock As a PhD. Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/what-type-of-work-environment-do-you-prefer/

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