I have just started my PhD and although I love research and everything that accompanies it but I am put off by Academia a bit and would prefer an Industry job at the end of my PhD.

What can I do differently during my PhD years with this ambition in mind?

I have read "PhD Grind" by Philip Guo wherein he states that at the end, he disliked Academia and thus his motives at conferences and other events changed from "crazy networking". Further, he spent more summers working in companies (Google and Microsoft Research, in his case) than with other research groups.

Specifically, should I handle the following any differently:

  • Relation with Advisor
  • How I spend my summers
  • Conferences
  • Publications

4 Answers 4


If your goal after grad school is to get a job, then during grad school

  • you should do the things needed to impress the people you want to hire you and to be accepted and esteemed in their community.
  • Slightly more concretely, find people who now have the career that you would like to have, and during grad school do stuff that they have done.

I still think networking is key, but now you may be networking with a different group of people.


I think the number one thing you can do is plan your internships appropriately. Want a job at Google? Spend a summer there in a product group. Ditto for twitter, facebook, ebay, etc: all of these companies have large internship programs open to PhD students. Not only will this give you contacts inside the company, it will give you an idea for the kinds of problems that they need to solve, which can (if they are interesting), inspire the direction of your research.


I think it is really critical that at each stage of academia you are thinking about the next stage and how to get there. For those interested in staying in academia, I take the often controversial view that you should do everything possible to delay getting to the tenure review (extra time as a student and post doc). For someone interested in an industry job, it is all finishing asap. For industry, PhD and post doc experience just isn't that valuable. With that in mind ...

Relation with Advisor

You should tell your advisers that you are interested in industry jobs. This will help them tailor how they market you to your colleagues. It might mean they are more receptive to adding an industry contact to your committee or changing your topic slightly. They also might help you finish faster.

How I spend my summers

Summers should be spent working on your PhD (i.e., trying to finish as quickly as possible) and picking up skills useful for industry.


If your goal is industry, conferences are no longer about meeting colleagues and selling your research. It is about hanging out with the vendors and industry reps. Small conferences, which are great for meeting a post doc adviser, are probably less useful.


Back burner them. Take second authorship and let someone else spend the time writing them. They are not going to be critical for getting you an industry job or promotion.


From my own experience:

  • Do well in all your courses. Those who will be hiring you in industry generally places a higher importance on grades than those in academia.

  • Publications are still important, but not nearly as much as in academia. Having a few papers under your belt will demonstrate that you know what you're talking about and that your research has been reviewed and accepted by your peers.

  • As was stated in other answers, find out what skills are necessary in the field you wish to enter, and master those skills. Oftentimes this will involve familiarity with a set of techniques or understanding of a very specific field. This is significantly different from academia. Remember, people in industry will want to hire you so you can help their business make money. The faster you can do that, the more easily you'll find employment.

  • Network, network, network. If you know specifically what you want to do in industry, talk to everyone you can (people in your academic program, friends, relatives) about possible leads in industry. If you don't know which field you want to enter, start talking to people very early on so that you can appropriately customize your training to your needs.

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