So many people have asked me this question, so I thought I would write an article to try and address it. In my experience there are three main reasons why people want to label themselves. The first one is they are going through a change, perhaps in their mind or in their environment or both. The second reason is when you start asking yourself questions like, “who is this person” or “what does this person look like” or even “where is this person” this triggers you to look for that label.
The third reason I hear from interviewees is they want to identify themselves as being more than “just a pretty face”. Perhaps they are feeling passionate about an area they are passionate about and would like to convey this passion to employers. Perhaps they are really passionate about building an online business. Maybe they are passionate about starting a family. The point I am trying to make is if you don’t want to be judged, why are you doing the job anyway?
The most common interview question employers might ask questions like these: “Why are you passionate about [fill in the blank]?” or “What do you think your strengths are?” The problem with these questions is that often what the interviewer is looking for is a list of your strengths, and not the kind of passion you are showing towards your work. Indeed many people forget that in order to have real passion you need to do work in your spare time.
My challenge is for you as a PhD candidate who has done the hard work, to take the initiative to do more than complete a doctorate program. Take this initiative now and get involved in a local NGO, human rights organization, volunteer organization, even a political party or a business. Wherever you choose to spend your time, make sure you take the initiative to raise awareness about your Ph.D. and your work. The more you participate, the more you will learn and the more likely you will become credible.
What do you do with your degree? The truth is that most Ph.D. candidates do not find employment within academia. Yet even then there are many ways to apply your knowledge to the workplace. You can start working in an administration or HR department and focus on improving the efficiency of that department. You can also consider working as a manager at a startup, consulting firm, or investment firm.
In all honesty I never knew that there were so many opportunities available for PhDs. If you are feeling discouraged that you can’t get a job in academia then this is why. The world looks upon those with PhDs with reverence, respect, and not derision. What you are doing with your PhDs should be to use that recognition to not only further your professional development, but to go out and fulfill your dreams, and goals.