A collection of advice on going from academia to industry

Following up on PhD Skill Arbitrage, here’s some things I read while thinking about that post.

From academia to industry: a short guide at the NatureJobs blog

Transferable skills: Helping PhDs and postdocs find careers also at the NatureJobs blog

Transferable skills: Keys for standing out from the crowd again, at NatureJobs

(Gee, you’d think Nature was in the business of telling PhDs how to escape.)

Transferring Your Skills to a Non-Academic Setting at the Chronicle of Higher Education

What does industry want? (Interview with Greg Sheehan) at the LatTrobe RED Alert blog

Bad strategy and good strategy

Richard Rumelt1 on bad strategy:

By the early 2000s, the juxtaposition of vision-led leadership and strategy work had produced a template-style system of strategic planning. (Type “vision mission strategy” into a search engine and you’ll find thousands of examples of this kind of template for sale and in use.) The template looks like this:

The Vision. Fill in your vision of what the school/business/nation will be like in the future. Currently popular visions are to be the best or the leading or the best known.

The Mission. Fill in a high-sounding, politically correct statement of the purpose of the school/business/nation. Innovation, human progress, and sustainable solutions are popular elements of a mission statement.

The Values. Fill in a statement that describes the company’s values. Make sure they are noncontroversial. Key words include “integrity,” “respect,” and “excellence.”

The Strategies. Fill in some aspirations/goals but call them strategies. For example, “to invest in a portfolio of performance businesses that create value for our shareholders and growth for our customers.”

He says a good strategy has three parts:

1. A diagnosis: an explanation of the nature of the challenge. A good diagnosis simplifies the often overwhelming complexity of reality by identifying certain aspects of the situation as being the critical ones.

2. A guiding policy: an overall approach chosen to cope with or overcome the obstacles identified in the diagnosis.

3. Coherent actions: steps that are coordinated with one another to support the accomplishment of the guiding policy.

If you’re at the mercy of bad strategy, I recommend this shortish article in McKinsey Quarterly or Rumelt’s book Good Strategy/Bad Strategy.


  1. Rumelt is a “guru” according to The Economist. 

Good Advice

Three instances of good advice that came down the wires recently:

How to be moderately successful (via Jean)

Start every to-do list with “make a to-do list”
That way you can tick one thing off straightaway, which feels successful.

But my favourite:

Go places using your legs
After you get up at a normal time and eat your normal breakfast, perhaps you might consider going somewhere using your legs.

What do you want (via Inger)

If I ask you, “What do you want out of life?” and you say something like, “I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like,” it’s so ubiquitous that it doesn’t even mean anything.

A more interesting question, a question that perhaps you’ve never considered before, is what pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for? Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.

New Year’s Sprezza-lutions (at and via Put This On)

Resolve to be cooler. Wear your favorite clothes all the time. Find some new favorite clothes. Take good care of your things and better care of yourself. Broaden your cultural horizons. Read good books. See more art. Listen to good music, and new music. Eat/cook delicious food. Travel as much as you can. Work to figure out what you’re best at, and do that thing all the damn time.