1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Physics Leaving PhD, need advice on networking

  1. Mar 8, 2016 #1
    Due to extenuating circumstances that I am not going into at this point (however, I may provide additional details if necessary), I am considering I have a MS, which I earned prior to dropping out from my PhD. My MS project was on a theoretical project involving topological defects.

    Thus far, I have two categories of options:

    1) Transfer to another PhD program (to start in 2017)
    2) Give up on physics altogether

    In both cases I still am looking for a job. Whether I'll lean more towards 1 or 2 will depend on the job I will have. But the one item I feel is most critical for job searching in which I have weaknesses is networking. Perhaps some of you have some advice for networking that I do not know about... or even how to make use of.

    P.S.: Job postings sometimes seem to set the bar for qualifications rather high; what kind of qualifications are employers most likely to "let slide" if a candidate seems a little weak in an area?
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2016
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 8, 2016 #2


    User Avatar
    2017 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    Job postings are often a wishlist. If you would have everything listed there, you should probably look for a better job.
    Depends on the job and the advertisement.
    Missing work experience can be hard to balance with other things.
  4. Mar 8, 2016 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Networking Tip 1
    Manage your online presence. I don't get the precise meaning of your Avatar, but it appears to be a big red X through the NSERC logo. This potentially comes across as vindictive - whether intentional or not. If I were hiring and saw this it would draw into question whether at some point my company logo would be plastered over the internet with a red X through it.
  5. Mar 8, 2016 #4
    I have no use for that particular avatar anymore. That said, maybe a stint in the workforce could tell me whether I should try again for a PhD or not.

    Nevertheless, I know about all too many stories of PhDs whose research dreams are broken shortly after graduation, or otherwise abandoned physics altogether.

    I would have assumed that, with the economy down the drain, it reduces the amount of wiggle room employers may have to hire people...
  6. Mar 9, 2016 #5
    The economy has come back a long way - in the US at least - and while there's slack in some parts of the labor market, there are plenty of areas where qualified individuals are hard to find.

    I'm not clear on what you actually want to do , so no idea which group you're in. Probably the first, since you're entry level, but maybe not, and maybe not for long.
  7. Mar 9, 2016 #6
    I know that it's often a conundrum faced when your research is in some theoretical area: sometimes finance seems adviseable, at other times IT (in high-tech industries or not) and finally, high school or community college teaching (a PhD is overkill for high school teaching, even though the local districts would not balk at one, unlike some American districts). My strategy may not be very sound, but, if I end up disliking whatever job I end up taking, then I can think about going back to graduate school, in which case I will have taken a gap year.

    The main clue I have by now for cover letters is that I'm saying at some point: OK, here's what my physics training gave for traits, skills (problem solving, constant drive to learn, quantitative skills, quick learning being the traits I put forward almost every time and also attention to detail) and how I put these traits to use during my physics training, especially during the learning process of research. And, of course, mention how I heard about X job opening.

    And, because mathematics, science teachers are in short supply in high schools, a physics graduate would come in and may be asked to teach mathematics if that's the only opening that leads to a full-year teaching load. Of course I also mention what I liked most about my TA duties in those cases.

    Community colleges, however, are different in terms of supply vs. demand but I nevertheless indicated on cover letters that, due to the level of mathematical competency required to carry out a theoretical physics research project, I am willing to teach either physics or mathematics. (Community colleges in my area would teach at most multivariable calculus or linear algebra so I would think my claim has some basis; in addition, as an undergraduate I double-majored in physics and mathematics)

    Canada is another bag of beans, in which case the economy is actually going down the drain, especially oil or mining. And oil was often an area where theorists of all physical walks would try their hands, at least when it thrived.

    Regardless of where I would want to find work, networking is important.

    What I'm about to do is to attend some IT convention where some companies active in R&D present how IT fits into their latest advances. Here I could say to interested parties that 1) it's essential to have a variety of viewpoints for the best ability to innovate, and 2) once you have learned programming in a language, you have acquired skills that are transferrable across programming languages and hence I'm willing to learn additional programming languages (Matlab being my primary language). On top of anything I may have to say about why I am a good fit to work in a particular area of IT.

    P.S.: Because of extenuating circumstances, I had to take a medical leave. Last week, the conditions for return were given to me and returning to a PhD program without funding is a financial disaster waiting to happen and hence left the program. Also I needed to take care of myself before I could even think about getting a job.
  8. Mar 10, 2016 #7


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor

    I am also based in Canada as well (from Toronto, to be exact -- I believe you are from Montreal, based on the information you provided here on PF). The economy is especially weak in the western provinces and in parts of northern Ontario due to the fall in oil and other commodity prices, but the economic situation in my area is still fairly robust, with strong demand in areas like IT and tech. I don't know what the economic situation in Montreal is like, but (setting aside for the moment the situation with Bombardier), employments prospects in various technical areas are not that weak there either, if I'm not mistaken.

    At any rate, I think your plan to attend an IT convention is a good one, as this would give you an opportunity to explore what are some active areas of work involved, and provide you with the opportunity to network. I would also advise you to focus on learning the additional programming languages first (either on your own or through online courses like Coursera or EdX) prior to attending the said convention (depending on when the convention is expected to take place). I would also suggest that you set up a Github link to post any open-source projects or codes that you are planning to develop.

    If you are interested in pursuing a career in data science, I might also suggest you look into the following:


    I know the link above specifies those who have their PhDs, but perhaps the fellowship may well consider current PhD students or those thinking of leaving their PhD program as well.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted