Near the end of my PhD - when to start applying for jobs

  • Thread starter gbeagle
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  • #26
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One thing about MBA's is that most good programs have a requirement of a minimum of a few years full-time work experience. I would hope that research done toward the PhD would count toward that, but I'm not sure.
Something about MBA's is that with a Ph.D., even an MBA from a bad program might be useful. The thing about MBA's is that a lot is about branding and the branding element is less important than the education element for most people, whereas if you have a Ph.D., that's your brand.

It's like a dancing bear that speaks French. The fact that the bear speaks French at all is more interesting than how well the bear speaks. If you get a bottom tier no-name el-cheapo MBA, then you are a dancing bear that speaks French badly.

Also, I think that getting an MBA after you get a physics Ph.D. is a bad idea, and probably worse than a job working at Burger King. It's just less bad than getting a CS or MFE degree. One thing to remember is that school make money selling these sorts of degrees, and because they are selling them, there are some conflict of interests. If you go to a sports car dealer with cash wanting to buy a new expensive car, you can't expect the salesman to talk you out of it, because frankly that's not his job. So if you try to get information form a school about whether the degree is useful, or whether or not there are cheaper ways of getting what you want, you aren't going to get unbiased information.

There is a huge problem with "placebo degrees." For example, if you set your admission standards high enough, you won't have any problem finding jobs for graduates, but then you have to ask if the people that got jobs would have been able to get them without the extra degree, and in finance and physics Ph.D.'s, the answer is yes. If you pay $20K to a university and then get a job you would have gotten anyway, you boost up the employment statistics of the university, pay them money, and are much more useful to them than they are to you.

One other thing about MBA's. One curious statistic is that the US graduates about 1000 physics Ph.D.'s from all schools. Harvard MBA graduates about 900 people each year, and there are 100,000 MBA's produced each year.
 
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  • #27
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Agreed. Also, with your PhD research, thesis, and defense, you liked had to manage a budget, staff (RAs), present work/papers in a peer review setting, worked within deadlines and stress.
In fact, physics Ph.D.'s usually don't have to manage budgets and staffs. (Post-docs do) Stress is high, but deadlines in academia tend to be a lot more flexible than in the business world. Ph.D.'s do have to present results, but there are some major differences between how information is presented in academia and in industry. People in academia tend to be a lot more interested in how you got from A->B, whereas in many industrial settings, people just care about the conclusion, and how you came up with it is something they don't have time to worry about.

Also in academia, the focus is on getting things right. In business, there is more focus on getting things done quick, because a better answer that comes too late can turn out to be totally useless.

The reason I think a job in BK would be useful is that in graduate schools (with some exceptions like class TA's), there's no need to punch a time clock, and that results in an environment which is quite different from industrial environments. Also the social hierarchy in universities is just different than in business. It's less formal in some places, more formal in others.

It's hard to explain the environment of a Ph.D. to someone that hasn't gone through the process, and usually it's a waste of time, because if you have to explain why you should get the job, you'll lose out to someone that doesn't have to explain. One thing that *is* common in every company that I've every worked in is that you have Ph.D.'s in management positions so you don't have to explain anything.
 
  • #28
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Oh, as someone starting a MSc in HEP-ex, this topic is very discouraging.

Why don't you guys stop talking about flipping burgers, minimum wages, etc. and tell us about how to transition from this field to finance for example?
 
  • #29
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Why don't you guys stop talking about flipping burgers, minimum wages, etc. and tell us about how to transition from this field to finance for example?
What specifically do you want to know? I've posted a ton of stuff on this topic in this forum.
 
  • #30
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What specifically do you want to know? I've posted a ton of stuff on this topic in this forum.
Thanks for your answer.

I would like to know what you must have for this transition to be possible. Any specific abilities? connections? experience in something? Age?

Is this better than the post-doc -> assistant professor -> tenure road in terms of how soon you will be having a decent and solid salary?

I assume it is a different world, how much pressure is there? Similar or more?

P.S.: I looked through your posts but couldn't find specifically this. If you can post links it would be great.
 
  • #31
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I would like to know what you must have for this transition to be possible. Any specific abilities? connections? experience in something? Age?
I don't know of any physics Ph.D. that wanted a job in finance that wasn't able to get one. The big catch is that you have to move to NYC, so if you hate NYC it's not going to work. It's very, very useful to have a computational background.

Also I don't know anything about what the situation is like with people with only masters Ph.D.'s. Financial firms will hire people with masters degrees but usually only after work experience in a non-financial company.

Is this better than the post-doc -> assistant professor -> tenure road in terms of how soon you will be having a decent and solid salary?
Starting compensation is typically $90K+$50 bonus. One catch is that NYC is wildly expensive. If you adjust for cost of living, then it's not that much better than working with a technological company elsewhere.

I assume it is a different world, how much pressure is there? Similar or more?
It's not a different world. It's not so much "a job in finance" than "a technology job in a finance company." Pressure is more or less the same as grad school.
 
  • #32
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I don't know of any physics Ph.D. that wanted a job in finance that wasn't able to get one. The big catch is that you have to move to NYC, so if you hate NYC it's not going to work. It's very, very useful to have a computational background.

Also I don't know anything about what the situation is like with people with only masters Ph.D.'s. Financial firms will hire people with masters degrees but usually only after work experience in a non-financial company.

Starting compensation is typically $90K+$50 bonus. One catch is that NYC is wildly expensive. If you adjust for cost of living, then it's not that much better than working with a technological company elsewhere.

It's not a different world. It's not so much "a job in finance" than "a technology job in a finance company." Pressure is more or less the same as grad school.
Thank you for your answers!

I still don't hate NY because I've never been there XD, however I'm in Toronto and since this city is also kind of a financial capital, I suppose there could be something in the area here.

What I don't get is this: this financial companies hire PhD physicist over computer scientist to do this job? why? Is there something in particular that makes us a better choice?

The money seems to be a lot better than what I've heard for post-docs around here, so this option might become my goal. I love physics, but I guess I love money more :)
 
  • #33
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I still don't hate NY because I've never been there XD, however I'm in Toronto and since this city is also kind of a financial capital, I suppose there could be something in the area here.
I'm pretty sure there is. The thing that you need to do is to get in touch with some local headhunters, and they'll tell you what the local market is like.

What I don't get is this: this financial companies hire PhD physicist over computer scientist to do this job?
They don't. It's just that this is a physics board and not a CS one. It's not that a finance company would necessarily prefer a Ph.D. physicist over a Ph.D. CS, but rather than Ph.D. physicists can get jobs in the field.

The money seems to be a lot better than what I've heard for post-docs around here, so this option might become my goal. I love physics, but I guess I love money more :)
Curiously, the reason I got into the field was because I love physics. One problem in career advice is that people make it seem as if it's a choice between love and money, when in fact it isn't. The trouble is that after you run through two post-docs, assuming you don't get tenure track then you'll be both without money and without any means of doing physics.

My career plan right now is to make a ton of money, retire early, and then spend the rest of my life doing astrophysics.
 
  • #34
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Thanks again for your answers!

I'm pretty sure there is. The thing that you need to do is to get in touch with some local headhunters, and they'll tell you what the local market is like.
I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with this. Are these like agencies that control this type of jobs?

They don't. It's just that this is a physics board and not a CS one. It's not that a finance company would necessarily prefer a Ph.D. physicist over a Ph.D. CS, but rather than Ph.D. physicists can get jobs in the field.
Mmmm, I see. So I guess that it might be good to have extra knowledge that might excel your application when competing with CS. Would taking some sort of finances classes be useful?

Curiously, the reason I got into the field was because I love physics. One problem in career advice is that people make it seem as if it's a choice between love and money, when in fact it isn't. The trouble is that after you run through two post-docs, assuming you don't get tenure track then you'll be both without money and without any means of doing physics.

My career plan right now is to make a ton of money, retire early, and then spend the rest of my life doing astrophysics.
I see your point, and in my humble opinion, your plan is awesome! Just to make sure, are you already working in the field?
 
  • #35
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twofish-quant has always been awesome!!!
 
  • #36
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I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with this. Are these like agencies that control this type of jobs?
Hmmm, if you are serious, which i doubt, in the US headhunters are professional recruiters that work under contract with companies to find the right person for a job. They screen out all the bad resumes, personalities, work histories, gather references on candidates, etc., and hand them to the company. As such, the company looks through the best 3-5 resumes for interviews, instead of weeding through 100s. Recruiters are paid by the company. They are your best bet for finding out what jobs are likely to be and stay in demand. IMO, it's the most efficient method, and being in physics, efficiency should appeal to you.
 
  • #37
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hey screen out all the bad resumes, personalities, work histories, gather references on candidates, etc., and hand them to the company. As such, the company looks through the best 3-5 resumes for interviews, instead of weeding through 100s.
In the situations that I've been in, usually the HH company hands the company about 20 to 30 resumes. The HH does *not* choose the best resumes, but filters out anyone that obviously has no chance of getting a job.

This turns out to be more difficult than it sounds. For example, suppose I put out a want ad for someone with experience in quantum field theory and numerical relativity. The second that e-mail hits the internet, you will be spammed with *thousands* of resumes from people looking for work, and most of those people will not have anything experience with QFT.

So you ask someone to grind through those resumes and look for the few that have any chance of knowing something about QFT. Now the HH knows nothing about quantum field theory, but they do know enough to know that someone with an associate degree in accounting is probably not qualified.

Recruiters are paid by the company. They are your best bet for finding out what jobs are likely to be and stay in demand.
If they will tell you......

Here it gets Kafkasque. Suppose I mention that I'm looking for people with experience on QFT. At that point everyone is going to put QFT in their resume. So the solution is to be intentionally vague about what the company is looking for.

IMO, it's the most efficient method, and being in physics, efficiency should appeal to you.
Job hunting is incredibly inefficient, but it's inefficient for interesting reasons.
 
  • #38
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I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with this. Are these like agencies that control this type of jobs?
High technology companies usually go through headhunters to get jobs rather than hiring directly.

Mmmm, I see. So I guess that it might be good to have extra knowledge that might excel your application when competing with CS. Would taking some sort of finances classes be useful?
One thing to remember is that you are not looking for a "finance job" but rather a technology job in a finance company. Personally, I've found just buying books on Amazon to be useful. It turns out that most of the stuff that they teach is either wrong or irrelevant, but the important thing is to learn the vocabulary.

For example, you can read up in Hull about short rate models and three factor interest rate models. It turns out that those are currently irrelevant, and what's in the book is wrong. However, if you know what a short rate model is, then when someone tells you that it's wrong, it saves a lot of time.

But for physics Ph.D.'s, the advice that I have is to focus on being a good physics Ph.D. If financial firms want an MBA, they'll hire an MBA. The reason that Wall Street is attractive to physics Ph.D.'s is that Wall Street specifically wants physics/math/engineering Ph.D.'s for certain jobs.

I see your point, and in my humble opinion, your plan is awesome! Just to make sure, are you already working in the field?
Yup.
 
  • #39
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In the situations that I've been in, usually the HH company hands the company about 20 to 30 resumes. The HH does *not* choose the best resumes, but filters out anyone that obviously has no chance of getting a job.

This turns out to be more difficult than it sounds. For example, suppose I put out a want ad for someone with experience in quantum field theory and numerical relativity. The second that e-mail hits the internet, you will be spammed with *thousands* of resumes from people looking for work, and most of those people will not have anything experience with QFT.

So you ask someone to grind through those resumes and look for the few that have any chance of knowing something about QFT. Now the HH knows nothing about quantum field theory, but they do know enough to know that someone with an associate degree in accounting is probably not qualified.



If they will tell you......

Here it gets Kafkasque. Suppose I mention that I'm looking for people with experience on QFT. At that point everyone is going to put QFT in their resume. So the solution is to be intentionally vague about what the company is looking for.



Job hunting is incredibly inefficient, but it's inefficient for interesting reasons.
True, job hunting isn't efficient if you approach it from the SPAM angle. The HHs I've worked with don't "know" my field, but they know enough to look at a CV and see if the correct content is there. Then they contact past employers, contact references, check into your certifications, and then HH does a phone interview with you to decide if they want to present your CV to a client. In my field, the HH gets paid equal to 30% of your annual salary, so they are expected to do more than gather CVs. As far as numbers of CV, in my experience, it's been 3-5 they pass on. No HH wants to look bad sending in substandard candidates. By substandard, I don't mean bad people, rather people that don't meet the requirements of the client as to knowledge, experience, personal skills, etc. HH rely on repeat business, so they aren't going to send unqualified candidates or bad attitudes to a client.

Since the HH only gets paid for placements, I've ALWAYS found them helpful in identifying fields that need staffing. They see you as potential revenue. As with most professions, there are people (HH) that specialize, so make sure you use a HH that normally works your profession. The annual Society meetings and publications would be reasonable starting points for looking at HH. You can use more than one HH, but keep it to yourself. This isn't real estate, HH don't share contact lists, client lists, or candidates. Usually, the only "exclusive agreement" is between a HH and an employer. When you get a job, thank all the HHs for their efforts, since you never know if you will need them again... and you probably will.
 
  • #40
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The HHs I've worked with don't "know" my field, but they know enough to look at a CV and see if the correct content is there. Then they contact past employers, contact references, check into your certifications, and then HH does a phone interview with you to decide if they want to present your CV to a client.
Just curious what field that you are in? My field is finance and software development in central Texas and NYC.

In those areas, no one will ever contact a past employer or contact references. People move a lot from company to company, and sometimes you just don't get along with your old company. Certifications are assumed to be accurate. They will do a through background check when they are ready to make the offer. It's rather expensive to do a background check (and they will look into criminal history and credit reports), and it makes more sense to do it when you are about ready to make an offer.

Also, you may be asked to sign waivers giving the company the right to get personal information and you may also be asked to pee into a cup for a drug test. Now, I'm not willing to drop my trousers just to get my resume looked at, but if they are about to give me an offer, then they can take my urine.

The HH will talk to you for about an hour but they usually won't go into technical questions.

In my field, the HH gets paid equal to 30% of your annual salary, so they are expected to do more than gather CVs.
That's about how much HH in my field get paid. There is also a game of "tag". If HH#1 doesn't forward your resume, and HH#2 does, then HH#2 gets the cash if the candidate gets hired.

The other issues is that (with one or two exceptions), HH's don't have the technical ability to do in depth screening. In order to really evaluate a physics Ph.D.'s resume, you need another Ph.D., and if you have a Ph.D., you can usually find something to do that pays more than working as a HH. There are a few exceptions to this.

No HH wants to look bad sending in substandard candidates. By substandard, I don't mean bad people, rather people that don't meet the requirements of the client as to knowledge, experience, personal skills, etc. HH rely on repeat business, so they aren't going to send unqualified candidates or bad attitudes to a client.
It's a deep market. If you take 1000 resumes, you can get usually get 30 qualified people. Also there is a trade-off between technical brilliance and bad attitude. I know of one person that is horrifically bad at interpersonal relations, but he is so freaking brilliant that it doesn't matter.

Since the HH only gets paid for placements, I've ALWAYS found them helpful in identifying fields that need staffing. They see you as potential revenue.
On the other hand, the company is also revenue and one purpose of having HH do the review is so that the company doesn't have to let people know what is going on.

You can use more than one HH, but keep it to yourself.
The last time I looked for work, I must have talked to about thirty HH's, and then sent my resume to over a hundred. Once you figure out who is good, then you can work through those, but when I started out, I didn't know who is good.

One of the reasons to use a HH, is that you get more honest feedback from the company. One thing that happens a lot is that you send a resume, and nothing happens. It doesn't get approved but it doesn't get rejected, and nothing happens. A HH prevents that from happening. Once a HH forwards a resume, you'll need to tell a HH that a resume has been rejected and why to keep him from calling you about it.
 
  • #41
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I might as well give some closure to this thread in case it's useful to anyone searching the forum in the future. I ended up getting a software development job pretty easily. My software development skills/experience were what ended up being relevant. My degree title itself wasn't particularly relevant as far as I could tell.

The timing for starting my job search (about 6 months ahead of finishing), worked out pretty well in this case. That could very well just be luck on the timing though.

Also thanks everyone for the advice in this thread!
 
  • #43
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Congrats also.

Out of curiosity what type of software job did you get?
 
  • #44
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Out of curiosity what type of software job did you get?
It's a development job working on analytics software.
 

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