From PhD to a career in business

Today, more and more PhD students continue their career in business and industry. PhD students have a lot to offer both public and private companies, and it is a good idea to start planning your career during your PhD studies, according to former PhD student Brandi S. Morris and career counsellor Vibeke Broe.

2019.06.24 | Sinne B. Jakobsen

Everyday, Brandi S. Morris draws on the experiences she gained as a PhD student. Foto:AU Foto

For PhD students, it can be difficult to imagine a life and career beyond the university walls. However, only about a third of all PhD graduates from Aarhus BSS actually continue their career in academia. The rest find jobs in private or public companies that benefit from the knowledge and experience offered by a PhD graduate.

One of them is Brandi S. Morris, who defended her dissertation at the Department of Management in February on the topic of storytelling in environmental communication. She now works as a Sustainability Consultant at Grundfos in Bjerringbro. Before embarking on her PhD, Brandi enjoyed a career in the private sector. This meant that right from the beginning she was determined to make her research useful to companies: 

“It was important to me that my research didn’t just have an academic contribution, but also contributed to solving specific problems for companies or society,” she explains. “Making your research applicable is good to keep in mind throughout the PhD programme, because it really makes a difference when you’re looking for a job. It‘s also a great boost to your self-confidence once you’ve completed your PhD. You really have something to offer.”

In general, contribution is an important point for Morris. As a PhD student, you have to remember that you come with a lot of knowledge and experience that has great value for the companies, she stresses. When you ask Brandi if she can use her experience from the PhD degree programme in her current job, she answers promptly:

“Yes, I can. I’ve learned how theoretical knowledge can be applied in practice, because when you identify the underlying mechanisms, you are able to approach complex challenges in a more systematic manner. This is a huge advantage when you join a company.”

Consider your career during the PhD

At Aarhus BSS, there is good help available for PhD students or junior researchers who would like a career outside academia. During the entire PhD programme, AU Career PhD & JR offers to help you clarify your career aspirations and as something new, you are able to attend ongoing workshops in strategic career thinking and development. According to Career Counsellor Vibeke Broe, it is a good idea to think about your future career as early as possible:

“As a PhD student, the sooner you think about how you want to use your degree, the better,” she says. “In that way, you can plan your PhD programme accordingly and also seek your supervisor’s counselling. It doesn’t have to be that time consuming. You actually just need to reflect on why you do what you do – and how you want to use it in the future.”

Morris first contacted AU Career PhD & JR towards the end of her studies but she benefitted a lot from the conversations with Broe:

“It really helped talking to someone who could see everything from the outside,” she says. “Vibeke has a very practical view on things and that’s nice when you’re in the middle of the process. She gave me good advice but also got me to reflect on the type of job and company that would fit me and my values. It put many things into perspective and helped me on the way.”

Brandi’s top three career tips for PhD students

  1. Strive to make your research useful to companies and society.
  2. Know your worth - there is a world outside of the university and your knowledge and experience have great value.
  3. Carefully consider your own values with regards to your future career and workplace.

Would you like to know more?

Contact career counsellor Vibeke Broe

Contact Brandi S. Morris on LinkedIn

Read more about the offers from AU PhD & JR

Aarhus BSS