It amazes me that there aren’t more PhDs becoming knowledge-based entrepreneurs because there are so many reasons it is a great fit.
Firstly, if you list all the things you love about an academic career, you’ll find a huge overlap with entrepreneurship.
- Flexible schedule
- Life-long learning
- Impact/making a difference
- Knowledge creation and exploring new ideas
- Working in an area you are passionate about
Plus, a host of additional benefits that academia increasingly doesn’t allow for
- Location freedom
- Intellectual independence
- Income security
- Impact freedom
- Energy for passion projects
Of course, starting a business isn’t all rosy all the time and there are several disadvantages that you should reflect on before making the leap.
Loss of ‘status’ of being an academic/professor
Leaving academia is a huge change. It will impact your whole life and if you are anything like most PhDs (me included) you’ve unintentionally tied the majority of your identity on being an academic. There will be some hard work to do to redevelop yourself. It will hurt, but as someone on the other side, I believe it is so worth it.
Huge personal development required
I touched on this above, but it needs its own point because most new entrepreneurs are blind-sighted by the amount of personal development required as a business owner. Academia had me in a heightened state of stress constantly. Slowing down after leaving academia meant I realized how much I’d suppressed things that needed to be dealt with. Leaving allowed me to finally take care of myself. I’m so thankful for the personal development I have done (and continue to do). That cliché of well-being is no longer a pipe dream. I’m actively and intentionally creating a life of joy and prosperity.
There isn’t one path to success
No matter how unattainable it can seem, there is a clear path to success in academia. There are steps or promotions with specific requirements. You know if you are on track to the next level. The flip side of the autonomy you gain as a business owner also means you’ll often feel lost as to how to proceed and which direction is the way to go. (Shameless plug here to business coaching that can reduce your overwhelm and guide you to success that fits you).
Entrepreneurship can feel isolating
After spending a decade or so in an academic environment, no matter how toxic it was for you, going out on your own can feel extremely isolating. But of course, it doesn’t have to be. While your old peers/ex-co-workers will not be able to sympathize with your roadblocks and decisions there is a growing movement of PhDs leveraging their knowledge and passions to create businesses. Join us in The Leveraged PhD Facebook community.
So that’s it. 15 reasons entrepreneurship is a great career path for PhDs and 4 reasons it’s not.