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Louis C.

Pure philosophy is a hard sell, but combined with other skills, it is very strong. A friend of mine has made a career of using his hermeneutics skills in law, and had a tremendously successful career. An alumnus of my department made a career in consultancy, as he used his background in theory of action to help create better decision-making processes. Another friend is working in a company that creates metrics and evaluates and reports on public programs to foster research and innovation – he is heavily relying on his formation in philosophy of science, and keeps doing fundamental research (although it is perhaps more applied than it was).

There is no single way to get there, but it has a lot to do with skills to valorize and market your research and expertise. Part of it is what we might entrepreneurial skills: finding problems you can solve, empathizing with those who are facing those problems, doing market research, learning to frame your skills and knowledge as solutions for those who need it, learning to pitch, learning to reach the right people, to find those who can help you in it, those who you can team up with, etc. This also applies if your project isn't entrepreneurial.

I've been interviewing PhD's recently because we're trying to facilitate transfer of knowledge towards innovation in our university, and what I learned is that you need to look out for ways to get those skills early on, as you're starting your PhD, or even before. Get side courses and attend workshops in management, marketing, accounting, etc. Attend industry mixers. Try to meet people who have experience in setting up projects. Or look for projects that interest you, and try to meet those behind them. Keep an open mind. I know I find some events pretty crass, and there's always dubious mythology in the discourses, whether it's about tech startups, worker-owned coops or social innovation projects, but these people all have something important to teach.


I do think it is very hard to be respected in philosophy without both a philosophy Phd and a university position. I suspect that even if someone did legitimate great work, few would take it seriously because of the lack of "credentials". Almost always when I have seen philosophers discuss "lay philosophers" it has been to ridicule them. I wish this wasn't so, but, alas...

As for employment, some employers like a philosophy PhD and the skills it offers, but I don't think there is a way to "sell" that. Those who are impressed by it tend to have some background that explains why they like philosophers. (Maybe their best friend is a professor, they had a class they liked once, etc.) I tend to agree with everyone else that it is smart to acquire additional skills while in grad school. While I do think it is possible for a philosophy PhD to find a great position outside of academia, I think this usually requires 6 months to a year of dedicated training and/or job search. Hence, it is very hard for those who don't have resources to support themselves during the transition.(i.e. a spouse with an income, the possibility of living with parents, etc.)

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