This week, I’m bringing you my conversation with Eric James Stephens, Founder of ChangeHigherEd, a platform where, in the summer of 2020, being unemployed, he set out to help PhDs understand their value through live-streamed events and workshops that ended up bringing in many thought leaders into the discussion and having over 250 registered attendees. With him, I discussed the pressure COVID has brought on the higher education space and the change this pressure means for PhDs considering their career options today.

Dark haired man with vest and tie smiling towards the camera. Background is a public garden with grass and trees

Eric James Stephens is the founder of #HireHigherEd, #ChangeHigherEd, and Thousand Plateaus Consulting, LLC. His organizations goals are to highlight the value of higher ed workers as they migrate to industry, government, and non-profits jobs outside of academia. During this foundational shift in the landscapes of higher education exposed by the COVID pandemic, Eric sees opportunity for change. 

CAREER UPDATE VIDEO: Since recording the interview, Eric has been hired full-time as a data analyst and we talked about his current position and about how it materialized live on Facebook! You can watch the replay here:

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How empowering creating a community or belonging to a community on a networking platform can be
  • How to approach someone you’d like to get mentorship from
  • Best practices on setting objectives strategically when planning your field work and your dissertation
  • Why, using storytelling, you should to talk with employers about what you did during your degree, that will bring value to their organization, not about your research subject
  • The power of striking conversations on LinkedIn for your job hunt

This episode’s pearls of wisdom:

“We have to understand that the type of academic that is coming to industry now versus pre-COVID, in general, is a very, very different person. Before COVID, people had a myriad of different reasons for leaving academia. Some wanted to leave, some didn’t want to leave, but there was a lot of resentment that’s there. Like residual frustration, like akin to leaving a church. Now you have people who are being compelled to leave, who don’t want to leave education, but they can’t anymore because there are no jobs there. And so I think that one of the things that needs to happen on the side of academia is humility. You have to be able to understand that people want your value but that’s not reason enough. You have to help them see it. You have to translate it. It also requires a dose of humility on the side of industry saying, like, you know, ‘I had these prejudices before – let me reel them back in a little bit and look at this candidate.”

“It was just a great experience that everything that I did, I made sure that it served more than one purpose. And so it was either I was getting a grade for a class and it was a chapter of my dissertation or I was getting a grade for a class and it was a conference presentation which was then going to go into a publication. Everything I did had a purpose. Don’t wait until you’re finished with the course work to come up with an idea.”

Eric’s links: LinkedIn –; Twitter – @EricJames_phd; Youtube –; Website –

You might also like the following episodes:

Chris Humphrey – Career Counseling:

Falisha Karpati – Skills Development:

Rebecca Maymon – PhD Recruitment:

Vera B. Chan – PhD Youtuber:

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