of PhDs are in “alternative” careers.

Yet so many PhDs feel lost when they’re ready to leave the bench.

Let’s get you a job.

It's time to Free the PhD, together.
It's time to Free the PhD, together.
Research trainees and employees – graduate students, postdocs and academic research professionals – power scientific innovation. They are doers, thinkers, teachers, hackers, and dreamers, producing both incremental steps and quantum leaps that fuel discoveries big and small in diverse fields of study all around the world.

Although the vast majority of PhDs end up in “alternative” jobs, it remains a challenging transition for many of us. Talented researchers struggle to navigate the job market with little preparation or support, often enduring the emotional abuse of the job search process alone.

It’s confusing sifting through job postings when we may not be entirely sure what jobs are out there, and what’s right for you. It’s frustrating hunting through pages of blogs, hours of webinars, and countless books when what you’re searching for is the basic set of protocols and background literature to begin your job hunt. The job hunt gets depressing and desperate when hundreds of applications go unnoticed, or interviews never seem to result in an offer.

Adding to the logistical challenges are the many psychological barriers between academic researchers and society. These remain unspoken and unaddressed within many traditional graduate training and resources, leaving ambitious scientists siloed with a singular mindset. This negatively impacts our ability to open our perspectives and flex into new professions and industries.

Our mission is to assist you in getting hired outside academia – even if hiring managers or recruiters think you have “no experience.”

Vay Cao, Ph.D.
Vay Cao, Ph.D.Founder, Free the PhD.
Welcome! I’m a Ph.D. in neuroscience who made the transition from academic postdoc to business professional at a biotechnology startup. Having seen what it takes to get hired and accelerate professional advancement outside the lab, I am passionate about reaching back to empower more PhDs and scientists to get out into society.

I have been coaching aspiring job seekers for over 7 years, and have professional experience in multiple arenas outside of academia, from journalism to stage performance to business, providing important and diverse perspectives that fellow PhDs often lack within the Ivory Tower.

Explore Your Career Options and Get Ready to Enter A New Career with the Ultimate Career Transformation Program for Scientists

The Ultimate Career Transformation Program for Scientists is made for PhDs, curated and created to be useful to our unique situation.

  • If you feel uncertain about what kinds of jobs you’re qualified for and want a structured way to think about career possibilities, this program is for you.
  • If you want more than superficial job tips, aggressive tactics and endless webinars, this program is for you.
  • If you’re ready to bypass constant job application rejections, this program is for you.
  • If you are ready to take action to move past depression and bitterness from the job hunt, this program is for you.

If you’re tired of fighting your PhD, it’s time to make your PhD fight for you.

No matter what your situation, you must make moves to change it.  Let’s get you unstuck, re-energized and motivated to pursue your future.  

Launch Your PhD Career Transition!


Genetics PhD to Medical Writer & Entrepreneur

March 4th, 2019|0 Comments

Genetics PhD to Medical Writer & Entrepreneur Megan Garlapow, PhD Megan Garlapow is Owner and Principal at The Line Medical Communications. How did she leverage her research knowledge to venture into the world of medical

Medieval History PhD to Marketing Assistant

October 4th, 2018|0 Comments

From fashion student to history buff to a front-line member of the commercial world (and many roles in-between) - multiple career transitions are common in our day and age and should be expected and prepared

The Latest Communications

“Vay is an amazing career coach. She coached me through the interview process as I was transitioning from my doctorate studies to my biotech job. The world of academic research and the world of corporations can be very different and it can be challenging to navigate.

I love having Vay as my supporter. I often share with her my challenges and my accomplishments and it’s very valuable for me to have a coach, who has gone through a similar process, as she can easily relate to my experiences and the emotions that come along with such a journey.

Her advice is always on-point, effective, and best of all, delivered in a kind and gentle way. She is a great listener and helps me identify the core values that matter to me. I highly recommend her to anyone who would like to make the transition from graduate studies/academia to the professional/industry arena.

Thao Do., Ph.D. Education and Academia Marketing Manager, 23 and Me

“After three years of ineffective job-searching, I met Vay Cao, Ph.D., who provided the knowledge and direction to completely overhaul my approach.

I was trapped in a terrible job and was sending resumes out, left and right, but they just seemed to be falling off the face of the earth.

I had a long list of skills, experience and education, but it didn’t seem to matter and I couldn’t figure out why the response was so poor.

Vay helped me construct a resume that was more attractive to employers, and explained WHY my applications never seemed to be reaching human reviewers; under her guidance, I finally managed to secure a challenging, satisfying new position with a significantly better salary and work-life balance.

It was amazing to see how seemingly-small, targeted changes made a tremendous difference in employer response, and this is the kind of information that only an expert can provide.

Vay was always interested and invested in my success, and it was a genuine pleasure to work with her. I fully recommend her services to anyone who feels lost in their job search, or just needs to update their applicant profile to get an edge.”

(-STEM Ph.D. who was stuck after transitioning into a disappointing first job out of academia, and past user of Cheeky Scientist)

P.C., Ph.D. Program Manager, Genomics.

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