Breaching Industry's High Castle


    Many of you know by now that I have found a new job in industry. I have been trying to transition from academia into industry for a while. Such career changes are tricky and everyone I know of has had to face their own difficulties. A couple of years ago, when I went to see a Henry V production in Center City I was captivated by several lines from the famous battle speech:

    "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,
    Or close the wall up with our English dead!
    In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
    As modest stillness and humility,
    But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
    Then imitate the action of the tiger:
    Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,

    >Henry V's Siege of Harfleur before the Battle of Agincourt

    While I do not advocate filling up a castle wall with dead Englishmen, I draw strength from this passage. On my down days when I wake up, I repeat this short verse to myself so that I can summon up some courage to go off to work and wipe off the previous day’s failings. In a similar vein, this verse works well as advice for job seekers who have faced challenges and rejections to keep persevering.

    In many ways when an academic PhD student or postdoc, with no connections and no experience, applies for a position in an industrial company (particularly a major company), they become the invading soldier trying to breach a castle. A company is set up with high walls to protect its treasures and its people. The king (or queen) is the CEO, the court its board of directors and the castle occupants its employees. When an academic student comes from another land - the land of academia - to ask for a position in the castle, he/she can face tough resistance. One can arm oneself with weapons such as online courses, a business degree, a leadership experience, or an industry contact from a careers networking event. Often the failed applications and tough hiring processes are just a right of passage through life.

    It is important to remember that finding a suitable job takes time, effort and a lot of luck. It helps to be stoic. As the philosopher Nicholas Chamfort once wrote, “ A man must swallow a toad every morning if he wishes to be sure of finding nothing still more disgusting before the day is over” If you are a scientist applying for a breakthrough job or a breakthrough grant in industry, or just a person looking for the next job, it helps to expect rejection everyday for years and years. If you land a position early, good for you, but expect rejection in future. You just have to be patient, keep fighting and repeat to yourself, "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more...".

    Image Reference:

    Monty Python's Holy Grail,

    Siege of Harfleur: