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Advice for older grad joiner

#1 Advice for older grad joiner
08/06/2007 14:52



I'm due to start as a technology consultant on a grad scheme at a big 4 soon. However, I will be a little older than most (27) having just finished a PhD. What advice can you give to someone in this position? What problems/ difficulties, if any, am I likely to come across?

I'd really appreciate your help!

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#2 RE: Advice for older grad joiner
08/06/2007 15:37

anon to Jon (#1)

I'ma recent starter in a similar firm and we had a few guys about 28. I can honsetly say there was no age-ism going on and everyone mixed well. Only difference was a few of the older ones had family commitments so didn't partake in the nonsense so much where we got drunk a lot after work.

but you just have to be prepared for the fact that there will be guys your age who are managers and so on and younger guys who will be your superiors.

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#3 RE: Advice for older grad joiner
08/06/2007 16:05

Jon to anon (#2)

Oh, I'm more than ready to get drunk after work.

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#4 RE: Advice for older grad joiner
08/06/2007 16:35

anon from post above to Jon (#3)

haha good stuff, well you'll fit right in. Don't worry about it though.

Every firm and possibly project is different but so far i've found a fairly flat structure where i'm in meetings and don't really know who's analysts/consultants and so on.

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#5 RE: Advice for older grad joiner
08/06/2007 16:47

What's up Doc? to Jon (#1)

I joined a graduate scheme at a major blue chip shortly after completing my PhD, aged 28. The age difference itself shouldn't make any difference to your peer group because there will be several who have completed Masters degrees anyway, and others who are on their second career.

However, these are the positives and negatives from my own experience:


More maturity than your peers

Greater ability to manage your time

More experience of quantitative and qualitative analysis

More 'worldly' experience which you can bring to the table

Maturity to choose whether to go out and drink with your pals, rather than following the herd.


PhDs are not generally understood in business. There may be an expectation that your PhD will make you stand out from your peer group, even if you have not acquired any more experience than your peers in the consulting which you are doing.

If you are joining a big graduate employer, your managers may have a way of managing new graduates which they apply whether you are a smart new graduate of 20 or a more seasoned PhD graduate of 27. Most lack the imagination to understand the additional qualitites you bring, even if they do not relate directly to your chosen area.

Those managers with complexes about their university education may develop even more of a complex for somebody with a PhD. Don't underestimate the destructive influences of jealous and insecruity!

Never, ever use the title in a work environment. Universities are hierarchies based on titles and awards; businesses are based on position and salary. Some of your colleagues will be impressed with a PhD but take your time to work our who they are.

If your older age and higher level qualifications prove a long term hindrance rather than a help, get your training and then move on to a company which would value them.

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#6 RE: Advice for older grad joiner
08/06/2007 17:52

p to What's up Doc? (#5)

Thanks for the advice there WUD (getting into the whole acronym thing prevalent on this site) - I too (would you believe it) am just writing up a PhD after which I will be joining the consulting world as a grad. I'm slightly apprehensive as to whether I'll fit in but appreciate that there are others out there going through the same thing.

If you have a PhD/additional qualification, you shouldnt assume any form of superiority (nor for that matter if you're from a top Uni). I guess once you're a grad joiner, you're on a level playing field. From then on, if you're good enough, you'll progress faster, whether you're a quantum physicist from Camb or a pottery graduate from UEL (with due respect).

But I appreciate the post and thanks for alleviating some of my concerns too.

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#7 RE: Advice for older grad joiner
08/06/2007 18:10

What's up Doc? to p (#6)

That's why it's best to be very quiet about having done a PhD. I tend to explain away my four years as 'engaged in graduate research'. The people who are interested will ask, and those who aren't won't. I learnt the hard way durng those awful group-work exercises when you have to say something intersting about yourself to not say, 'I'm an expert on x,y and z' because of completing a PhD.

I have the double whammy of a PhD from Oxford, and it's enough to send most managers scuttling into the long grass. Even if you're not explicit about it, the less imaginative type of manager may assume you believe you are superior (which you probably are), even if you don't do anything explict to demonstrate this.

I've been working now for seven years and am reaching a point where having a PhD gives me some competitive advantage over my peers. But it takes a long time to reach this point. For the first two or three years it is best to huker down, do well in your job, pick up the skills, and have confidence that one day you will use the higher skills you have developed on your PhD.

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#8 RE: Advice for older grad joiner
08/06/2007 18:15

Jon to What's up Doc? (#7)


Thank for the useful info. Can you elaborate a bit more on 'reaching a point where having a PhD gives me some competitive advantage over my peers'?

This is always something that I've assumed would be the case, but am not quite sure why. Do you mean in terms of more generic/ specific skills that you gain during the PhD, or in terms of CV - i.e. X years of experience and a PhD will open more doors.

Thanks again

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#9 RE: Advice for older grad joiner
11/06/2007 17:45

What's up Doc? to Jon (#8)


Having a PhD is a double-edged sword: on the one hand you have all the research skills and ability to take a problem apart and put it back together logically and intelligently; on the other hand you have sacrificed three or four years of job experience which your peers (in terms of age) will have gained and you have not. I've spent the past few years trying to catch up with my own undergraduate peer group and it's only now that I am a manager that I feel I have begun to do so.

However, by completing a PhD you should have really learnt how to solve problems and think laterally. It's these two points which should help you stand out from your peers. The first priority, though, is to demonstrate that you can do as good a job as your graduate intake DESPITE having a PhD. Once you have proved this and gained people's confidence, then you should be able to prove your worth by applying your research experience.

Remember that the English are basically rather wary of intellectual egg heads and prefer somebody with practical experience rather than intellectual clout.

One advantage of having a PhD is that you should have some interesting conversational gambits for all those delightful networking events you'll be expected to attend (hee, hee!).

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