As a PhD student in my final year, I find it demoralizing and frustrating to be constantly reminded of the bleak job prospects in academia. This dim outlook may well increase the pressure on students and contribute to high rates of anxiety and depression among them (T. M. Evans et al. Nature Biotechnol. 36, 282–284; 2018). The scientific community could help to solve this problem by encouraging us all to change the way we think about the PhD. And scientists can start by appreciating a simple truth: researchers who leave academia are not failed academics.