How Much Time Should You Devote to Your altac job search?

Finding a non-academic job is not easy, especially when you are pursuing a PhD full time. From initial career exploration to resume and cover letter writing, the process can be both daunting and challenging.

Based on data gathered career centers of graduate and professional programs (both master’s and MBA), students spend an average of five to six hours a week working on their job searches over an eight-month period. To get 1.5 job offers, they submit 39 applications (on average), go to nine in-person interviews, complete 13 mock interviews, and conduct 28 informational interviews.

Furthermore, based on the same data, the numbers of informational and mock interviews conducted were most highly correlated with the number of offers received. This should give a clear indication of where to focus most of your energy: networking and honing your interviewing skills. Therefore, a preliminary conclusion here is that embracing a DIY approach to finding a job and “winging” job interviews might be the worst strategy to adopt when trying to get hired.

So, how much time should you be spending each week on your altac job search while still in school?

It all depends how close you are to graduation.

  1. If you are more than a year away from defending your dissertation, you should expect to block out five to seven hours a week for your altac job search. If you are fully committed to making a career transition, networking and acquiring new skills will be important parts of the time you spend preparing for your career switch. You should be able to make a smooth transition if you devote enough time to setting up informational interviews, educating yourself on new fields of interest, and expanding your skill set. Setting realistic goals for yourself each week is a great way to keep yourself on track; for instance, you aim at setting up one informational interview a week (or, as an alternative example, read three articles about companies you might be interested in working for).


If you find it quasi-impossible to squeeze in this amount of time during the week, try to set aside time for your altac job search on the weekends. Larger blocks of time will enable you to focus better on the task at hand without too many distractions.


  1. If you are about to defend your dissertation, you should start thinking about your employment search as a part-time job and devote 15–20 hours a week to it. The first-half of the semester should be spent exploring various career paths and researching job sites and organizations, while the second half should be devoted to building your resume, composing cover letters, and finally applying for positions.


  1. If you have already defended and still find yourself unemployed, you should consider your employment search a full-time job and devote 30–40 hours a week to it.


Conclusion: Determining a new career direction, finding the right position, and becoming familiar with the non-academic job search process can be very time consuming and often frustrating. If you are seriously thinking of starting this process yourself, you should add even more time to the schedule detailed above. The quickest way to find a job is to avoid waiting until the last minute and seek out the help of people who can provide you with the appropriate guidance that you need. This will ensure that you do not end up wasting your time!


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