Life After The PhD: Positioning Yourself as a Career Changer
Life after the PhD is not easy. If you are pursuing a non-academic career after obtaining your PhD, you are a career changer and therefore carry a burden that is spared job seekers who pursue careers in their field of study: you need to convince people, in an authentic manner, that you have a sense of direction. In other words, you need to demonstrate, in a practical way, that you understand the new industry in which you are pursuing a career. It is one thing to be fascinated by a career and to believe that you can make valuable contributions to the field; it is another to fit in with a particular industry’s culture. Thus, it is extremely important to go beyond expressing interest in the position and to provide rational explanations for your career goals. You must demonstrate that you possess deep insights into the industry or position you have chosen.
Here are some pointers on how to handle life after the Phd by showing others that you know exactly what you are doing.
- Rely on the magic of storytelling by providing a compelling narrative about your motivation and your on-going understanding of the field.
- Demonstrate that you are familiar with the daily realities of your desired industry or function. Conduct informational interviews, audit online courses, peruse industry publications, and be prepared to talk about your proactive efforts to understand the field.
- Be prepared to talk about the challenges and obstacles you might face as a career changer and how you plan to overcome these. By addressing these issues head on, you will demonstrate that you not only understand your new career path but that you possess a maturity and objectivity that will enhance an employer’s confidence in your abilities.
- Be aware of the transferable skills you possess, and be prepared to talk about them. This will underscore the fact that you are adequately prepared for the role and that you have clear insights into its requirements.
- Embrace your “difference.” Employers will likely look at hundreds of candidates, all of whom look much the same. You don’t. Be prepared to talk about how your background has equipped you to make an original contribution to your new function.
As a career changer, you face certain obstacles that others don’t; however, this might not necessarily be a bad thing. You have an interesting and original story to tell about your past, present, and future. Embrace that story, refine it, and share it with others, and always keep in mind that your story should be a story of growth rather than failure!
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