Prep 101: Mapping Out Your Plan B (Part 4)

We often hear from Phds on the non-academic job hunt that they wished they had done things differently in graduate school. In this fourth and final installment of a 4-part blog series, we provide you with advice on how to prepare to be competitive on the non-academic job market by bolstering your EQ.



YEARS 4–5: Time for a makeover.


There are no job opportunities? You lost your illusions about academia? Or you’re fed up and feel ready for the non-academic job hunt? Time to cut your losses and reconnect with who you are.

Here’s how you can do that:


  • Look in the mirror. Looking for new career opportunities means that you need to understand your values, strengths and accomplishments. In other words, you need to take a hard look at yourself by asking yourself new questions. Self-assessment is key. Take full advantage of the powerful self-assessment tools offered at your university’s career center to find out more about yourself.


  • Network. Contrary to what many academics think, networking is not all that bad. In fact, outside of academia, networking is recognized as one of the best ways to find jobs. It’s a great way to become familiar with different work cultures, practice your interviewing skills, and enhance your socializing skills. Reach out to people you know, leverage the powers your school’s alumni network, and attend conference and career fairs. Keep in mind that 70% of positions are never advertised, so network, network, network!


  • Strategize. The non-academic job market is radically different than what you know. This is why you need to envision your transition as a project that needs to be conducted methodically. Your non-academic job search needs to be diversified. In addition to job search sites and published journals, you should also contact job search firms and agencies that have open positions.


  • Research potential employers. Focusing on a few target organizations can be a great way to become familiar with different career paths, and discover opportunities that are in alignment with your skills, goals, values, and interests. You can easily do this online. Again, don’t hesitate to ask for help from your university’s career center: CareerSearch is a great tool, and the alumni network database of your school can also be very helpful.


  • Get help. Once you’ve identified sectors or positions of interest, you will need to brand yourself differently on paper (resumes, cover letters, references), in person (interviews), and online (social media). Each of these elements are essential in telling a new story about yourself that will define your post-academic persona—most specifically about how your past relates to your future. Seek help from people in the non-academic world, professional career consultants, or people already in the business who can provide you with informed opinions and valuable feedback on each crucial element of your new persona.


Bottom line: If your academic goals are not panning out. Not all is lost. You were a fine human being before you entered grad school, and you will do great after. Use the last years of your Phd to reconnect with your non-academic self, and explore your options. Remember, you’re not changing. You’re just growing.


Do you need help highlighting your skills while preparing for non-academic jobs? We’re here to help! Sign up for a free consultation, and learn how we can provide the one-on-one counseling you need to find a job that is the best fit for you.

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