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3 Urgent Resume Updates PhDs Must Make For The Recession

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Contributing Author: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

I want to help you avoid one of the biggest mistakes that I see right now from PhDs.

A lot of them are trying to either get a job in industry or just protect their current job.

They had a job search strategy that was working for them back in January, and now the same job search methodologies are not working. 

That’s because things have changed, and you have to adapt.

If you have not updated your resume and LinkedIn profile since the pandemic began, you need to do it now.

PhDs need to give a certain impression to employers.

They need to make sure that they come across as being aware of the global situation.

A lot of this can be conveyed through your resume and LinkedIn profile.

Transmitting that you know how industry is changing will show employers you have the key transferable skill of knowledge.

Specifically, it shows that you understand current industry trends, and it shows commercial acumen. 

If your resume uses the same kind of language that was appealing to employers back in January, it’s going to come across as completely tone-deaf to employers looking at it now.

By “tone-deaf,” I mean it will show employers that you don’t get it – you don’t understand the crisis at hand.

You’ll appear insulated. Maybe you’re in academia, and you’re applying to a job, and you’re just focused on getting hired. 

You’re not considering the employer’s point of view. 

You’re not considering their biggest concern. 

In all the latest Cheeky content, we’ve been talking a lot about changing the language style of your professional portfolio.

You need to show employers that you are the safest job candidate.

There are 3 categories of core competencies/transferable skills you need to have on your resume and your LinkedIn profile.

I’m going to talk about those below.

Why You Won’t Get Hired Until You Adapt And Overcome Fear

Here’s the bad news…  

You’re on your own.

Before the new economy, PhDs were not taken care of by academia. 

Here’s an example: In many countries, the universities fought governments to prevent postdocs from getting overtime pay.

These universities, which are kept alive by PhDs, actually fought the government to avoid giving you overtime pay. 

That was when times were good – it will be worse for PhDs in academia now.

You have to take care of yourself, but that’s actually the good news too.

It means you’re not dependent on anyone for your career success.

You don’t need to rely on the government or academia to keep you financially stable.

And taking control of your life, while challenging, is always a good thing.

The main thing that will stop you from adapting to industry is fear.

PhDs working on ther resumes

It’s scary to leave academia.

When we talk about leaving academia, we are essentially talking about fear of the unknown.

In his research on diagnostic criteria for anxiety conditions, R. Nicholas Carleton proposed that fear of the unknown may be the “fundamental fear” beneath all fear conditions.

He defined fear of the unknown as “an individual’s propensity to experience fear caused by the perceived absence of information at any level of consciousness or point of processing.”

If academia is all you know, it can be difficult to let go of your conviction that academia will keep you safe.

This is especially true now that we are in an economic crisis – it’s easier to bury your head in the sand and stay in academia.

But your fear is unfounded.

PhDs have the skills and experience to thrive in a receding economy.

But you will have to adapt to show that to hiring managers..

I’m going to discuss these skills and how to adapt your professional portfolio to avoid looking like a bad choice to employers.

These 3 Resume Fixes Adapt You To The Changing Job Market

Right now, as a job candidate, you want to show that you’re well-rounded.

You don’t want to indicate to employers that you’re too independent.

Employers need to see that the way that you interact with other people is valuable to their business. 

They need to see that you have a ton of experience working with protocols, methodologies, documentation, and record keeping. 

Most people don’t have this skill set – not nearly to the degree that you do. 

When the economy is bad and employers are trying to protect themselves, they’re less concerned with your ability to innovate, grow, or implement strategic vision. 

These skills were important to advertise back in 2019 – they worked really well.

But since the pandemic, employers are looking for lower-risk candidates.

They want to know if you can reduce risk, work with others, and jump in to do whatever the company needs.

Let’s talk about the 3 things you need to emphasize on your professional profiles to show employers you’re the right candidate during a recession.

1. People-oriented core competencies.

Put these things on your resume and LinkedIn profile:

  • Flexibility/versatility/adaptability
  • Performance management
  • Project management
  • People management
  • Change management. 

All of these skills are people-centric. 

Companies are going through a change right now. 

You need to tell them that you understand what change management is, even if you only understand it conceptually (but it’s very likely you do have experience in it). 

Anytime something has changed in a classroom or a lab, you’ve dealt with change management.

Other examples would be if you’ve had to go from using one type of instrument to another, change lab benches, use different course materials, TA somebody else’s class, etc. 

Employer looking at risk stats

Change management, project management, and people management are key things to convey to employers. 

You also need to mention results on your profiles. 

Specifically, results on investments when it comes to people. 

And use the word “virtual” a lot more. 

I’ve seen PhDs put “cross-functional collaboration” on their profiles – this was good before the recession. 

Now you need to put virtual collaboration instead. 

Mention virtual training: your ability to virtually mentor people, delegate tasks, and even to be trained virtually.

This new vocabulary can be transformational – it can allow potential employers to see you in a different way – the way that gets you hired during a recession.

2. Systems-oriented core competencies.

Here are the first two systems-oriented core competencies to put on your resume and LinkedIn profile during a recession:

  • Risk management
  • Risk mitigation
  • Stress management

There are a lot of risks right now in the economy, in different businesses, and in different sectors. 

So how do you as a job candidate deal with risks? 

Employers are asking, How are you going to help my company reduce risk?

In your resume and LinkedIn profile, start your bullet points with language that emphasizes your risk management skills.

You need to use this language for employers to get the right impression.

Listing your documentation and record-keeping skills will indicate your systems competencies too – these very diligent, meticulous skills that help reduce risk. 

They show an employer you are the safest choice. 

List things like “regulatory acumen” and “financial acumen.” 

As a PhD, you’ve kept a lab or course notebook on a daily basis. 

These systems-oriented skills will signal to employers that you’re the safest choice… 

And safety is exactly what they want right now.

3. Self-oriented core competencies.

Do you assume that everybody works hard? 

No, not everybody’s wired like you. 

Most people are incredibly lazy. 

Maybe nobody’s ever said that to you, but most people are lazy compared to the volume of work that a PhD can complete. 

Most people don’t even like to do work. 

They don’t like to be productive or get things done. 

On your resume and LinkedIn profile, put that you can do a high volume of high-quality work. 

You can also work autonomously, which is highly desirable when you’re applying for a remote position—most candidates are right now.

Do you think that hiring managers want candidates who require someone else to get them started? 

No – they want a self-starter. 

PhD working independently

They want someone who can be at home and work autonomously.

Here’s something that actually hasn’t changed since the recession: You need to stop putting “team player,” “team-oriented,” and similar things on your profile. 

This can seem contradictory  – earlier, I mentioned that you want to avoid coming off like someone who’s too independent.

That’s true, but there’s a difference between meshing well with a team vs. being a weak “team player.”

“Team player” sounds like you are a follower who can’t function without supervision.

Right now, employers need to rely on team members who can work without being directly supervised.

You also need to put “technical literacy”. 

This is a nice keyword that implies your ability to write technical or high-level information and your ability to edit it.

Doing this will make you seem like the most versatile, adaptable choice. 

If they need you to jump in and do some technical writing or editing, you can do it because you have a PhD – you have a background in that…

And with hiring capacity dropping, companies need employees who can be versatile and assume different roles

Remember the changes you need to make to your resume and LinkedIn profile if you want to get hired in the recession: people-oriented core competencies, systems-oriented core competencies, and self-oriented core competencies.

To learn more about being a leader in industry, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the waitlist for the Cheeky Scientist Association.

Isaiah Hankel


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