5 Point Job Search Productivity Plan For PhDs

Job search productivity plan is imperative for success. Every day, more and more PhDs realize that they have no future in academia and start to plan their first industry transition.

A script keeps playing in their head that says “I want to get hired.”

This often leads to frustration because this script is not accurate.

You don’t just want to get hired, you want to get hired into a PhD-level position. do meaningful work, where you can have an impact on humanity, where you get fairly compensated, where you can have security.

I recently talked to a PhD who told me why they are no longer fulfilled in academia. This is what they had to say:

I decided to pursue a PhD because I got to ask interesting questions and I got to pursue those questions. But I don’t get to do that anymore. 

Not just because there’s no grant funding, but because everyday I’m more concerned for my own security.

I don’t have a retirement, I don’t have healthcare, I have to move around constantly, the cost of living is so expensive, my pay is getting worse, especially with inflation everywhere except for academia. 

All these concerns prevent me from entering into that joy of discovery.”

You can’t be creative when you are scared for your security. 

You can’t ask great questions or pursue growth and innovation at the highest level if you’re concerned about your survival.

This is as true in academia as it is in industry. So, if you want to perform at your highest level, you can’t just aim for any position.  You have to set up the right expectations: you want a PhD-level job.

But top companies don’t just hand over PhD-level jobs, if you want to get hired in one of these jobs, you need to have a strategy in place.

Why You Need A Job Search Productivity Plan As A PhD

When I talk about PhD-level jobs, I’m talking about the top 0.5% of available jobs across industries.

These are the positions that will give you the recognition and compensation you deserve and at the same time allow you to be creative, to have a greater sense of achievement.

But these positions are competitive, even if there is demand for them. Employers will only hire candidates that they trust. 

You can’t just fly by the seat of your pants and expect to get an offer for one of the top 0.5% of available positions.

Need to map out from A to Z, what steps you’re going to take, and you have to plan for contingencies. 

Have to be consistent. 

Unfortunately, most PhDs lack consistency in their job search. 

They wake up on Tuesday and submit a few resumes, do nothing Wednesday and Thursday, then reach out to a few contacts on Friday, coast on the weekend, then maybe search for online job postings on Monday.

This is not a job search strategy and it is very unlikely to yield any results.

How To Set Up A Productivity Plan To Ensure Job Search Results

If we catalog your job search activities in a spreadsheet hour by hour, what would the end result look like?

Would it show that you spend most of your time thinking about your job search and playing scenarios in your head instead of taking action?

Move away from thinking about or critiquing a job search to executing one. Rather achieve that. Understand the steps neccessary to get hired into a PhD-level position.

In the following section, I will show you the 5 steps you need to take if you want to see results and finally get into a fulfilling job.

5 Point Job Search Productivity Plan For PhDs

1. Document your progress

As a PhD, you excel at documentation. 

You probably keep a journal, a lab notebook, and a lesson plan for your students. 

All at the same time.

But what about your job plans and results? Where are you writing those down?

If you are not documenting your job search process, you need to start doing so as soon as possible.

You need to keep track of how many connections you plan to reach out to on a given week, how many responses you get, and when it’s time to follow up…

Unless you have a documentation process in place, your efforts toward a new job will look scattered and unprofessional.

2. Reactivate, then grow your network

You have probably already heard me talk about the importance of networking.

If you want to get hired into a PhD-level position, you need to have a healthy industry network that will vouch for you.

And the major component of your networking efforts is following up consistently with an ever-growing list of contacts at companies you want to work for. 

Do you even know what companies you want to work for?

This is even more important than knowing what position you are targeting because positions vary from company to company. Two companies can have the same job title with two complete job descriptions.

So, you should focus on the companies you want to work for first and then find out what are the positions that better fit your profile.

Once you know what companies you are targeting, you need to grow your network within those companies. 

Create new connections and set up informational interviews, so you can eventually get referrals.

3. Craft your professional profiles

By professional profiles I’m talking about your LinkedIn profile and industry resume.

You have to expand them so they are not just a list of academic titles. Your profiles should show that you are an industry professional. That you know how to fulfill the needs of your target companies.

Every time you go through an interview process, a hiring committee will decide if you get hired or not. Only half the people in that hiring committee will interview you. The other half will base their decision solely on your resume and LinkedIn profile.

If your professional profiles are too academic, this might be a red flag and you might lose that job, even if the people who interviewed you loved you.

So, keep in mind that no step is more important than the other, you have to take care of all fronts of your industry job search.

4. Find out the needs of the employer

Once you get the habit of documenting your progress, activate your network, and set up your professional profiles, it will be time to actually start applying for specific positions.

While it is very important that you pursue several job leads at the same time, it is also important to understand that every position is different. Every employer has different needs and it is your job to find what those needs are.

Understanding why each position you apply for is open will help you target your job application to show why you are the right candidate for the role.

Start with your resume. You need to target it to that specific position. This means including 30 to 50 keywords from the job description and showing that you have or can learn the relevant skills.

Then, you can move on to preparing for the interview. Understanding what the company needs are, will help you target your answers to interview questions to show how you can have a positive impact on the company.

5. Master yourself first, then your job search

If you think about it, the most relevant thing that employers are evaluating during a job interview is self-mastery.

Most PhDs find this very hard to believe, but it’s absolutely true.

Employers decide whether or not to hire you, based on your answers to a few of questions. 

They have to trust that you can perform a high-stakes job based on the impression that you make during a couple of short meetings. 

Sure, they can give you a take-home test to make sure you have the technical skills required for the job, but at the end of the day, they commit not only their money, but their people and numerous other resources to you based on what you say about yourself during these real time interactions.

So, what do they want to see during the interview process? They want to see how you handle yourself under stress. 

That you can stay in control during difficult situations. 

This is why studying common interview questions is a waste of time. 

It’s also why waiting until you get to an interview to prepare for an interview is fully ineffective.

You need to practice interacting with other professionals in a very professional way behaviorally. You can’t just wait until you get to that step to try to figure it out.

Concluding Remarks

If you want to get hired into a PhD-level job, you need to set up the right job search strategy and execute it currently. This will help you save valuable time and avoid the trap of chasing one job lead at a time via the outdated process of uploading your resume to a job site, only to start all over after a few days or weeks of not hearing anything back. Instead, learn to document your progress, grow your network, set up your resume and LinkedIn profile, identify the needs of your target companies, and showcase your self mastery. Do this while following multiple leads at the same time and looking ahead, knowing what’s coming next. That’s how you get hired in industry.

If you’re ready to start your transition into industry, you can apply to book a free Transition Call with our founder Isaiah Hankel, PhD or one of our Transition Specialists. Apply to book a Transition Call here.

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Isaiah Hankel, PhD is the Founder and CEO of the largest career training platform for PhDs in the world - Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by 3 million PhDs in 152 different countries. He has helped PhDs transition into top companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Intel, DOW Chemical, BASF, Merck, Genentech, Home Depot, Nestle, Hilton, SpaceX, Tesla, Syngenta, the CDC, UN and Ford Foundation.

Dr. Isaiah Hankel received his doctorate in Anatomy & Cell Biology with a focus in immunology and is an expert on biotechnology recruitment and career development.

Isaiah has published two bestselling books with Wiley and his methods for getting PhDs hired have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Nature, Forbes, The Guardian, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine and Success Magazine.

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