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9 Wickedly Effective Ways To Accelerate Your Job Search

Have you started working on your transition only to get discouraged when you realize it’s going to be a long process? How can you accelerate it?

Or have you spent a lot of time thinking about the next steps you need to take without actually taking action?

Today, I want to focus on the strategies you can take to increase your productivity in your job search and get hired faster. 

You might be thinking there’s no way I can get hired faster. There’s no way that I can demystify the job search process to reduce the time it takes.

But I have seen PhDs who commit to these strategies get hired in half the average amount of time.

And the first step you need to take is to move away from that thinking mentality and focus on the actions that are more likely to yield results.

This is what one of the PhDs in the association had to say after getting hired in their dream industry position.

The lab I chose was the only Immunology lab in the entire school. My PI was relatively new fighting to make a name for himself in the field, and to get tenure. We ended up switching disease models during my first year to improve his chances of getting grant funding. I thought that getting our first R01, him getting tenure, getting promoted to Associate Professor, would result in things going back to normal. Sadly, things just got worse. About 6 months to a year after we got the R01. That is when I started really looking into CSA. I knew that I would be good at running a lab, but after watching my boss go through the process, I realized that isn’t what I wanted out of life. The structure, organization, and high expectations of good and reproducible science in my new industry job are exactly what I have been craving my entire professional life. I am so happy with my transition.

You Can Cut The Time Of Your Job Search In Half If You Follow The Right Strategies

Industry job search might seem daunting and uncertain. It might seem like no matter what, it will take a long time.

But you can take specific actions to increase both the efficiency and effectiveness of your job search. You just need a strategy to ensure you take the right actions at the right time. 

Once you have the strategy in place, you need to identify the most impactful things you can do to optimize your time and effort.

Finally, you need to take those actions, practice them until they become second nature.

This might be difficult at first. Academia and industry are two different environments that value different sets of behaviors, so you will start your search without much practice on the actions that will have the most impact on an  industry setting. 

But keep in mind that these are skills that you can train, the more you practice them, the better you will become at them, and the more natural they will become.

9 Strategies Every PhD Can Follow To Accelerate Their Job Search

Below, I’m going to discuss genius productivity strategies that actual PhDs have used to slash the amount of time and effort they’ve had to use in their job search.

You can start applying these strategies right now, no matter if you have a couple of years until you graduate. It doesn’t matter if you’re a PhD student, a postdoc, or a professor, these will work for you. 

1. Burning the ships

When I talk about burning out the ships, I mean you have to make your job search your number one priority.

If you are sure that you are leaving academia, if you are committed to finding an industry job, stop spending most of your time and effort on academic tasks that only will advance your PI’s career.

Prioritizing academia is holding your transition back. 

If you want to expedite your transition, you need to spend the minimum possible time on academic tasks and spend most of your time focusing on your job search.

This might be difficult at first, even terrifying. PhDs have the feeling that they have no control in academia, that they need to keep their PI happy if they want to graduate.

I’m here to tell you, this is not true. Once you’re past the master’s stage, or you have passed your comprehensive exams. There is a point of no return where you’re going to get your PhD even if you prioritize your job search, even if you let your PI know that you are leaving academia after you graduate.

So, stop wasting effort on making others happy and start focusing on your career now.

2. Focus on companies, not on job titles

I talk to PhDs who want to transition everyday, and everytime I ask about the companies they want to work for, they’re able to name one or two at best.

Out of millions of companies that might hire them, they only know one or two. Instead, they get obsessed about figuring out the job titles that will be a better fit.

But here’s the thing, job titles originate from companies. So, it’s a way better strategy to focus on companies first. Research the companies that will hire you, invest in understanding the landscape of your target industry.

You know what else originated from the company? The contacts that might help you get hired. The gatekeepers from your dream job work for specific companies.

Start with the company. Everything grows out of the company. Understand the company, the opportunities it has to offer, the hierarchy, what’s unique about it, how they structure their job descriptions, what their culture is, what they’re actually looking for.

Other than committing – which is the first thing I talked about – focusing on companies will have the most dramatic impact on your job search when it comes to productivity.

3. Take adding value to the next level

At Cheeky Scientist, we talk a lot about adding value first.

When you first reach out, make it all about your connection, don’t try to sneak in anything about what you want. Just congratulate them on their career and their career progress.

You can take this strategy to the next level by using the briefcase technique. A term often associated with salary negotiation.

Bringing something on paper – average salaries or a salary chart – can help you negotiate a better salary.

You can use this same technique to impress and add value to your connections. For example, you can take a recent paper that is relevant to your target company and summarize it in one page that you can hand out to your connections.

Summarizing data, making sense of trends, this is why PhDs are so valuable and if you show that value from the get go, you will bring adding value to a whole other level.


4. Adjust your thresholds

Many PhDs start their industry job search with the wrong thresholds in mind. 

They think they will apply to three of four jobs and get hired. These unrealistic expectations cause them to space out over several weeks, which is a productivity killer.

This is how a realistic job search process looks like:

On average, you’re going to apply to at least 40 positions with targeted industry resumes. You’ll go through five or six interview processes to finally get the job offer that you want.

Facing the job search with the right expectations will help you manage your energy and stay motivated, while avoiding emotional turmoil.

You are a hard worker. Prepare to work hard for your transition. You have the energy to research hundreds of companies, reach out to thousands of people, and apply to dozens of jobs, to accelerate the process. 

Working on your job search is not what will exhaust you. It’s the emotional turmoil that will. The uncertainty of not hearing back, the sense of rejection, this is what will kill your motivations and productivity.

Setting the right threshold will keep your energy levels up, and help you set the right expectations to accelerate the process.

5. Skip the line to accelerate your job search

Have you ever wondered what things would look like if they were easy?

Or, as many PhDs do, you keep doing things the hard way because you have learned that’s the only worthy way?

I have seen many PhDs spending hours sending cold connections on LinkedIn, doing research on the internet to find out who’s responsible for a job posted online to put on their cover letter.

There is an easy way to solve this problem and accelerate the process; call the company and ask. 

Especially right now, employees have more leverage because there is a labor shortage. So as a PhD, you can skip the line just by calling the company. Let them know that you are interested in the opening.

If they say, just apply online, at least you tried. Tell them that you want to skip the line. Tell them that you will apply online but ask them to wait until they see your application because you are perfect for the job.  

If you are thinking this is ridiculous, that you would never do that, you are thinking like an academic. Academia doesn’t value that can-do attitude. But in industry, they love it. 

Industry employers want to hire a person who really wants the job and is not afraid to say so. Skip the line. Accelerate the process. Call them. Tell them to wait for you. Tell them how much you want the job.

6. Think in terms of when

When we start reaching out to people or applying for jobs, we tend to think about when is the best moment for us, instead of thinking about the other side.

Are you sending connection requests on Friday when you have time before the weekend because it’s more convenient for you? 


It’s time to change your strategy. Accelerate the process.

Friday is the worst day to reach out to a new connection because everybody is trying to clean their email for the weekend and don’t want to start a new conversation.

You should also think about your time in terms of when. For example, do you know when is your more productive time of the day?

You probably have two windows of high productivity during the day, are you taking advantage of them?

Make sure that you always think about your connections first and reach out at a time that is convenient for them.

At the same time, identify your most productive time of the day and make sure that you use it to accelerate your job search.

7. Stop being secretive about your job search

This is another mistake that PhDs often make, they are very cautious about sharing information regarding their job search.

Many PhDs have asked me what they should say if an interviewer asks them if they are interviewing anywhere else. The answer is yes, otherwise they will think that nobody else wants you, which will weaken your position.

Stop being secretive, accelerate your job search, let the company know you are interviewing in other places. If you are scared that they will think you are not taking the position seriously. Let them know why they are your number one choice.

The same applies when you get a job offer. Let the other companies know that you got the offer. Ask them if they can expedite your process. Tell them you want to know where you stand with them. 

This is one of the rare times where you will have tangible leverage as a job candidate. Don’t waste it by being secretive.

8. Build a case to accelerate our job search

If you can’t give an employer certainty that you’re going to take the offer or at least carefully consider it. You will not get the job. 

Academia teaches us not to commit to anything, to consider all the possibilities before making a choice. But industry employers are looking for certainty, for candidates who will reduce their risk.

Bringing a new person to a company implies a high risk. They’re never going to do all the work to hire you if they are not confident that you are the right candidate for the job.

So, you need to build a case for yourself. You have to show intense levels of commitment for the position. 

Show them how you will add value. Reassure them that you want to be with the company in the long run. That you are at least grateful for having that opportunity. This will accelerate the process.

Otherwise, you will never be taken seriously as a job candidate.


9. Sell into the close

As we saw in the previous section, you should always build a case for why you are the best candidate for the role. This is what you need to focus throughout the whole hiring process, right until the very end.

Don’t get distracted by things like salary questions. Deflect until you get a written offer.

Even when you get the offer, you should focus more on what you bring to the table than on salary. Justify any salary negotiation by reminding them why you are the best candidate, why you want to help the company grow.

Don’t let employers distract you with salary questions that will only make you look selfish.

Concluding Remarks

Finding a PhD-level industry job is a serious task, but this doesn’t mean that you have to take the difficult way, you can use the strategies discussed here to increase your productivity and slash the time it will take you to get an offer. Prioritize your job search, research companies instead of job titles, take adding value to the next level, adjust your thresholds, skip the line, think in terms of when, stop being secretive, build a case for yourself, and sell into the close. This will ensure industry employers will see the value that you can bring to their companies sooner rather than later.

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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Dr. Isaiah Hankel is the Founder and CEO of Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by millions of PhDs and other professionals in hundreds of 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. Hankel has published 3X bestselling books and his latest book, The Power of a PhD, debuted on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list. 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.

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

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