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Don’t Ignore These 6 Powerful PhD Job Search Trends

What does your job search strategy look like? 

If you had to describe it in 2 or 3 sentences, what would you say? 

I ask because, if you’re reading this, you’re in the market for a job. Working with PhDs for more than 10 years, I’ve learned one thing is true above all others:

The right job strategy is what’s going to get you hired.

That’s right: I’m saying that a concrete job search methodology is more important than anything else in your job search. 

It’s more important than your skills, your degree, your personality – more important than you, as a candidate. 

When I ask most of the PhDs I work with whether they have a job search strategy in place, I almost always get a yes, absolutely, of course in reply.

But when I ask them to describe what that strategy is, their reply is usually something like, “I send out 50 resumes a week.” 

That is not a strategy – that’s no different than playing the lottery. 

“I’ve made 100 new connections on LinkedIn every month.”

Great! And then what? Because just having a connection is not helpful at all.

Most PhDs don’t know what a PhD-level job search actually looks like. That’s why, to them, a strategy is to send a bunch of resumes or LinkedIn requests and expect to see results.

But that strategy will take them nowhere. 

It isn’t even a strategy.

If you are a PhD who wants to leave academia and find a job in industry, but don’t have a methodology in place, you need to change your approach. 

You need to prioritize your job search and follow industry etiquette if you want to see results. 

There Is A Blueprint You Can Follow To Create A Strong Core Strategy

The most common question I get from PhDs is, “Isaiah, if you had to break down the job search into its core steps, what would those steps be?”

After more than a decade of working with PhDs from all different backgrounds and improving the process, I’ve distilled the perfect job search strategy down into 5 core steps.

  1. Identify the career option that better matches your desired lifestyle
  2. Craft an industry resume to match your target position
  3. Use LinkedIn’s algorithm to your advantage
  4. Boost your credibility by networking in the right way
  5. Prep for interviews to impress potential employers

As a PhD, you know the importance of following a methodology. You made it through grad school by having a plan and following a strategy. You should do the same with your job search.

If you are committed to getting an industry job, prioritize your job search and use this blueprint to get the best results in the shortest amount of time. 

All that to say: This is a great place to start, but there’s a little more to consider.

Job Search Strategies Don’t Stay Static – They Are Always Changing

The job market is always changing. The needs of hiring managers evolve along with the economy. 

During times of prosperity, employers hire with far less prejudice and in greater numbers. They may have the budget to overstaff, and they may feel pressure to hire someone quickly to ease their existing staff’s workload.

But during economic contractions or recessions, employers need to make every dollar of their hiring budget count. Their search and interview process is very much a glass-slipper situation; they’re looking for The One, not just someone, to fill their open position. 

That’s why, when the economy is tight, following the latest job search trends is critical. In 2023, PhDs need to adapt their strategy to stay competitive. 

Integrate These 6 Top Job Search Trends Into Your Routine Now

In academia, PhDs are used to working on their own. Whether it’s studying, research, teaching, or writing, PhDs do more things independently than in groups. 

But industry is different. Everything you’ll do in industry is market-oriented and decisions are made based on profitability.

This means that anyone considering a career in industry must learn to educate themselves about and align their career plans with current and future trends.

Having a solid job search strategy in place is important. So is networking and a building strong resume. But you can’t neglect to research your target market and the trends that are dominating it. Your lack of industry insight could be a red flag to employers that you’re too risky a candidate to invest in.

PhDs working toward industry transition should consider these six industry hiring trends when they’re personalizing their job search strategy.

1. Embrace Remote Work Opportunities 

A study by UpWork revealed that by 2025, 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely – an 87% percent increase from pre-pandemic levels. In other words, remote work, while not for everyone, is here to stay.

If you lack industry experience, you might be worried that remote work doesn’t sound like a good fit. But, as a PhD, you have most of the skills that would make you successful in a remote role. 

You’re able to communicate proactively. You show initiative and act with urgency. You’re familiar with creating a structured plan and sticking to it. 

PhDs who work well independently should expand their search to include remote positions. Some of these roles might include freelance or contract work, such as Scientific Consultant or Technical Writer. But there are also full-time roles, such as Patent Agent, that can be done online as well. 

In order to show employers that you’re ready to embrace remote work, there are a few things you can do.

To start, build a strong online presence. This means creating a professional LinkedIn profile that highlights your skills and experiences and showcases your ability to work remotely. Make sure to use appropriate keywords and industry jargon to help recruiters find you more easily.

Also, when you’re applying for remote positions, it’s important to emphasize your experience with remote work. For example, have you managed virtual teams or worked with remote clients? Make sure to highlight that in your resume and cover letter.

Remote work opportunities are often found through networking, so make sure to reach out to your contacts and let them know that you’re looking for remote roles. Join relevant groups and attend virtual events to expand your network even further.

2. Utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI) Tools

AI-powered job search tools are becoming more sophisticated – and much more prevalent. You may not realize it, but you’ve probably been using AI in your job search process from the beginning.

Popular job search platforms such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor use AI algorithms to match applicants with the most relevant jobs. When you create your profile, you upload a resume or create one. Along with your notification preferences, it is the keywords in this resume that the site’s AI uses to match you with potential job opportunities. 

AI is doing more than offering personalized job recommendations. 

AI-powered resume builders, for instance, can help you optimize your base resume. By parsing job descriptions, rewriting outdated sentence structures, and guiding you to include specific information, these tools can help to create a strong, targeted resume. 

We’ve tested the leading options extensively – and will continue to. As professional career mentors and experts at resume building, we’re impressed at the strides AI is making. However, we do not recommend letting a resume builder completely create your resume. 

Why? For one thing, some hiring managers have invested in software that detects AI-written content. For another, AI is only as accurate as the information it has access to. It can provide false information and present it convincingly. It may accidentally use a phrase incorrectly. It is a machine and shouldn’t be depended upon to have the final say on your resume or cover letter.

Chatbots are another tool that PhDs can use in their job search. Chatbots like ChatGPT and Bard can help you research a company you’re targeting, come up with keywords specific to a particular job title and even conduct a mock interview.

3. Enhance Your Digital Presence

Digital presence is an important part of your professional brand. Studies show that a whopping 92% of employers research job candidates online. Another 67% admit that an applicant’s social media profile is a factor in hiring decisions. 

 A strong digital presence showcases your expertise and makes you more visible to potential employers. The best ways to strengthen your online presence is to be active and optimize your online profiles for a job search. 

LinkedIn is a great place to start. This is one of your most powerful tools for networking and job searching. Make sure your profile is complete and includes a professional headshot, a concise summary that highlights your skills and experiences, and a detailed work history that emphasizes your achievements.

Having a professional website or online portfolio can showcase your skills and experiences to potential employers too. As a PhD, you may not be able to share much from grad school. However, you can create a blog that speaks to your interests and showcases your expertise. Make sure to include your resume, any relevant work samples, and a bio that highlights your achievements and career goals.

Create and share valuable content on LinkedIn, as well as on your personal blog, website or social media sites. Creating and sharing valuable content related to your field can help you establish yourself as an expert in your industry. It is imperative that you steer clear of divisive topics or opinions that maybe be controversial. These are the kinds of red flags employers will be looking for.

4. Focus On Upskilling And Reskilling

As a PhD, you’re always learning. That ambition and spirit of self-improvement is an asset in industry, now more than ever. Why?

Because, as the workforce adapts to emergent technology, industry employees will need to catch up. Upskilling and reskilling are major priorities for employers right now. Their focus is on hiring employees with leading-edge experience and skills that can help them keep up with – or get ahead of – their competitors.

You can show your worth of an employer’s investment by acquiring new skills and updating your existing ones. Employers want to hire people who will add value to their organization, and they don’t have time to hand-hold every employee through it. Continuing your education is a great way to show employers that you own your own professional development.

To determine what future-focused upskilling you need, research job postings and industry trends. Identify which skills are in high demand in your field and pursue that knowledge. Remember, when choosing what skills to learn, that you want to focus on the ones that will lead to better job opportunities.

Networking with professionals in your field is another way to research which skills you should focus on building. Industry professionals can provide you with valuable insights into what skills are most in-demand. Attend industry events, join professional associations, and reach out to professionals on LinkedIn to expand your network.

Online courses and certifications are a convenient and flexible way to upskill or reskill. There are many online platforms, such as Coursera and LinkedIn Learning, that offer courses and certifications in a wide variety of industry-specific topics.

Attending workshops and conferences is another great way to learn new skills and stay up-to-date on industry trends. Many conferences and workshops are now offered online, making them more accessible than ever.

5. Tap Into The Power Of Networking

Tapping into the power of networking for your PhD job search requires a proactive and engaged approach. By attending virtual events, engaging with industry influencers, and nurturing relationships with existing connections, you’ll uncover hidden opportunities and gain referrals.

Start leveraging your network by identifying the resources you have in your existing network. This includes former colleagues, classmates, professors, and anyone else in your industry who you’ve worked with or met at events. Do you have any connections in your target industry?

If not, you’ll need to expand your network. Attend industry events, join professional associations, and connect with professionals on LinkedIn. Once you’ve connected, be sure to introduce yourself, ask questions, and get a conversation going.

Make sure to follow up. If the conversation dies, so does your lead on open positions at that company. And, because networking is about advancing careers, find ways to offer value to your contacts. This might come in the form of introductions to new connections, offering insights, and celebrating your connection’s career accomplishments.

When the time is right, ask if your connection has time for a quick informational interview. These meetings often lead to referrals for open positions. Beyond that, they help you become connected to the community in industry you’re targeting. 

6. Tailor Your Application Materials

If you want to stand out to industry employers, creating a targeted application is essential. You should tailor your resume’s experience and summary sections to highlights the skills that are relevant to the position you are applying for – every single time.

Customizing your resume and cover letter with relevant keywords demonstrates your genuine interest and alignment with the role. It also increases your chances of making it past the applicant tracking systems (ATS). And it doesn’t take much time to do.

Before applying to a job, research the company and position. This will help you understand the company’s values and goals, as well as the requirements and responsibilities of the position.

Based on your research, customize your resume to highlight the skills and experiences that are most relevant to the position. Make sure to use keywords and phrases from the job description to show that you’re a good fit for the role.

Next, you’ll write a targeted cover letter. Use your research to show that you understand the company’s values and goals, and explain how your skills and experiences make you a good fit for the role. Think about how your skills and experiences align with the company’s goals, and prepare examples that demonstrate your ability to succeed in the role.

Concluding Remarks

These are some of the most prevalent trends in an ever-evolving job market. But don’t think that checking in once every two or three years is enough to give you an edge. Make tuning into the latest hiring trends a habit for you. Turn to your network and ask what changes they’ve seen, personally. Subscribe to industry magazines or invest in digital subscriptions. Spend some of your job search time looking into LinkedIn; set up a Google alert for hiring trends; subscribe to blogs that track changes in recruitment and talent.  Incorporating these trends into your current job search is a great start. By studying them, you’ll gain insight into how hiring managers decide which candidates are more aligned with their needs and goals. And the more you know, the greater your chances of getting hired.

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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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