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Feeling Invisible In Your Job Search? These 7 Actions Will Increase Your Exposure

The biggest obstacle that PhDs must overcome when they decide to leave academia is being invisible. 

Without an industry network, you are invisible.

It doesn’t matter if you are the best fit for your dream industry position if recruiters and hiring managers looking to fill that position don’t even know that you exist. 

This is something that I know very well, not just from working with thousands of PhDs, but from my personal story. 

When I first started looking for industry positions, I thought I would be easily found. 

I quickly learned how wrong I was. I was invisible.

No matter how many resumes I uploaded, no matter how much time I spent on LinkedIn, nobody was contacting me. 

I could see that people were visiting my profile, people I didn’t know. But they were bouncing away without even leaving a message.

I had no idea that there was a separate LinkedIn, called LinkedIn recruiter where recruiters and hiring managers searched for talent.

It wasn’t until years later that I put all the pieces together and stopped being invisible. 

I realized that by following specific steps daily, I could build a strong network and industry credibility. I started getting messages and calls from recruiters and hiring managers.

You can follow the same steps and vanquish invisibility just like I did.

Prioritize Your Job Search Correctly First

Setting up a complete job search strategy is a process composed of 5 main steps.

The initial steps of that process focus on building industry credibility and networking with industry employers.

This is sometimes very difficult for PhDs who have spent all their lives in academia being invisible and don’t understand the industry mindset.

LinkedIn is the best tool that PhDs can leverage during the first steps of the job search. This network has over 700 million users and is the most-used social media platform amongst fortune 500 companies.

To take full advantage of the power of LinkedIn, you need to have a complete profile that follows industry etiquette. You also need to understand how employers use LinkedIn to find talent and how LinkedIn’s algorithm ranks candidates in searches.

Recruiters and hiring managers use a separate LinkedIn, called LinkedIn recruiter to search for potential candidates. They can also do searches using keywords specific to the job descriptions in the regular LinkedIn.

LinkedIn’s algorithm uses metrics like the Social Selling Index (SSI) or the bounce rate to establish if you are a good candidate. Profiles that rank higher according to these metrics, will appear in more searches.

To increase your social selling score and reduce your bounce rate, you need to be active on LinkedIn, showcase your professional brand, have the right connections, and build relationships.

Besides understanding how LinkedIn works, you also need to prioritize your transition and stay consistent throughout the process if you want to be successful and not invisible.


Obscurity Is Your Biggest Problem, Not Your Resume Or Anything Else

Setting up and executing an industry job search can be a daunting task. It has a broad scope and requires many different steps.

Many PhDs start with a lot of energy, and try a lot of different things, but get demotivated quickly when they don’t see their effort yield any results and become invisible.

If this has happened to you, it doesn’t mean that you are helpless or that you will fail no matter how hard you try. It only means that you don’t know what the right strategies are and so you are invisible to the recruiters.

I have put together a list of rituals that you can perform daily to increase your visibility and start seeing results in your job search.

7 Small Daily Steps To Start Increasing Your Visibility

1. Update your LinkedIn profile a little bit every day

Companies the likes of Pfizer, Intel, Apple, and Google pay LinkedIn considerable amounts of money to help them find the right candidates.

To achieve this, the LinkedIn team is constantly updating their algorithm to better determine what candidates are seriously looking for a job.

It is not in LinkedIn’s interest to have candidates who are not looking for a job appear on searches. This only wastes the company’s time. 

The number one metric that LinkedIn uses to determine who’s seriously looking for a job in industry is how often a candidate updates their profile.

Many PhDs spend a whole day working on their LinkedIn profile. They fill in all the sections, and never look at it again. These PhDs end up being marked as inactive by the algorithm.

Instead, I recommend updating your profile a little bit every day.

Start with your headline. Write your new headline one day. Then, come back the next day and edit it after sleeping on it. Then, go to your summary. Continue doing that until you are done.

You can adapt this strategy to match your desired timeline. If you are finishing your PhD and plan to start working in a couple of months, do small things everyday. If you need to get hired quickly, do larger chunks everyday. 

The important thing is to stay constant and remain active so that you are not invisible.

2. Get used to retargeting your resume quickly

Every resume that you send should be targeted to match the specific job description. 

That might seem like a lot of work, but keep in mind that recruiters and hiring managers look at dozens if not hundreds of resumes every week. 

They will notice if you are applying with a generic resume and they will interpret that as lack of interest or lack of commitment.

Your resume should be two pages or less and should use the gold standard format or the functional format if you don’t have industry experience and it should be targeted to each specific position.

Every time you see a job posting, take your resume template, read the job posting carefully, and target your resume for that job. 

Following these steps will not only increase your chances of getting an interview, it will also help you see things from the employer’s point of view, understand the language used by your target companies, and identify the most relevant keywords.

You can take those insights and leverage them in other aspects of your job search. 

Add the most relevant keywords to your Linkedin profile and use the language that you identified in your informational interviews. That is how you start acting as an industry professional.


3. Reach out to two new people every day

Actively reaching out to people and letting them know who you are is a great way to increase your visibility and stop being invisible.

You need to have at least 1,000 LinkedIn connections to be taken seriously by the algorithm. And you need to engage with these connections daily.

The best way to achieve this is to reach out to new people and keep the conversation going. Keep in mind that people are busy, so even if you use the right networking scripts, not all of them will answer.

If you reach out to two new people every day, you will have 3 or 4 new connections every week.

As long as you keep reaching out to new people using professional scripts and follow up with all the connections who reply, you will build a robust, active network.

4. Have one informational interview per day

Informational interviews are the best way to create long lasting relationships with your connection and gaining relevant industry insights.

When they hear the term ‘informational interview,’ most PhDs think of a scheduled meeting in person, but informational interviews can be way more informal. 

You can talk to industry employers who come to your classroom or your lab. Can even set up a phone call or a zoom meeting. You can even have a conversation through LinkedIn chat or email.

Just remember to be polite and ask your connection about their subjective experiences. That’s the best way to get somebody talking.

5. Be prepared to interact with recruiters (do NOT be intimidated)

If you take the actions we have discussed so far, you will go from a place where nobody is reaching out to a place where you are constantly getting connection requests from recruiters very fast. 

You need to be prepared for that. 

Do your homework. 

Research the companies you are targeting and build rationale for why you want to work for them.

Show commitment to the position, even if you are considering other options. Industry employers want to see certainty in their future employees.

Don’t do the academic thing where you only focus on considering all your options and don’t commit to any of them. 

Have confirmation bias for the job you’re talking about, or recruiters won’t even consider you.

6. Interview the recruiters and make them sell themselves to you

This might seem counterintuitive, but not all recruiters are created equal and you need to figure out which recruiters are worth working with to avoid wasting time.

There are internal recruiters or talent acquisition experts who work directly for the company (Pfizer, Merk, Amazon, etc). These are the best recruiters to work with. 

There are external recruiters who work for recruiting companies and are contacted by the final company to find candidates for specific positions. 

These recruiters might be worth working for, especially if they come from a renowned recruiting company.

Finally, there are recruiting sharks who have no relationship with the final company. They see posts online and try to find people who might be a good fit. These recruiters will only waste your time.

So, always be respectful with recruiters, take the first call, answer their questions, but at the end of the call, ask them, “Can you tell me a little bit about your affiliation with the company?”

Go to their LinkedIn profile. See if they have any affiliations with the company.

These quick inquiries will prevent you from wasting time with people who are just circling around and are very unlikely to help you get a job. 


7. Stay motivated by listening to and modeling PhDs who are working in industry already

Moderate pain is the worst enemy of PhDs. 

As a PhD, you are a resilient person, which can be a good thing, but that same resilience might make you tolerate the bleak job market of academia for years without finding the motivation to take your transition seriously.

To find that motivation, take a look at the people who are five years ahead of you. 

How many postdocs, adjunct professors, even thesis committee members do you know who are miserable in their job?

Picture yourself in that position to gather the motivation you need to move out of academia right now or as soon as you finish your PhD and get into industry where you can have an impact.

Alternatively, look at the people who are in the industry job that you want. Ask them if they are satisfied in their current position or what they like most about industry. 

Remember that you can be in a similar position if you commit to it.

Concluding Remarks

The biggest obstacle that PhDs must overcome when they decide to leave academia is obscurity. Building a healthy industry network, willing to vouch for you might sound like a big milestone, but there are simple actions you can take everyday to move in the right direction. Update your LinkedIn profile a bit every day to show the algorithm you are actively looking for jobs and are not invisible. Retarget your resume to every position to show your commitment and learn relevant industry language. Reach out to new people, set up informational interviews, and be ready to interact with recruiters and employers once they start reaching out to you. Finally, compare the careers of those who stayed in academia and those who moved to industry to find the motivation you need to invest in your transition. 

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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