How Following Up Can Get You The PhD Job Of Your Dreams
Written by Isaiah Hankel, Ph.D.
Niki wanted an industry job.
But, like most PhDs, she didn’t know much about the process of getting hired.
She was in the middle of her second year as a postdoc at the University of Florida (UF) College of Medicine after getting her PhD at UF.
She published several papers during her postdoc and was awarded the 2014 UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute Project Grant.
Niki was successful. But…
She was ready to take on a new challenge.
She loved research and wanted to continue doing meaningful work at the bench, but she also wanted to be paid well for it.
Niki decided that an R&D Scientist position at a biopharmaceutical company would be a good fit for her and started to apply to jobs online. But…
She didn’t get a lot of responses.
When she did get a response, Niki would read it, write a short reply, and then hope for the best.
If she didn’t hear anything after that, she just let it go.
Why isn’t anyone getting back to me?
Why don’t I have a job yet?
What is my problem?
These are the thoughts that played in Niki’s head over and over again.
People weren’t getting back to Niki because she wasn’t getting back to them.
She didn’t have a job yet because she kept stopping short.
The overall problem was Niki didn’t know how to follow up.
Change Your Thinking, Change Your Career
After months of hitting dead ends, Niki decided to get help.
She stopped trying to do everything herself and joined the Cheeky Scientist Association.
Within 6 weeks of joining, she got the PhD job of her dreams.
Niki completed all of the Industry Insider documents and made strategic changes to her industry résumé and to the way she was networking and interviewing.
Most importantly, she learned how to follow up properly.
Instead of showing up to networking events without a plan, she started creating specific goals for each event and following up with the people she met afterwards.
Instead of leaving an interview and waiting weeks to hear back from the company, she started sending thank you emails and letters the very same day.
Niki was not only strategic, she was consistent.
She calculated how often her LinkedIn messages were replied to as a percentage and tested new techniques to increase the percentage.
She also created a follow up schedule by putting notes in her calendar reminding her when to follow up with each and every connection she made.
As a result, Niki was hired as an R&D Scientist in the Drug Discovery Division at Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co.
This was her dream job. The company had an amazing R&D team and cutting-edge projects that Niki would get to work on daily. And…
The company compensated her very well.
The job was perfect for Niki.
And it happened just like that.
After a few small changes to her strategy, Niki got everything she ever wanted.
Now, she was able to celebrate.
What Niki Did Differently
When a Cheeky Scientist Associate successfully transitions into the non-academic career of their choice, we follow up with them to see how they did it.
What did they do differently?
What strategies worked for them?
Then, we share these answers with the other Associates so they can learn from the experience.
We also share a few of the answers with you so you can turn your story into a success story.
Here are three of the questions we asked Niki along with her answers…
1. Why did you get this job but not others before? Why do you think you succeeded in this case?
Following up. Far and away that was the biggest difference.
I used to reach out on LinkedIn once, never hear anything back, and then give up. Once I started going through the Cheeky Scientist Insider Series I realized I was making a mistake here. I was making a lot of mistakes!
I started following up consistently. I found out that about 50% of the people I reached out to responded. I started keeping track of these people as well as the last time I reached out to them so I knew exactly when was a good time to reach out again.
I also started tweaking my approach and found that by asking good questions I could increase my response rate.
The second biggest thing I changed was my industry résumé.
The truth is my past résumés were embarrassing!
2. If you could go back and talk to yourself 6 months ago, what would you tell yourself?
I would tell myself to first know your value.
It’s easy to feel like you don’t matter in academia. That’s not true though.
PhDs are excellent job candidates. They just don’t know it!
I would have also told myself to get help sooner. It’s easy to think that you know everything as a PhD, or that you at least know the things that matter. But there was a lot I didn’t know.
More practically, I would tell myself to start networking now, not later.
Don’t botch great contacts during graduate school and your postdocs. So many people wait years and years to start networking. What a waste!
Start networking now. Its the most important thing you can do to get an industry job. Make sure you follow up too!
3. Looking back, is there anything you could have done even better? What advice would you give other PhDs trying to transition into industry?
I could have done an EVEN better job following up, especially after interviews.
Instead of waiting a few days after the interview, I should have sent a follow up letter the next morning or even later that day by email!
I also could have done an even better job of following up with recruiters. In most cases I would get off the phone with them and just wait.
Don’t do this!
Follow up that week. Follow up follow up follow up. Send more follow up thank you emails after the interview than you think are necessary. Trust me.
By using Niki’s approach to following up after an interview, with recruiters, and other industry contacts on networks like LinkedIn, will help you to get hired faster.
It will also give you a much better chance of finding and landing that dream PhD job you’ve been waiting for.
To learn more about transitioning into industry, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association.