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Use This 5-Part Job Search Strategy To Get Multiple Industry Job Interviews And Job Offers As A PhD

Contributing Author: Pierre-Antoine Crassous, Ph.D.

Do not despair!

I did 11 years as a postdoc and have been hired in industry.

11 years ago, I did not know that my PhD could open doors in industry, and anyway, I wanted to be a “teacher /researcher” in France (“Maître de conférences”).

My PhD has been the best time for me.

Amazing team, department, and interesting project of research and I was teaching at the University.

I loved it.

Of course, desperation occurred…

…because projects were not working.

…because everything was going too slowly.

…because articles kept being rejected.

…because I could not find a postdoc.

I was passionate, but I did not get that position I dreamed of in France, and events in life made me reconsider my career path.

I heard about CSA and decided to join the Association. I also enrolled for the SMBA group from CSA. No regrets!

I learned how to write a resume, the different career options, the strategy to get an interview, how to interview, and how to think like people think in real world.

I understood why I did not have any responses even when the description of the job was a perfect match with my profile.

And I started to follow the advice and guidance delivered by the group.

I attended career events.

I prepared great tailored resumes, networked, got engaged in associations, jumped into every opportunity to learn new things, to network and organize networking events.

That led me to interview for many roles.

I wanted a position where I had interaction with people.

So I got interviews for a sales representative position, for medical writing positions, and for MSL roles.

I pushed more by going to career fairs, networking events, informational interviews.

I received a lot of answers to interview for medical writing, scientist, and business development.

I was exhausted but it helped me to keep hope.

Then suddenly, I received an offer for a position but I knew it was not the right fit for me.

So I leveraged this offer to help me to speed up the decision for a medical writing position with the company that I wanted.

Amazingly, I received an offer for the medical writing position.

I tried to negotiate and I got a little bit more than they offered originally.

In summary, do not despair, it happens when it is your time, for some it will be at their first application and for others, it will take longer.

Develop your soft skills, be open to any opportunities to meet new people and to help your peers.

Grow your network first, and then apply for the position when you have someone willing to give your resume to the right person.

Why You Need To Understand The Complete Job Search Strategy

Getting a job is not luck.

It is not just going to happen without you taking action and putting in effort.

No one is coming to knock on the door of your lab and offer you a job.

Getting a job requires strategy.

Large companies like Google, Microsoft, Pfizer etc get 1,000s of applications per job opening.

If you are relying on luck to make you the 1:1,000 that gets hired, you are going to be waiting a long time.

Instead, you should be strategic.

Realize that, according to JobScan, 98% of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking software to screen resumes.

And understand that employers care more about your soft skills than they do about your specific technical skills.

Inside Higher Education reported that the most in demand skills according to employers were listening skills (74%), attention to detail (40%) and effective communication (69%).

You need to be taking all this information, and more, into account when crafting your job search strategy.

5 Components Your PhD-Level Job Search Strategy Should Have

It is not just luck.

It is not that employers hate to hire PhDs.

It’s just that you need to have the correct strategy.

There are clear steps and a sequence that you need to apply in your job search.

If you skip a step then your strategy and success will suffer.

From resumes and LinkedIn, to networking, to interviewing, to negotiation… there are right and wrongs ways to execute your job search.

Here are the 5 components that your PhD-level job search should have in the order that you should execute them…

1. Write an industry ready resume.

Rule #1: an industry resume is not the same as your academic CV.

This is the very first thing you need to realize when searching for a job outside of academia.

And your resume is the first thing you need to get ready in your job search.

If you have been uploading your CV to job postings and then not hearing anything back, it’s because employers do not want to see your CV.

They only care about what is relevant to them.

What results have you achieved?

Do you have the right skills (transferable and technical) to get the job done well?

They don’t want to see a long list of your publications or a huge description of the duties and responsibilities you had as a PhD student or postdoc.

Your resume shows an employer that you can be succinct.

It puts your communication skills on display.

So, does your resume look like you are a mad-scientist who just keeps rambling on, or do you look like a professional who can clearly and quickly communicate the important information?

Your resume should only be 2 pages long.

It should have lots of white space and not be packed with text.

Do not change the margins or go below font size 11.

All your bullet points should be one, non-run-on, sentence.

The bullet points should include a transferable skill, technical skill, and a relevant result.

Think about your resume from the perspective of the person reading it, the employers, make your most relevant and impressive results stand out.

Check out this blog for more resume writing resources.

2. Create a professional and complete LinkedIn profile.

Just like your resume is different than your CV, your LinkedIn profile is different from your resume.

It is not good practice to copy and paste your resume into your LinkedIn profile summary.

First of all, it’s lazy.

If an employer looks at your resume and liked it enough to look at your LinkedIn profile to learn more about you, they are going to be very disappointed when they see that your LinkedIn profile is just a copy of your resume.

Opportunity lost.

Your LinkedIn profile is slightly less formal than your resume.

You want to stay professional, but you can be more conversational and talk about some of the things that make you unique.

Start this with your summary.

Think of the summary as the conversation you are having with the person who is viewing your profile.

If you just met someone, would you start listing off your skills and asking for a job?

No. (Don’t do this).

You would introduce yourself, say a bit about what you do, who you are and what you care about — do this in your LinkedIn summary.

But be strategic, use the keywords you know are important for the types of positions you are applying for.

There is so much more to creating a good LinkedIn profile, and you will want to make sure that your entire profile is filled out.

Every section left blank is a lost opportunity to build up your keyword density and appear in more search results.

Check out this blog for more LinkedIn profile resources.

3. Set up informational interviews.

Once you have a resume and LinkedIn profile and is not cringe-worthy, it’s time to start networking.

The most effective way to begin your networking efforts is to set up informational interviews.

Informational interviews are an opportunity for you to meet someone in the industry or position that you are interested in and ask them about their work.

It is not a place to ask for a job.

Use your current network or LinkedIn to find some people who are at your target companies, in your target industry, or in your target position.

Start very small with your ask.

If you don’t know this person at all, just ask a small question about them and their work in your LinkedIn message or email.

If you know them a little or you were introduced to them by a mutual connection, go ahead and ask if they will have a 5 minute chat with you on the phone.

Again, in the conversation ask about them and their work.

Stick to the time you said you would take up.

If the call goes well you can always set up another time to talk and ask more questions.

Once you have built up some rapport with someone, meaning you are starting to build a professional relationship with them, that’s a great time to ask if they would meet you in person.

Maybe you can buy them a coffee?

Meeting in person is the quickest way to grow a professional relationship and someone who has met you in person is much more likely to help you.

Check out this blog for more informational interview resources.

4. Do your research and prepare thoroughly for your interviews.

If you have been called back for an interview, it’s time to get to work.

Do not rest on your PhD qualifications or the fact that you think you meet the job description perfectly.

At the interview the company is deciding if you are someone they want on their team, more than just your technical abilities go into this decision.

So, it’s essential that you do you research.

You are a PhD, research is your superpower, use this to your advantage.

Learn as much as you can about what is currently happening at the company.

Do they have a new product?

A recent merger or acquisition?

A big publication or patent that went through recently?

If you know about these things it creates great talking points and questions that you can ask during the interview.

Also, be sure to research the company culture.

This is for your and the company’s benefit because ensuring that you are a good culture fit is very important to your success in the role.

You can look to social media, informational interview, company reviews and clues during the interview to assess company culture.

Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the preparations you make for your interviews.

Check out this blog for more job interview resources.

5. Acknowledge your fears and negotiate anyway!

The last part of your job search strategy is salary negotiation.

Many PhDs fear this step and end up doing everything they can to avoid it.

But this is how you end up getting paid less than you are worth.

The most important thing about negotiations is to realize that they have started as soon as you first have contact with a company.

They might try a variety of ways to get you to anchor your salary low.

They might ask about your current salary → don’t tell them, reframe the conversation back onto what you will bring to the company.

They might ask about your preferred salary range → tell them you will consider all reasonable offers.

They might say, “If I offered you $X right now, would you take the position.” → tell them I will consider all reasonable offers and would love to see the offer letter.

These are just tactics to try and get you to give the first number so they can pay you as little as possible.

If they continue to push you about salary even when you say that you’ll consider all reasonable offers, consider making a joke about wanting a ridiculous salary, such a $1,000,000.

Even though this is a joke, it makes the first number mentioned very high, and studies have shown it can increase your starting salary amount.

Industry employers expect you to negotiate.

It’s okay to be nervous about it, but don’t let that stop you from asking one simple question:

“Is there anything more you can do in terms of salary?”

Check out this blog for more negotiation resources.

Getting a job in industry is not just going to happen. No one else is going to do the work for you. You need to create a plan, a strategy, and then you need to execute that strategy. A successful PhD level job search strategy has 5 parts, write an industry ready resume, create a professional and complete LinkedIn profile, set up informational interviews, do your research and prepare thoroughly for your interviews, acknowledge your fears and negotiate anyway! A solid job search strategy will get you on the right path to landing the industry job you want.

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Pierre-Antoine Crassous, Ph.D.

Pierre-Antoine Crassous, Ph.D.

Pierre is a Medical Writer at Cadent Medical Communications. He earned his PhD in pharmacology at the University of Paul Sabatier (Toulouse III).
Pierre-Antoine Crassous, Ph.D.