The “From Scratch” Method Of Setting Up A Successful Job Search Strategy (5 Steps You Can’t Miss)

I am working on my job search strategy. 

Just last week, I sent over 10 CVs through job portals.

I hear this from PhDs all the time.

They don’t know what a PhD-level job search actually looks like, so they send a bunch of resumes or LinkedIn requests and expect to see results.

The thing is, that strategy will take them nowhere. 

It isn’t even a strategy.

Recently one of our members noticed why uploading resumes online, not only is not a strategy, but is a waste of time. 

“I have been following CSA strategies a lot, but today I did upload a resume, I admit, with no cover letter or anything. 

I know, bad, bad, bad…Usually I don’t do that … But as a result, now I learned something I didn’t know before!

After I uploaded the resume, the webpage put up a message:  Apply to 50 similar jobs… Increase your chances of being hired. 

And there was a button where I could have clicked to upload that same resume to 50 other job ads!

Now, I know that all the job ads are getting spammed by “Quick Apply” options like this one.  If even 5% of job applicants click that button, there would be so many resumes being sent out to these job ads, I can hardly imagine it.

No wonder we are facing such competition and we get weeded out when we upload a very, very, very good resume.

Don’t worry, I did not click the “Quick Apply” button.  I’ll get back to networking now…”

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. 

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

After almost a decade of thinking about this, working with PhDs with different backgrounds and career goals, and improving the process over nine years, I’ve narrowed it down to 5 core steps that you have to perform in order. 

This is a protocol or a lesson plan for the job search process.

Some PhDs know what the components of the strategy are, but fail to commit to their job search. 

They focus on their resumes for one week, then stop and go back to the lab, then come back and work on their LinkedIn profile, and so on. They never actually follow the strategy as if it were a protocol. And so, they never see results.

A PhD-level job search can take up to 18 months from the moment you start looking for jobs to the moment you get hired.

But we have seen many associates getting hired merely weeks after starting our programs.

What’s the difference? 

The strategy. 

Those who learn the Association’s blueprint and commit to it, get hired faster.


Why You Must Apply A Job Search Strategy If You Want To Get Hired

PhDs are valued in industry, and we are currently in the mid-year hiring surge. We are seeing PhDs getting hired in all kinds of industry careers –  from R&D scientist to business development manager.

However, this doesn’t mean that these positions are easy to get; the average salary for a PhD-level industry job is $91,112, companies don’t just hand out those types of jobs. 

If you are just uploading resumes online and hoping for the best, you are relying on luck. 

Large companies like Google, Microsoft, and Pfizer get thousands of applications per job opening. How long do you think it’s going to take for you to get a job if you are just relying on luck?

If you want to get hired fast, you need to take action and put in the effort. You need to prioritize your job search and follow and plan to ensure you use your time in the most efficient way and don’t burn bridges with industry employers. 

Additionally, you need to keep up with the fast-pace of industry if you want your efforts to stay relevant.

I talk a lot about PhDs having to learn the language of industry if they want to transition. PhDs also need to be aware that the language of industry keeps changing. 

You can’t apply to a job today using the transferable skills that were working in 2019. You have to know the transferable skills that employers care about now. You need to be taking all this information, and more, into account when crafting your job search 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.

The 5-Step Blueprint That Gets PhDs Hired

The best way to ensure that you will get into your target industry position in the least amount of time possible is to have a strategy in place and commit to follow that strategy step by step; without skipping any step or altering any of the other factors. 

From resumes and LinkedIn, to networking, to interviewing, to negotiation. 

There are right and wrong ways to execute your job search. 

As a PhD, you know the importance of following a methodology. 

The blueprint that I’m going to present is a proven protocol to get PhDs hired. 

Here are the 5 core components of a PhD-level job search presented in the order that you should execute them…


Identify The Career Option That Better Matches You Desired Lifestyle

There are dozens of careers that PhDs can pursue in industry. You can also work in different sectors, no matter your PhD background. But you need to know what career you are targeting before you start actively looking for jobs. 

You need to know your options and contrast them with your desired lifestyle in order to establish your target industry positions.

You might think that you don’t need to figure out this right at the beginning of your job search, that you can target different positions and explore different options. That the pieces will fall into place along the way. 

This isn’t how it works.

The most important things that industry employers are looking for in potential candidates are transparency and certainty. You need to show them that you are an industry professional and that you know what you want and are committed to getting it.

The first step to achieve that is to know what position you are targeting. That will determine the resume format that you use, the keywords that you add to your LinkedIn profile, the companies you target, and the people you network with.

You can’t hit a target you don’t set, and the first step to set up your target is to know what career you want to pursue.

Craft An Industry Resume To Match Your Target Position

Now that you know the position that you are targeting, it’s time to start working on your industry resume. 

The idea here is not to craft a standard document that you use to apply online to every open position that somewhat matches your skillset, but to have a basic document that you can easily adapt to target specific positions in case someone asks you for it.

Now, an industry resume is not a CV. A resume is a marketing document that you use to convince industry employees that you can excel at a given position. So, don’t try to adapt your academic CV to use it as an industry resume. Instead, use of our tried and true resume formats as a starting point.

As a PhD wanting to transition into industry, you should start with a functional resume, this is the best alternative as it will allow you to highlight your transferable skills instead of your academic titles, which mean nothing to industry employers. 

Depending on the circumstance, you might want to use another format, but once you have a complete functional resume, it will be easy to adapt it to any of the other formats.

Now, it’s time to add content to your resume; make sure that you only add relevant information and create bullet points in the format transferable skill + technical skill + measurable result. You should always highlight your results and transferable skills, this is what makes you valuable in industry.

Finally, you need to target your resume for a specific position. To do this, you need to study the job description very carefully; identify the most relevant keywords and add them to your resume in a way that makes sense. 

Now, you are ready to send your resume to industry employers.

Use LinkedIn’s Algorithm To Your Advantage

Over 87% of employers use LinkedIn to find talented employees and the number increases every year. You can’t afford to miss out on the opportunities you can access through LinkedIn by not having a profile, or having a profile that works against you.

The first thing you need to do is to fill in all the sections of your LinkedIn profile. It is better not to have a LinkedIn profile at all than to have an incomplete profile

Having an incomplete profile sends the message that you are lazy and not serious about your career. So, make sure that you fill in all the sections of your profile and include keywords relevant to your target position in all of them.

You should also be aware of how LinkedIn’s algorithm works. Keep in mind that this changes constantly. Right now, it is prioritizing transparency and simplicity. 

What does transparency mean? It means that when people come to your profile, they need to know exactly what your purpose is. They need to know if you are looking for a job and what job you are looking for. Otherwise, you will have a high bounce rate – meaning that people come to your profile but leave after a short time, which will rank you lower on searches. 

The two final aspects that you need to consider when working on your LinkedIn profile are the number of connections and how active you are.

You need to have at least 1,000 connections and be very active to rank high in searches. 

You should also update your profile frequently and interact with your connections daily. Spending a couple of hours building a profile one afternoon won’t be enough to be considered by the LinkedIn algorithm.

Boost Your Credibility By Networking In The Right Way

Your network is your net worth. 

I already told you that, as a PhD, you have all that it takes to succeed in industry and that is true, but getting that coveted job without a healthy network of industry professionals is going to be almost impossible. 

Right now, you have the skills needed to work in industry, but you don’t have any credibility. Industry professionals don’t know. So, they have no reason to take a chance on you.

To boost your industry credibility, you need to expand your network and build relationships with employers to the point where you can generate referrals.

Asking for job search referrals from connections might sound easy, but this is the part where most PhDs get stuck. 

Getting connections and referrals is challenging, and it requires a lot of time and an organized approach.

You first need to identify the people you want to connect with. Then, you need to reach out to them in a way that will make them want to know more about you. You need to reach out to them in a way that will convince them to help you. 

A good way to get organized when you’re networking is to create scripts that are framed for every type of person. 

It is not the same to reach out to an expert, a potential peer, and decision maker, or a recruiter. And you need to show that you know the difference from the very beginning.

Once you have created that initial connection, you need to nurture your network and develop the relationship.  

Conducting informational interviews with potential co-workers is an excellent way to bring the relationship to the next level and increase your chances of getting a referral. 


Prep Your Interviews To Ensure You WOW Potential Employers

Once you have determined your career choice, set up your resume and LinkedIn profile, and are actively networking and applying to jobs through referrals. You will start getting phone screens and interviews very fast. You need to be ready for this.

When it comes to job interviews, practice makes perfect. This means that you need to do actual mock interviews. 

Just reading potential answers to behavioural questions won’t cut it.

You need to be aware of how you come across, you need to be able to command the conversation, you need to show that you understand the role and the company by asking questions. 

Most PhDs come off as noncommittal, non-serious, or as amateurs during interviews, that’s the feedback that we get from employer after employer.

This happens because PhDs don’t know how to carry themselves like industry professionals. And the only way to learn how to do that is through behavioral practice, because you don’t have industry experience. 

So, do mock behavioral interviews over and over again in order to be ready to wow any actual interview panel. 

Concluding Remarks

As a PhD, you know the importance of following a methodology. You made it through grad school by having a plan and following 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 our proprietary blueprint to get the most results for time invested. Start by determining your target career. Then, create a current and targeted industry resume and a LinkedIn profile that reflects your personal brand, increase your network by reaching out in the correct way, and prepare for the interview process to wow employers.

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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Isaiah Hankel, PhD is the Founder and CEO of the largest career training platform for PhDs in the world - Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by 3 million PhDs in 152 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. Isaiah Hankel received his doctorate in Anatomy & Cell Biology with a focus in immunology and is an expert on biotechnology recruitment and career development.

Isaiah has published two bestselling books with Wiley and 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.

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