The “I Need A Job Yesterday” Strategy For Getting Hired (14 Steps)


“When do you need to get hired?” I asked. 

Yesterday.” Sarah replied quickly. 

“Got it …What have you done so far?” 

That’s when Sarah got quiet. Why? Like most PhDs, Sarah had done very little in terms of her job search. 

Sure, Sarah thought about her job search a lot. She played out different scenarios in her head.

But when it came to taking action …she was empty handed. 

Now, she was working for free for her PI and scrambling to find a job that would pay her. You see, Sarah had just defended her thesis but spent not time executing her job search. She figured she would write her thesis, defend, and then look for a job. 

Now, Sarah has been without work for almost 6 months

This is the pathetic fate that too many PhDs allow themselves to fall into. I used the word “pathetic” because I cannot fathom anything sadder than getting your PhD and then ending up unemployed (or working for free, which is the same thing) because you didn’t plan properly. Or, because you thought academia would take care of you. 

I see this happen time and time again, and not just to newly minted PhDs. 

I see postdocs and adjuncts who thought they would have plenty of time to prepare for the next step in their career, but then ran out of funding, or were released from their lab, department or University, only to end up unemployed and begging strangers to help them get a job. 

If you don’t have a strategy for the next step in your career, a strategy will be chosen for you: the strategy of desperation. 

The Desperate Job Search Strategy Most PhDs Follow

Let’s back up.

Earlier I wrote that Sarah didn’t take any action to get hired. That’s not entirely true. 

She did take two actions. But neither helped her get hired. Instead, they burnt bridges and made it harder for her to get hired. 

What did Sarah do? 

She uploaded 114 resumes (like a good PhD, she kept count) to various job postings and she spammed connections on LinkedIn with 2-paragraph messages that contained a long list of her credentials and the pleading question “will you consider me for a job at your company”. 

Please, never do this. First, many employers will not consider you for another job at their company for 6-12 months after considering your application and rejecting it. 

That’s right – the half-hearted, academic-style resumes you’re uploading online in bulk are being read by employers (or by their Applicant Tracking System software programs) and these employers are rejecting your application without telling you and making your contact information in their system to prevent you from being considered for any job in the near future. 

Why would an employer reject one application from a job candidate and then a few months later (let alone a few weeks later or a few days later) want to spend energy considering that same candidate again? 

By the way, employers do the same thing to your candidacy on LinkedIn Recruiter (the LinkedIn that employers use) after seeing your LinkedIn profile and rejecting you. Why do you think so many people look at your LinkedIn profile but never contact you? 

Second, the LinkedIn contacts you’re spamming are never going to reply to you in the future after you bombard them with your professional life story and ask them for free help.

Your message to them will stay in LinkedIn (or the fact that you deleted a message) and they will never reply to you in the future. 

Your actions have consequences in the job market. If you need a job now (or, “yesterday”), then you need to start executing a smarter job search strategy.

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14 Steps To Getting Hired When Your Situation Is Urgent

PhDs can often stir up more job opportunities for themselves when they operate with a healthy sense of urgency. The problem is that most PhDs wait until they are in a dire situation (unemployment, working for free, abusive PI) to operate with any sense of urgency.

If you need a job now, or needed one before you even started reading this post, there are 14 actions you need to take immediately. 

1. Identify 2 related job titles that interest you and commit to them for the next 2 weeks.

When it comes to their industry transition, PhDs get stuck before they even start. Why? They can’t make up their mind on which career track is right for them. Or, they don’t know which industry career tracks are available because (for some odd reason), they’ve refused to research their options. Even PhDs who initially decide on a career path, keep changing their minds over and over again. 

STOP. You need a job now. 

You can’t afford to stay stuck in your academic-minded learning loop. Pick any 2 of these job titles that are in the same major career track (there are 5 tracks), and commit to them for 2 weeks while you execute the remaining actions here. 

2. Build a strong case for why you are the best candidate for the 2 job titles you chose

Who are you building a case for? Yourself. 

PhDs who have been in academia their entire lives love to talk themselves out of getting hired. Worse, they love to talk employers out of hiring them. 

I’ve sat in panel interviews where the resident hiring manager asks the PhD if they have a particular skill just to hear the PhD say “No.” …as in, just “No.” No. Period. Seriously? 

How about “Not yet, but here is how I would learn to do that skill.” Or, “Not that specific skill but I do have XYZ skills which are highly relevant. 

On top of this, my training as a PhD has given me an edge in terms of comprehension and work ethic, and I can learn this skill on the job very quickly.” You must build a case for your being the best person for the job and then argue your case strongly throughout your job search. Avoid confirmation bias when it comes to data, not when it comes to your job candidacy. 

3. Create a list of 50 companies who have the 2 job titles you chose (regardless if they have posted job openings). 

It’s called LinkedIn and 96% of companies have a page on it. Use it

You can start by performing a basic web search using long-tail keywords like “small biotech companies in the greater Boston area” or “mid-sized engineering firms in the U.K.”

Understand that “small” in industry can mean a company with 100 or even 1,000 employees whereas “mid-sized” can mean 1,000 to 10,000 employees. 

Stop just searching “top companies” or “best companies”. 

By doing this, you’ll find lists and lists of companies that you can search on LinkedIn. 

4. Catalogue one decision-maker or gatekeeper at each company. 

Use LinkedIn’s advanced search to seek out those who work at your target companies who have “hiring” as in “hiring manager” in their job title. 

Or “talent” as in “talent acquisition”, “recruiter” or “recruitment”, or “HR”, “resources” or “human resources”. 

These are the gatekeepers that you need to connect with. 

If the company is small enough, it may not have any internal gatekeepers yet. 

So, instead, search for “COO” or “operations manager” or “director” or “executive” until you find at least one decision-maker to connect with. 

5. Catalogue one professional at each company (someone working a similar position to the one you want). 

The best person to connect with at any company you want to work with is the person who has the job title that you want.

 If you want to be a Research Scientist, connect with the other Research Scientists at the company, or at the very least others working at that same level laterally in the company, perhaps an Application Scientist or Product Manager. 

These people have likely recently transitioned themselves and are often open to helping others transition, especially because most companies offer employee referral bonuses. 

6. Reformat your resume into a 2-page functional resume. 

The functional resume format (read more here) is a must for PhDs, especially those that do not have industry experience, are changing industries, or who have not worked in industry since getting their PhD.

7. Rewrite your LinkedIn headline to include the 2 job titles you chose and 3 transferable skills related to the titles. 

Over 80% of the keyword strength of your LinkedIn profile lies in your LinkedIn headline. Your headline is not your current job title and is not a list of your experiences. 

It’s simply a place where you are supposed to put the words you want to be found for. 

You must include the 2 job titles you’re interested in your headline and at least 3 transferable skills related to those job titles. 

8. Write out your LinkedIn Summary section as a first person narrative that ends in your email address. 

Many industry employers use LinkedIn Recruiter or LinkedIn Talent Insights, which means they have to pay for every InMail message that they send to you or any other job candidate. 

This is why you should put your email address at the bottom of your Summary section on LinkedIn. 

9. Reach out to each LinkedIn contact from step #5 & #6 with this 4 sentence script when connecting. 

“Hi <first name>, congratulations on your success at <company name>. 

I have/am getting my PhD in <relevant field> and thought to connect. 

Can I ask what’s one thing you enjoy about working at <company name>? 

No worries if you’re busy. – <your name>

10. Use hunter.io or similar software to find the professional email address of your new LinkedIn contacts. 

11. Email each contact this 5 sentence networking script 2 days after your LinkedIn message if no response. 

Email subject line: <LinkedIn Volunteer Experience, or LinkedIn Influencer>? 

“Hello <first name>, we are (almost) connected on LinkedIn and I thought of sending you an email to introduce myself because I’m very interested in the work that’s being done at <company name>. 

Could you please point me in the right direction of who I could talk with about what it’s like to work at <company name> or who is in charge of hiring? 

I know how busy you must be and deeply appreciate your help. Congratulations again on your success at <company name>.
Thank you again and no worries if you’re too busy to respond right now.

Best regards,

<your name>, PhD/PhD Candidate

P.S. I saw you volunteer with <LinkedIn Volunteer Experience>. What do you find most rewarding?/I saw you follow <LinkedIn Influencer>. Have you seen this new <article/book/video/other media> by them?

12. When you get a reply from any of your contacts, request an informal informational interview using this 5 sentence script. 

Thank you very much for getting back to me <first name>. I really appreciate it and I enjoyed what you said about <previous topic> and would love to hear more. 

I have to make a few work calls tomorrow around <time> and was wondering if we could jump on the phone for 2 minutes so I could ask you 2 quick questions about what it’s like to work at <company name> and how you got hired there?

Does this time work? I can also do <time> or <time>. 

Thank you either way, 

<your name>

13. Ask these 4 set-up questions and at least one lead generation question on any informational interview you secure. 

First, ask all 4 of these questions:

  • What is one thing you enjoy most about working at <company name>?
  • What do you find the most challenging?
  • How did you get hired here? 
  • What advice would you give to someone in my position who really likes <company name>? 

Next, ask at least one of these questions:

  • Do you know of any opportunities that might be opening up at <company name> in the future? 
  • Is there anyone else you would recommend who could tell me more about what it’s like to work here? 
  • Could you pass along my resume to the hiring manager? 

14. Once you get a job referral, prepare for your upcoming interview by mastering these 4 types of interview questions.

Concluding Remarks

The above steps are simple, clear and easy to follow. Yet, the majority of PhDs would rather stay unemployed or working for free than step out of their comfort zone and execute these steps. Will you be different? Getting a job in industry takes courage. Top employers do not hand out the industry average salary of $91,112 (Science) to just anyone. You have to work for it. You must discard your academic mindset and the academic social norms you’re used to following (like the norm of never reaching out to the same person more than once). Understand that networking is the currency of industry, brevity is the key to effective communication in industry, and following up is the most sought after transferable skill in industry. 

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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ABOUT ISAIAH HANKEL, PHD

CEO, CHEEKY SCIENTIST & SUCCESS MENTOR TO PHDS

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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