How I Got Hired Right After I Had A Baby – Tips For PhDs Job Search Strategy As A New Parent
Contributing Author: Mansi Khanna, Ph.D.
The actual story of how I became a regulatory writer.
I received my PhD in cell and developmental biology from Penn State.
I graduated from a great lab. I had an excellent mentor and was treated like family.
My aim was to start a lab of my own.
I ended up taking a coveted postdoc at Thomas Jefferson University under another excellent mentor who was very well known for his contribution to developmental biology.
I felt I was set to establish myself in academia.
This was not to be. In spite of excellent research, my lab ran out of funding and due to visa issues I found myself scrambling to get a job.
I had just returned from maternity leave.
I applied high and low, left, right and center.
Left no stone unturned.
Eventually, I ended up taking a second postdoc. This was a game changer for me. This postdoc made me realize two things
1. Academia was a waste of my efforts
2. There is a whole world of careers in industry, not necessarily in bench research.
I spent the better part of my second postdoc exploring these career options.
During my second postdoc I really started to build my network.
In hindsight, I think ultimately what really helped me get hired was this network that I was building.
Although I was frustrated at the time, making and developing these connections helped me a lot.
While my current job was not achieved using a referral, my network was very important in the evolution of my career choice.
I was able to zero in on my desired position thanks to all the conversations I had with people at both social gatherings and professional meetings.
Eventually, I realized that what I really desired was to stay within science but away from the bench and have a career with a good work life balance so that I could enjoy my kids and family as well.
During my second postdoc I reached the ultimate breaking point.
I was frustrated that in spite of being qualified and even after having landed a bunch of on site interviews, I wasn’t getting any job offers.
I was also mentally done with my postdoc.
In addition to the above, I was 7 months pregnant, mentally and physically exhausted and had resigned from my postdoc.
I told my advisor that once the baby was born, I wouldn’t be back.
This was the BEST decision of my life.
4 weeks after I delivered my baby boy, I started the job hunt once again.
I had made up my mind that I wasn’t going to sit at home and this time around, I was going to get the job!
So, what did I do?
I did what all moms know how to do best-multitask!
I started listening to the Cheeky Scientist modules while I was feeding or changing my son, cooking or when he was asleep.
I noticed that a company, which has an office 5 minutes away from my house was hiring!
What did I do?
I emailed their HR recruiter and sent her my resume.
Within 2 days, I received an email from her saying she would like to talk to me.
The day of the phone interview, I set myself up for this call. I made sure my baby was taken care of and guess what?
I waited for about 15 minutes and still no call.
I emailed the recruiter politely checking with her if she would still like to talk on said day.
She immediately emailed me back, apologetic and asked to reschedule since a call she was on went over time.
I mention this because many times we worry and think the worst about not hearing back from recruiters.
Just ask! Don’t panic, they are human too and stuff happens.
So, the call was rescheduled when we spoke and she told me that I would have to take a writing test, which she would email me that evening.
That evening came and went and so did another week, and no test.
I emailed to check and no response.
Once again, panic and frustration.
But remember, life happens to everyone.
It happened to the recruiter as well. She emailed me a week later asking me if I had received the test.
Looks like it got stuck in her outbox and never got sent to me even though she thought it had.
So, once I got the test, I aced it!
The next day I was asked to schedule an onsite interview.
Just 3 days after the interview I got a job offer.
I was able to negotiate a later start date and flex time.
Why It’s Never Too Late Or Too Early To Start Your Job Search
The ideal time to start focusing on your job search is now.
No matter if you have just started your PhD or if you are unemployed and want a job ASAP, the best thing you can do it start now.
Balance Careers reported that roughly it takes one month to find a job for every $10,000 of the paycheck you would like to earn.
So, as a PhD if you want to earn $90,000 per year, your job search could take about 9 months.
BUT this is an estimate.
Depending on the effort your put in and any networking efforts you did before needing a job this time frame can change.
The bottom line is that you want to give energy to your job search as soon as possible, but don’t worry if you feel like you are late to the game.
In the US alone, in just one month, there were 7.5 million job openings, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are lots of opportunities for you out there.
There is a job that will fit with your specific career aspirations and allow you to do meaningful work as a PhD.
Don’t lose hope.
Top 3 Tips For PhDs Job Searching As A New Parent
Searching for a job as a new parent is a unique experience.
You have new responsibilities and a new appreciation for work-life balance.
This means that it has become increasingly important for you to find a position that is right for you and to create the most effective job search strategy possible.
So in addition to following the PhD job search blueprint and executing your job search at the PhD level, there are a few extras to remember.
Here are the top 3 tips for PhDs job searching as a new parent that will help you craft the most effective job search strategy and get hired quickly…
1. Networking is a marathon.
Whether you think so or not, networking is a super important part of your job search.
You are already a part of a network, and either it’s working for you or it’s not.
Networking refers to the activity of building relationships with people you already know as well as meeting and building relationships with new people.
Not all your networking contacts are going to result in a job referral, but all your interactions are valuable.
Each conversation you have is an opportunity to learn.
Even if that means you realize that a position or company is not right for you, that is a great lesson, especially as a new parent.
The other, incredibly important thing about networking is that it is not a sprint, it is a MARATHON.
Going to one event and having out a few business cards is not networking.
You will only gain the benefits of networking by adopting a wider perspective and thinking about networking as a long term investment.
Networking is most successful with you are consistent.
You will have to work at networking and it is tiring.
But once you are hooked on it and once it just becomes a part of your life it will continue to help you thrive throughout your entire career.
A few key things to remember when networking:
- Adding value is important
- Always be polite
- Remember no one is obliged to help you, talk to you or respond to your email, so be sure to say thank you to those who do
- Easy ways to add value are to wish someone a happy holiday, congratulate them on a promotion, or write comment on a LinkedIn post they make
Be curious about the people you interact with.
Go into your interaction with an open mind and looks for ways you can relate to the person outside of working.
This means that parent meet-ups and playdates are great networking opportunities!
2. Don’t get hung up on job titles and job descriptions.
A job description is not set in stone.
Many of the job descriptions that you see just contain a wish list of all the things an employer would love to have in a new employee.
So if you don’t meet all the requirements don’t worry, and apply anyway!
This is especially true if you are a woman, as studies show that women are more likely to not apply for a position because they don’t meet all the requirements than men.
So, if you feel the imposter syndrome setting in because you don’t meet every single requirement listed, stop and reevaluate.
You are a PhD.
You are highly qualified, even if there are a few skills on that job description that you don’t have.
Additionally, don’t automatically rule out positions that don’t require a PhD.
Job descriptions are sometimes minimum requirements.
You might miss out on an opportunity to do great work if you get hung up on the fact that a job description only lists and BSc or MS as the required education level.
Instead of getting too hyper focused on the job description, learn as much as you can about the company.
Learn about the people you would be working with.
Ask questions about the career progression that others have had and what they think about working in that particular company or industry.
These are the types of questions that will allow you to find a position that fits you well, regardless of what the job description says.
I say this because my job was advertised for a BSc or English major. Had I been hung up on this, I would have never landed this job.
3. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ job search.
Depending on your situation the speed of your job search and the strategies you rely on more heavily are going to be different.
Don’t become frustrated if your job search looks different than your peers.
Maybe you are trying to move to a new location, so much of your networking takes place online.
Maybe you are taking care of a child full time and most of your networking is with other parents.
Maybe you are still doing your PhD and your networking is solely focused on figuring out what positions could be a good fit for you.
These are all different, but good, job search strategies.
The similarity that they all have is that you need to be networking.
Also, if you are feeling frustrated that your job search efforts are not getting you results fast enough, you just need to increase your threshold.
This means if you’ve been applying for 1 job a week, increase it to 3 or 5 per week.
If you’ve been reaching out to 1 person in your network per week, increase that to 1 person per day.
If you are following the PhD job search blueprint, it will work, you just need to think bigger.
PhDs start to get hired when they have 30-50 job leads all going at the same time.
It might take you a while to get to this place, but that should be your goal.
There is no one way to execute your unique job search, do whatever works and what makes you feel comfortable.
It is possible to get hired as a new parent, who is also a PhD. It may seem daunting and it might be difficult to find the time to put into your job search, but you can do it. You just need to focus on what you can do. Specifically, remember that networking is a marathon, don’t get hung up on job titles and job descriptions, and there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ job search. Learn what works for you, in your unique situation. Just keep moving forward.
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