Cheeky Logo
Ready To Get Hired?
Apply To Book A Free Call With Our Transition Specialist Team

How Women PhDs Can Use LinkedIn When Searching For A STEM Job

As I neared the end of my PhD, the stress that I felt about the future increased exponentially.

I did not want to stay in academia and pursue a postdoc, but I felt like I was not qualified to do anything except stay in the university setting.

In fact, I hardly felt qualified to do a postdoc.

The level of self-doubt that I was experiencing was so high, that I was certain someone would find out that I was a fraud and not let me graduate.

I was suffering from extreme Imposter Syndrome.

Later, I found out that many women in STEM face similar feelings of self-doubt.

But, when I was in the middle of experiencing Imposter Syndrome, I felt like I was the only one who lacked confidence — I felt isolated.

Thankfully, I found an amazing mentor who encouraged me to join a few women in science networking groups.

This was a turning point for me.

I met women PhDs, both in person and online, who were happily working in industry.

They talked with me about their experiences with self-doubt and how they overcame them.

They showed me the many opportunities that were available to me in industry as a STEM PhD .

It was an eye-opening experience, and helped me secure my first industry position.

Why It’s Important For Women In STEM To Network On LinkedIn

Women are underrepresented in STEM careers.

According to the National Science Foundation, only 14.5% of engineers are women, only 26.4% of math and computer science positions are filled by women, and only 27.8% of professionals working in the physical sciences are women.

As a woman with a PhD who is looking to get hired in the STEM fields, you are a minority.

And, this makes networking very important.

Because, as a PhD, you are qualified for more than just an entry position in industry.

You have the technical and transferable skills required to secure a management position in industry.

But, women are also underrepresented in management positions.

As reported by INC., no matter what the field, women represent only 37% of management-level positions.

And, this disparity becomes even greater as you move up the management hierarchy.

According to Fortune, only 4.8% of Fortune 500 companies have a woman CEO.

As a woman with a STEM PhD, you have the ability to change this number.

You are capable of securing a management-level industry position, that can lead to a C-level position.

But, you will need to network.

You will need the support from your fellow women in STEM, as well as the support of other STEM leaders, both men and women, who are willing to help you in your career progression.

And, the LinkedIn networking platform provides a great place to expand your network and connect with industry professionals.

3 Ways Women STEM PhDs Can Use LinkedIn Networking To Get Hired

Networking and earning a referral increase your chances of getting hired.

But, networking will also allow you to find an organization whose company culture aligns with your values.

This is especially important because, as a woman in STEM, you are a minority.

It’s important to find a company that will encourage your career development and support you through the unique obstacles that you face as a woman in STEM.

Here are 3 ways women in STEM can leverage LinkedIn in their job search to get hired in industry…

1. Join an online women-in-STEM organization.

There are many types of women-in-STEM LinkedIn groups.

These groups are designed to support women who are pursuing STEM careers.

You can use these groups as a place to connect with other women who are in the careers that you are interested in.

The women in these groups are great candidates for setting up informational interviews because they already have a passion for supporting women in STEM.

This means that they will be more likely to want to chat with you and help you however they can.

Use these informational interviews to learn about the positions you are interested in, as well as to learn what different career paths look like.

To further leverage these groups, it’s a great idea to volunteer for them.

Many times, these organizations will have local meetups or online meetups that require organizing, and you can volunteer to help.

Volunteering is a great way to get involved with a group if you are nervous about reaching out to a cold contact, or sharing directly into the group.

When searching for groups to join, look for both large scale groups and smaller local groups.

Just a few of the larger organizations for women in STEM include: Women in Bio, Association for Women in Science, Society for Women Engineers, and Girl Geeks. And, there are many, many more groups like these.

Do a bit of research and find the networking groups that are right for you.

But remember, don’t just use these groups to get what you need — find a way to give back.

As a woman with a PhD, you can become a mentor for other women and girls in STEM.

Don’t let Imposter Syndrome keep you from using your experiences and expertise to lift up other women in STEM.

2. Use the online forum to remain connected during career breaks.

Many women face the unique challenge of having a career break when they have children.

This can be a tough time for many women PhDs.

As reported by the Society For Human Resource Management, 56% of women in the STEM fields quit their careers after 10-15 years.

And, many women report that they left their STEM career because they felt isolated.

Online networking is a way to stay connected to your STEM community, even when you are not in the workforce.

In addition to joining LinkedIn groups, you should develop a plan to regularly publish on the LinkedIn Pulse.

As a PhD, you have the expertise to add to the professional discourse on LinkedIn.

And, you can make valuable contributions to your network by writing and publishing short articles on LinkedIn.

These can be short summaries of a recent paper or news article you’ve read, or they can even be about your experiences as a woman in STEM, or as a working mother.

Sharing with your online community will allow you to stay more connected to your industry during a career break, and when you do want to re-enter the workforce, you will already have a network ready to help you.

It is possible to get hired in industry even if you have had an extensive break from the workforce.

And, using your LinkedIn network to stay connected during a career break will make re-entering industry a smoother process.

3. Set up informational interviews with industry professionals in management-level positions.

Middle aged senior confident woman applicant seeker talking to young hr managers at job interview making first impression, mature old female candidate speaking answering question, recruiting concept

One of the easiest ways to network with industry professionals is to set up informational interviews.

An informational interview can be done in person, over the phone, over Skype, or even via messaging.

The main goal of an informational interview is to begin to build a relationship with someone at a company, or in a position that you are interested in.

You can set up conversations with people in a variety of positions at a variety of companies, but make sure that you include some people who work in management-level positions.

The representation of women in high-level management positions is low.

So, even if you are just beginning your transition from academia to industry, it’s important that you seek out connections with people in management positions.

Having connections in management-level positions will help you envision what your career path could look like beyond the first industry position you get.

Since many women leave their careers before they have the chance to move into management positions, understanding that you can move up the management hierarchy from the moment you enter industry is essential.

Plus, if the informational interviews that you have with management-level industry employees lead to referrals, your chances of getting hired will skyrocket.

As reported by US News, a staggering 91% of candidates referred by a director-level employee were hired, compared with 53% for those candidates who were referred by an entry-level employee.

Networking with people who have higher level management positions will help you in both the short-term, by increasing your chances of getting hired, and in the long-run, by showing you the path that you can take to move into these higher level positions yourself.

Making the transition from academia to industry as a woman in STEM can be intimidating. Many women suffer from Imposter Syndrome and face the reality that the majority of STEM positions are filled by men. But, networking online is a great way to overcome those feelings of self-doubt and connect with industry professionals who can help you in your transition. You can use LinkedIn to join online women in STEM organizations, to stay connected with your field during career breaks, and to set up informational interviews with industry professionals in management-level positions. LinkedIn is the largest online networking platform for professionals and is a resource that can dramatically increase the success of your industry job search as a woman in STEM.

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.

Book a Transition Call
Get Free Job Search Content Weekly


Cathy has a PhD in Medical Life Science and Technology and is COO of the Cheeky Scientist Association. Cathy is passionate about science communication including translating science to lay audiences and helping PhDs transition into industry positions. She is Chair of Cambridge AWiSE, a regional network for women in science, engineering and technology. She has also been selected to take part in Homeward Bound 2018, an all-female voyage to Antarctica aimed to heighten the influence of women in leadership positions and bring awareness to climate change.

Catherine Sorbara, Ph.D.

Similar Articles

Your Professional Brand Is Academia. 5 Questions To Change It

Your Professional Brand Is Academia. 5 Questions To Change It

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

What’s your professional brand?  As a researcher, my conclusions are based on proven facts and quantifiable results. The concept of something as subjective as brand or image had never felt particularly relevant to me.  I’d heard the question, of course. When you’ve been looking for a job for over a year, you’re bound to come across the idea.  But now, face to face with a recruiter who had turned me down for a job, I was really trying to come up with an intelligent answer.  “What’s my brand?” I asked. I guess feigning ignorance was one way to go.  “Yes,…

Don’t Ignore These 6 Powerful PhD Job Search Trends

Don’t Ignore These 6 Powerful PhD Job Search Trends

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

What does your job search strategy look like?  If you had to describe it in 2 or 3 sentences, what would you say?  I ask because, if you’re reading this, you’re in the market for a job. Working with PhDs for more than 10 years, I’ve learned one thing is true above all others: The right job strategy is what’s going to get you hired. That’s right: I’m saying that a concrete job search methodology is more important than anything else in your job search.  It’s more important than your skills, your degree, your personality – more important than you,…

A No-Excuses Look at Virtual Networking

A No-Excuses Look at Virtual Networking

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

A lot of PhDs ignore a crucial part of their job search – virtual networking. You may think that because you’re spending a lot of time going to conferences, attending lectures, setting up face-to-face meetings, and checking in with one or two connections when you need a reference or referral that you’ve established your professional network.  Virtual Networking Casts A Wider Net, Even After The Pandemic Nope, you’re networking by halves if you’re only networking in-person. I kept seeing a former colleague of mine at conferences really making the most out of his time networking in person. Everybody knew this…

A Pitch-Perfect Elevator Script For PhDs In Industry

A Pitch-Perfect Elevator Script For PhDs In Industry

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

I had heard of the term “elevator script” before my first industry interview.  Was I sure what it meant? No. But I got the gist of it: introduce yourself in a compelling way during an interview or networking session. Don’t annoy someone in an elevator. I dismissed the idea of learning more about it than that If I remember correctly, I told myself that it was nothing more than a remedial gimmick. One of those unnecessary “life hacks” that clueless people gobble up to calm their nerves before an interview.  Definitely not something a PhD graduate with a background in…

How To Get A Referral Without The Messy Emotions

How To Get A Referral Without The Messy Emotions

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Towards the end of my PhD, I felt like I was racing time. And time was winning. I was frantically trying to wrap up loose ends in my research, finish writing my thesis, all the while trying to find a job. I knew I wanted a job in industry. In fact, I knew exactly the job I wanted. I just didn’t know how to get there. I was sending my resume off into the abyss of the internet, but I wasn’t getting any replies. I couldn’t fathom what I was doing wrong. The whole thing felt pointless. Now, looking back…

5 Insider Rapport Building Tips (or, How To Make In Person Networking Non-Dreadful)

5 Insider Rapport Building Tips (or, How To Make In Person Networking Non-Dreadful)

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Like many PhDs, I’m an introvert. That means my tendency is to avoid face-to-face interactions at all costs. But when it came time to search for a job in industry, my introverted tactics weren’t working. I was reaching out to people online, even getting a few responses, but in the end, all my efforts fell flat. After months of this, I was right where I started – unemployed. Then, I started noticing what my colleagues were doing; the ones that were getting job referrals and interviews at least. They weren’t just reaching out to people online, they were also attending…

6 Credible Networking Scripts That Make Employers Pay Attention

6 Credible Networking Scripts That Make Employers Pay Attention

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Just as “location, location, location” is the mantra of real estate, “networking, networking, networking” should be your mantra during your industry job search. During the final year of my PhD, I finally conceded – the only way I was going to get a job in industry was through networking. So, like many PhDs, I fired up my computer, hopped on LinkedIn, and clicked the blue “connect” button until my fingers ached. I sent out the same message to each new contact telling them about all my wonderful accomplishments before I asked them for a job. You know what happened after…

Master The Informational Interview (And How To Land A Referral)

Master The Informational Interview (And How To Land A Referral)

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

By the time I started my industry job search, I was desperate. I was nearing the end of my PhD and I was consumed with what seemed like a million last-minute tasks – final experiments, last drafts, and defense presentations. I felt like I didn’t have the time to dedicate to my job search. And what little effort and time I did put into it was haphazard. My attempts involved repeatedly clicking the LinkedIn “Connect” button and uploading the same resume to any online job posting I could find. To make matters worse, I wasn’t even sure what job I…

6 Ways PhDs Waste Their Time At In-person Networking Events (And What You Should Do Instead)

6 Ways PhDs Waste Their Time At In-person Networking Events (And What You Should Do Instead)

By: Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Networking in person is key to getting a job in industry. Despite knowing this, I avoided doing it at all costs during my PhD. I tried it a few times at scientific conferences, but nothing happened. It seemed pointless. Not only that, but it was down-right scary. And so, like many PhDs, I gave up. I allowed myself to make excuses. I thought “I’m way too busy to attend all these networking events”… or, “I don’t need to network – if I just send out enough resumes online, I’ll surely land a job”. But boy, was I wrong! I can’t…

Top Industry Career eBooks

63 Best Industry Positions For PhDs

63 Best Industry Positions For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD & Arunodoy Sur, PhD

Learn about the best 63 industry careers for PhDs (regardless of your academic background). In this eBook, you will gain insight into the most popular, highest-paying jobs for PhDs – all of which will allow you to do meaningful work AND get paid well for it.

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Industry Resume Guide for PhDs

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

Learn how to craft the perfect industry resume to attract employers. In this eBook for PhDs, you will get access to proven resume templates, learn how to structure your bullet points, and discover which keywords industry employers want to see most on PhD resumes.

AI & ATS Resume Filters

AI & ATS Resume Filters

Isaiah Hankel

In today's competitive job market, understanding the impact of AI is crucial for career success. This involves ensuring your resume stands out in the digital realm, mastering your online presence, and being aware of how AI assigns reputation scores. Discovering how to leverage AI to your advantage is essential, as it plays a pivotal role in shaping professional opportunities.

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Complete LinkedIn Guide For PhDs

Isaiah Hankel

The LinkedIn tips & strategies within have helped PhDs from every background get hired into top industry careers.

Ready To Start
Getting Job Offers?

Fill Out Our Job Search Strategy Survey

Take The Survey

We have helped thousands of people land their dream job