Your 2021 Job Search Strategy Is Probably Flawed. Here Are 8 Ways To Fix It

My job search strategy felt inadequate, it was a painful experience. I was perplexed.

My frustration knew no bounds, self pity and doubt shrouded me. I could not understand where I was going wrong. I spent days fixing my resume. Then, applied for one job at a time and waited to hear back from hiring managers and recruiters for 2 weeks before starting with the next job application.

I applied for every single job that came my way. The wait was painful, it was excruciating to bear the silence from the other end. 

Every moment I questioned myself; why would such a situation befall me? Why were there no replies to my perfectly crafted resume and uploaded application?

To my surprise, a friend who was in a similar situation actually got interview calls and eventually an offer letter. I was bewildered, what was he doing differently? Was his profile better than mine? Or was it sheer luck? 

Unable to contain my curiosity, I finally asked him about it. He told me that he had a very  organized ‘job search strategy.’ Honestly, the term was initially Greek to me, but it made much sense after he explained it. He said that the job search strategy was a war plan to land the dream job wherein each step was assessed by their time/effort/impact priorities.

I followed the strategy closely and landed the job I had been hunting for.           

Flaws In The Job Search Strategy

Job searching is a multi-step process that requires a strategic approach;  you need to evaluate each step based on the time, effort, and impact that it has on the entire process. Not designing the job search strategy based on the time/effort/impact priorities is the biggest flaw in the workflow. To set up a successful job search strategy, you need to transition from the academic mindset to the industry one. You have to think like an industry professional. Priority setting is an important quality of industry professionals. 

1. Spending most of your time on writing your resume

Most PhDs have confessed to spending most of their time in this step of the job search. Writing and rewriting resumes has taken the biggest time share in the incorrect job search phenomena. Surprisingly, PhD forget to tailor their resumes during the long time spent on this step. You should always take your basic resume to showcase your skills with reference to each job description. Resumes also need to be updated with buzz keywords and made ATS friendly. Therefore, spending maximum time rewriting resumes is unwise.

2.  Limiting your job search to uploading applications online

Uploading job applications online is yet another step that PhDs fixated on. Having lived in academia for a long time, writing journal articles, PhDs think that is the work they do best. But merely limiting your job prospects to uploading applications is a very small step in the job search strategy. Especially during the current recession when the number of advertised jobs has significantly decreased; you need to approach this with an open mind as you browse the openings and realize that current opportunities would need a huge deal of personalization. Being that one applicant among several others is just like finding a needle in a haystack; it reduces your chances of getting hired steeply.

3.  Going after one job lead at a time 

Pursuing one job at a time is a characteristic of academic PhDs that brings them to the Set-Up-To-Fail Syndrome. It’s a huge waste of precious time where you give other candidates a major time advantage. Pretty much like the hare and the turtle, except the turtle loses here. Before getting regular interviews, you need to adjust your expectations and strategies. PhDs need to understand that hiring managers and recruiters are not waiting to answer them and every company has a different hiring process, one may have an immediate job requirement, other may not have a rejection response. Hence, if you wait on one job process to complete before applying for another one, you will lose a lot of time you could spend on pursuing other leads.  

4. Waiting for hiring managers and recruiters to contact you

Engineering the cover letter and resume is quintessential for the job applying process as these are your first introduction to the hiring manager. But the expectation that they would find you and contact you as a potential candidate is far-fetched. If you are interested in being projected as the potential candidate in front of the recruiter the best way is to make an impression. Job search is a highly proactive process. In order to increase your chances of being seen by a recruiter or hiring manager, you need to practice reverse recruiting, which means that you need to reach out to the recruiter instead of waiting for them to reach out to you.

5. Asking people to help you get hired

Reaching out to industry contacts is pivotal but bluntly asking them to help you get hired is detrimental. Not only do you risk a denial from your contact, you can also end up burning an important bridge. A lot goes into building a rapport that can lead to a potential referral or an access to insider information. Asking people for jobs without adding value first or building up a relationship, may sever these ties for good. 

6. Creating a “bare bones” LinkedIn profile

Building up a candidate portfolio is indispensable since you are a stranger to the recruiter. Although your resume and cover letter serve as the initial introduction, most recruiters will scrutinize your LinkedIn profile to gauge your potential and have an insight into your professional self. 

Afterall, LinkedIn is a platform where you can portray yourself as the top candidate showcasing your skills, highlighting your accomplishments, tagging yourself with the relevant keywords . How well you present yourself gives them an idea about your productivity, creativity, and potential. Therefore, if you don’t plan on making the most out of your LinkedIn profile, it’s better to not have one. 

7. Not knowing where to start in the job search

Being a clueless PhD conceivably harms your chances of getting hired in an industry position. It’s important to build yourself for success rather than for failure. Most candidates don’t even create a job search strategy as they don’t know where to start. It is just like in a PhD; if you don’t set a goal, workout the experimental design, chalk out the limitations and strengths, you won’t be able to efficiently manage the time and resources and be productive. In this case, you will end up losing jobs.

8. Constantly violating industry social norms 

After passing all the hurdles and finally getting an offer, PhDS are already so exhausted that they presume negotiating the offer will further enrage the recruiters. As in academia, they vow not to further trouble the boss with requirements and are instead ready to start performing. Well, this is considered a violation of the social norms. Recruiters want you to negotiate, that is how they fathom your eagerness and interest in their job opening. 

8 Ways To Fix Your Flawed Job Search Strategy

The entire job search process is actually a sequence of steps, a specified protocol and not a random mix and match of steps. Designing a job search strategy requires allocating time and effort based on their impact on the overall process. It is said that winners don’t do different things, they just do things differently. Having the right job strategy matters when it comes to landing your dream job. You need to reinvent your job search strategy.

Figure 1: Correct Job Search Strategy Based On Time/Effort/Impact Prioritization

1. Get your resume template done once

PhDs tend to devote a colossal portion of their job search to resume writing, which is a bad use of their time. Instead, you should make a template and spend minimum time targeting your template for each individual job. Resume warrants mentioning any milestones, outcomes that you are trying to achieve, how can you display industry caliber, what value can you add to the industry? You need to target these achievements based on every job posting. 

Dedicate only some time in a week to make the template. A good resume is not good enough to get you a job but a bad resume can keep you from getting the job. Spend most of your time networking and following up on new networking contacts in order to build professional relationships and get job referrals. A referral can be as simple as asking someone to pass along your resume after a conversation, but it pushes your candidature to the top of HR’s list. 

2. Realize 80% of jobs are never posted online 

PhDs spend the least amount of their time networking. Even though statistics have shown most hires are done through networking. A major share of the jobs are not posted online, so they are only available to those who network. 

You should always research available jobs through online networks and informational interviews. Find industry contacts, set up informational interviews, add potential value to your contacts, and build a relationship to the level where you are comfortable enough to ask for reference or information. 

Companies spend a lot of money hiring and training new recruits, so high employee turnover is detrimental to the company.  Companies prefer to hire through referrals because employee retention increases to almost 46% and referred hires have faster training and onboarding processes. Hence, it is extremely important to overcome your introverted personality and focus on finding potential contacts. The information they give is golden.

3. The average PhD will need to pursue 30-40 job leads at once 

Going after multiple job leads instead of pursuing one job posting is a major advantage. Don’t wait to get a definitive response from an application to move to the next. 

To increase their chances of getting hired and reduce the time it takes to get there, every  job seeking PhD must pursue multiple job leads simultaneously. Also, it will divert you from being fixated on any hard rejection. 

You have to be ahead of the game and be cautious as well. It is immensely important to keep a track of every job that you applied for in a spreadsheet. Create a spreadsheet of jobs that you have applied for with all the referral you have got. A column for the jobs that you’re interested in, a column for the companies you’re interested, a column for the skill set that is needed, and a column for the referral. This is cardinal as it also keeps you updated about when to follow-up with your contact. 

4. You need to be reaching out to hiring managers and recruiters

Job search demands you to be proactive. Reverse recruiting techniques give a candidate the power  to be their own recruiter. Hiring Managers and recruiters may not find you; but you can  find the recruiter of your desired company. Locate the recruiter using email, google, twitter, or try AeroLeads’s LeadFinder. 

Then, reach out to them through email. You already possess the solid skills, you just need to be your own advocate. Reach out through LinkedIn or call the company HR department directly. Once you have personally shown interest, they will value your candidature more.

5. Don’t ask people to help you get hired for free

Don’t send desperate messages or unsolicited requests to people to help you get hired. This reflects poorly on your profile. Instead, ask people already working in industry how they got hired. Elevate their credibility and show appreciation by asking informational interview questions like: 

What do you enjoy most about your current position?

What are the biggest challenges, where do you see yourself moving next

This is more likely to lead them in to asking you, “what about you? where are you in your career/job search?” Which in turn leads to referrals. 

Stop asking for help and start asking for informational interviews. But understand the difference between networking and relationship-building. You must add value, try complementing their recent article, or their accomplishment, use the law of reciprocation. PhDs should value human connections and see them as long term investments to create meaningful professional relationships, not a short-term connection to only get hired.

6. It’s better NOT to have a LinkedIn profile at all than to have a “bare-bones” profile

LinkedIn is a powerful social media platform that supplies information to both job posters and job seekers. You are a stranger to the recruiter or HR but LinkedIn provides features that can not only introduce you but also professionally spotlight you as the best candidate for the role. 

LinkedIn keeps adding new features to better showcase your abilities. It is the best platform to connect with industry professionals and know their qualifications and achievements. Recruiters like to have a deeper insight into the potential candidates. These information are lucidly enlisted in your LinkedIn profile. Therefore, you need to complete your LinkedIn profile and turn on the button that lets recruiters and employers on LinkedIn Recruiter know that you are open to work.

7. You can’t hit a target you don’t set in the job search

Unless you set a goal, you can’t achieve it. Your job search strategy needs to be outlined & established for success. You need to identify which career path is right for you. It may be R&D, Med/Clinical Affairs, Information Aggregation; and then identify 2-3 job titles that are right for you. Then, work backwards to get hired into your dream job. 

Often, PhDs skip steps and focus majorly on preparing for interviews instead of networking or working on resumes. Searching on Google for interview tips, trying to prepare for job interviews proves futile because interviews are highly unpredictable and company/team-specific. 

8. Operate under industry social norms

You are currently operating under academic social norms such as being overly critical of yourself, others, and data; being overly suspicious of other people’s intentions; being passive and evasive. 

You need to start operating under industry social norms, such as following up, being more direct, negotiating, exchanging value, networking, adding value, and hoping to get value in return. Show enthusiasm and follow the industry trends and norms. Always negotiating is one such norm

Several PhDs just accept what they are given, this often stems from mistreatment at academia. They end up accepting offers fit for bachelors and masters as they hesitate to ask for more. PhDs must always negotiate with employers using a win-win attitude; not afraid to ask for what they are worth but also willing to make concessions. Companies want you to negotiate, flip your mindset: deal-making is a social norm, don’t violate it, ask an open-ended question. 

Concluding Remarks

To have the biggest impact on your job search, you have to distribute the time strategically among the steps. Flipp your job search strategy around and spend most of your time networking, then, creating a job search strategy and generating industry credibility. Stop spending precious time rewriting your resume and preparing for job interviews. Realize your worth as a PhD and set up the stage to conquer.

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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Alejandra Viviescas, PhD
Alejandra Viviescas, PhD

Alejandra holds a PhD in genetics. After finishing her graduate studies, she followed her passion for closing the communication gap between scientific researchers and the general public. Currently, as vice-president of development at Cheeky Scientist, she produces content that helps PhDs find success outside academia.

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