Career Center

Overview of the Non-Academic Job Search

There are many reasons why PhDs pursue non-academic positions. For some, the current academic job market dictates conducting searches both in and outside academe. For others, they decide the tenure track job process is not for them. Regardless of the reason, there are several things to think about when exploring and executing a non-academic search.

To start, we recommend taking some time to assess your skills and interests to make the rest of the process easier and more meaningful. 

Next, we suggest researching non-academic options. PhD students often ask where other PhDs are getting hired or what jobs are available to them. The simple answer is PhDs can be hired in almost any industry; however some industries employ more commonly than others. 

If you decide to conducting a non-academic search your presentation strategy will be dependent upon the industry or industries you are trying to reach. Unlike in academe, many industry employers ask for resumes versus CVs. Your focus should be about showcasing your breadth of skills rather then the depth of your academic expertise.

Finally, when you are ready to start exploring and applying for non-academic jobs, we recommend reaching out to other PhDs who have pursued non-academic paths. Although job posting sites can be helpful, strengthening your connections can help you feel more supported and open avenues you never realized existed. 

The resources outlined below have been developed to help you get started:

Assessing Your Skills & Interests

The first step in beginning your non-academic career journey is to assess your interests, skills, strengths, goals, values, and self to better understand your story, as you connect with employers and opportunities of interest.  As you take stock in the skills you have developed over the course of your Ph.D., we can help you reflect on your story and create a goal for career exploration.

 

MyIDP - This on-line assessment tool will help provide tangible career options for students in STEM fields. Learn more about your interests and career fit with this tool built specifically for Ph.D.s.

MBTI Group Workshops - Join one of our MBTI group sessions, where we will use Myers Briggs Theory to explore personality preferences and gain a deeper understanding of self, as related to career exploration and pursuing non-academic options. 

Getting Started: Exploratory Processing Group- Join this 3 session series to share thoughts, feelings, and experiences with like-minded PhD students.  The University Career Center and CAPS co-facilitate discussions around strengths, interests, barriers, and goals with regards to non-academic career planning and decision making. 

PAN - COMING SOON! - Use PAN to learn more about your transferable skills, strengths and areas for growth. Built in to PAN are learning modules to enhance and develop your transferable skills, with rich opportunities to practice skill-focused interview questions. PAN will be offered on-line with group interpretation dates TBD.

Imperative - This on-line assessment tool will help you evaluate how you can bring meaning and authenticity to your work, as you identify your passion and core values, around work. The initial assessment is free, and can be brought to an appointment with us, for more conversation.

Individual Appointments - 

  • Before Your Appointment: Explore the tools listed above; Create a LinkedIn account and create a profile on Handshake.
  • During Your Appointment: Meet with a Career Coach to talk about your interests, skills, values and how to assess your strengths. Then, we'll strategize ways to explore your options further.

Exploring Non-Academic Career Options

Now, perhaps more than ever, PhDs are pursuing a myriad of opportunities outside the academy. Initially the process may feel overwhelming because a non-academic search is not as structured as most academic searches. That being said there are many exciting opportunities for PhDs in a variety of industries. The following resources provide information, tips, and advice on career opportunities for PhDs, making them an excellent place to start exploring.

 

On-line Resources - Become familiar with the options and get some initial questions answered through articles, websites, and blogs

  • #alt-academy: A media commons project for humanities PhDs exploring alternative career paths. 
  • American Alliance of Museums: A site for information, connections and exploration of museum careers
  • American Historical AssociationProfessional Development resources for historians
  • Beyond Academe: An exploration and job search resource started by two PhDs in History who pursued alternative-to-academic paths. 
  • Branching Points: A website devoted to helping science PhD students interested in pursuing non-academic options.
  • Cheeky Scientist: A platform for academics exploring industry opportunities
  • Columbia’s Non-academic career options for Social Science and Humanities PhDs
  • Columbia’s Non-academic career options for PhDs
  • Humanities PhD Project: Provides U-M specific resources for humanities PhDs interested in exploring multiple career paths (academic & non-academic).
  • Jobs on Toast: A blog offering practical tips and resources on exploring opportunities outside of academe
  • Next Scientist: Newsletter on industry options for scientists
  • Paysa: Personalized resource that allows you to navigate the labor market with transparency, fluidity and optimality
  • Phil Skills: Provides information about personal stories and also provides resources for PhD students who want to explore non-academic career paths. 
  • PhD Career Guide: A thorough resource on a number of different career options PhDs may pursue outside of the academy.  
  • Sellout Your Soul: A blog from a Humanities PhD offering a step-by=step guide on finding a career you love
  • The Muse: Job board and tips on everything from writing a cover letter to dressing for success.
  • Vault Guides: A research library that includes company profiles, industry information and more career exploration resources.
  • Versatile PhD: It is a supportive Web-based community where you can get advice from PhDs and ABDs working outside the academy.
  • Vitae: Chronicle of Higher Education's academic and non-academic job and career advice portal.
  • Why Silicon Valley needs Humanities PhDs: A Washington Post article offering data and perspective on the value of a PhD
    Columbia’s Non-academic Career options for STEMS PhDs

Connections to Professionals - Armed with some background information and ideas, connecting with professionals can offer next level insights and answer more specific questions.

Programs/Events -

  • Programs
  • Versatile PhD Panel Discussion Archives: View panelist biographies and read their responses to participant questions for information on PhD careers in various industries.  Log into Versatile PhD, click on Forums for access to the following Careers in… panels.
    • Corporate and Institutional Research (March 2012)
    • Data Science (June 2014)
    • E-Learning and Instructional Design (October 2013)
    • Entrepreneurship for Humanists and Social Scientists (October 2012)
    • Entrepreneurship for STEM (November 2011)
    • Federal Government (May 2010)
    • Finance for Humanists and Social Scientists (January-2014)
    • Finance for STEM PhDs (February 2014)
    • Freelance Writing and Editing (June 2010)
    • Government Research (November 2014)
    • Grant Writing (July 2011)
    • Higher Education Consulting (January 2011)
    • Higher Education Development (October 2014)
    • Industry for Life Scientists (November 2013)
    • Industry for Physical Scientists (September 2013)
    • Informal Science Education (February 2015)
    • Inside Human Resources (April 2011)
    • Law (September 2011)
    • Management Consulting (March 2011)
    • Management Consulting for STEM (February 2012)
    • Market Research (January 2012)
    • Marketing for STEM PhDs (June 2015)
    • Nonprofits for Humanists and Social Scientists (January 2013)
    • Nonprofits for STEM PhDs (February 2013)
    • Patent Law (June 2012)
    • Policy Analysis (October 2010)
    • Program Evaluation (September 2012)
    • Research Administration (March 2013)
    • Science Policy and Advocacy (November 2011)
    • Science Writing and Communication (June 2013)
    • Secondary Teaching (October 2011)
    • Social Media (March 2014)
    • Subject Matter Consulting (September 2014)
    • Technical Consulting (September 2014)
    • Technology for Humanists and Social Scientists (January 2015)
    • University Administration: Academic Affairs (November 2010)
    • University Administration: Student Affairs (February 2011)

Career Coaching -

  • Before Your Appointment:
    • Take time to explore some fields, learn the necessary skills, day-to-day responsibilities, and how others have used their PhD. 
    • Join related LinkedIn groups and get familiar with professional associations related to your industry interests
    • Consider what you have learned and identify a few areas of particular interest
  • During Your Appointment:
    • Our team of coaches are available to help you narrow in on specific areas and uncover additional places to get information on their fields you are considering

Preparing for Your Job Search

You have taken time to assess your skills and strengths, and have explored your career options.  Now, you are ready to prepare to launch your job search! 

 

CV to Resume - It is important to be able to articulate your skills and experiences to your next employer, through a well-written resume. Following are some articles, websites and posts to help you create a resume, or transition your CV to a resume, for your job search.

Cover Letter Writing - It is important to be able to articulate your transferable skills to your next employer through an effective cover letter that connects your experiences to the position you are seeking.  Following are some articles, websites and posts to help you craft a well written cover letter.

Interview Preparation and Practice - It is important to be able to articulate your skills and experiences in an interview. Following are some articles, websites and posts to help you develop your interview strategy and prepare for interviews.

LinkedIn - It is important that your LinkedIn profile reflects your past experiences, and connects you to where you want to go, professionally. Check out these tips for building a strong profile!

Workshops and Events - Check out these sources for group presentations and workshops that will help you prepare for your job search!

Individual Appointments -

  • Before Your Appointment: Create a LinkedIn Account and create a profile on Handshake; Identify your transferable skills; Create a resume/cover letter draft.
  • During Your Appointment: Meet with a Career Coach to talk about your resume, cover letters, LinkedIn profile, and to gain confidence presentating your skills and experiences to employers.

Launching Your Non-Academic Job Search

Once you have narrowed and researched your options and prepared your job search tools, you are ready to launch your search.  It will be important to launch a well-rounded search that taps into job postings, campus resources, and trusted networks.

 

On-line Portals with Job Listings - These job posting sites offer listings in specific or across a variety of industries.

 

Connections to Professionals - A referral from a contact goes a long way when looking for a job.  Utilize the groups you have been contributing to on LinkedIn as one valuable referral source.

Job Fairs - Many employers recruiting through job fairs concentrate their efforts on undergraduates.   PhDs are still welcome and encouraged to attend.  You can use the opportunity to learn more about your industry of interest and to get contact information for the PhD or human resources recruiters.

Know before you go!  Some organizations will list PhDs as a class level they are hoping to meet with at the fair.  Find out in advance so you can plan accordingly. 

Career Coaching -

  • Before Your Appointment:
    • Gather together all of the information you have gathered, contacts you have made and job search tools you have developed.
    • Consider how you have launched your job search thus far and prepare questions.
  • During Your Appointment: Our team of coaches are available to assist you in targeting your job search, preparing, locating information on specific employer web sites and troubleshooting a slowed search