Non-Academic Job Search

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. Others decide that 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 and exploring 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 conduct 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. As you prepare for your job search, your focus should be about showcasing your breadth of skills rather than the depth of your academic expertise.

Finally, when you are ready to launch your non-academic job search, 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:


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.

Assessment Tools - Review our range of career assessment tools to gain an in depth understanding of your unique strengths (CliftonStrengths) or explore personality preferences and gain a deeper understanding of self, as related to career exploration and pursuing non-academic options (MBTI). 

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.


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

  • Imagine PhD: ImaginePhD is a site that facilitates self-reflection, career exploration and planning specifically for Humanities and Social Sciences PhDs.
  • 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.
  • PhD Career Guide: A thorough resource on a number of different career options PhDs may pursue outside of the academy.  
  • 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.

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

  • Rackham Connect (University Career Alumni Network, Rackham Hub) - Search and connect with U-M alumni who have volunteered to chat with U-M students about all their positions, their companies and their industries.
  • LinkedIn Groups - Beyond just joining Linked-In, groups are a great way to expand ones network, contribute to a community, and get questions answered.  Start with some groups geared toward PhD careers.  See what the members are doing, participate in discussions, uncover resources, and even ask your questions.
    • Alternative PhD Careers
    • Beyond Academia: Non-Academic Careers for PhDs
    • Global PhD Network
    • PhD Career Transitions
    • The LinkedIn Alumni Tool
  • Professional Associations - Join professional associations and attend conferences for industry-specific learning and networking opportunities.
  • 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.

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


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! 

First, you can check out this excellent resource (UCC PhD Guide for Resumes and Cover Letters) that we have developed that helps PhD students to develop resumes and cover letters. 

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.


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.  

Check out UCAN (the University Career Alumni Network) to search for and connect with professionals who who have volunteered to talk with students about their positions and how to break into their industries!

You can also use the groups you have been contributing to on LinkedIn as a valuable referral source. Check out these articles:

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