Congratulations! You’ve worked hard and are now the proud holder of a PhD. Now what?
In today’s job market, PhDs are hired not only as professors, but also as:
- Researchers in STEM fields, plus many other academic and non-academic areas
- Directors of nonprofits or government agencies
- A wide array of positions within business and consulting organizations
What you’ll need for applying within academia
The route to obtaining an academic position is more standardized than it is for non-academic positions. To apply for such a position, you will need to gather:
- Letters of reference
- Seminar presentation
A potential employer in academia will require you to interview and present your research. If you are seeking a tenure track position at a research university, you will need evidence of first-authored publications in academic journals. Presenting at conferences and/or having gained funding from grant writing are also advantages. You may also need to present your experience with teaching, conducting research, and/or grant-writing.
The importance of making connections (for academic positions)
Having conversations with professors at conferences, seminars, guest lectures, etc. can lead to a referral that makes all the difference for you. Do not underestimate the power of connections. That doesn’t mean you have to already have established close relationships with important people; but it means you have to initiate communications with them to build relationships. One referral can lead to another, and to another that results in an offer. It means staying in touch with contacts after you have met them – sending them articles of interest and keeping them informed of your accomplishments.
The importance of making connections (for non-academic positions)
For non-academic positions, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to connect with people who may be in a position to provide leads and introductions. Hiring managers are usually required to publicly post positions. However, everyone who recruits for open positions is seeking referrals from respected colleagues. It makes their job easier and ensures less risk than selecting interviewees from a pile of resumes.
Yes, you must have an effective resume that outlines the results of your efforts, not just your actions. And, yes, you need to write cover letters that target particular individuals within an organization and that make the case that you will contribute to the entity’s mission. However, you strengthen your chances of obtaining an interview when you have already communicated with individuals who work in that company, who can speak to the hiring manager on your behalf. And, if you don’t get the position, keep in contact with those you have met as other positions will open up.
As the author of What Color Is Your Parachute wrote many years ago, “Organize your luck.” By taking the initiative and not just depending on mailing out resumes, you create those connections that allow “luck” and a job offer to occur.
Is pursuing a PhD the right move for you? Do you need help deciding what your next steps should be? Work one-on-one with an experienced Accepted consultant who will walk you through the steps of applying to a PhD program and position you for you chosen career. Explore our Graduate School Admissions Consulting Services for more information.
• Choosing the Best PhD Program, a free guide
• How to Get Into Grad School, and Get Jobs After Grad School, a podcast episode
• PhD Admissions 101