Navigating the Nonacademic Job Search: Tips for PhDs

Written by
Emily Tobey

Nov 1, 2023

Nov 1, 2023 • by Emily Tobey

Although the academic job market has been the customary next step for humanities PhDs, it has become much more challenging to get a tenure-track teaching job, leading many graduates to consider career options beyond academia. However, since leaving the ivory tower has, until very recently, been viewed as a nontraditional career move for humanities PhDs, there is often a lack of guidance for navigating this path. Following are some tips to help you have a successful job search in the nonacademic job sector.

Assess Your Skills and Interests

  • Know Your Skills: Identify your transferable skills, such as research, data analysis, problem-solving, communication, and project management skills. Check out this blog post for helpful tips on assessing your skills and interests.
  • Interests and Passions: Reflect on your interests and passions to help narrow down career options.

Start Networking Now

  • Leverage Your Academic Network: Professors, colleagues, and mentors can provide valuable insights, connections, and references.
  • Professional Networking: Attend industry-related events, conferences, and webinars to build a nonacademic network. Seek out informational interviews in fields that interest you.

Tailor Your Résumé for the Nonacademic Job Market

  • Emphasize Relevant Experience: Highlight experiences from your PhD, such as research, teaching, or collaboration experiences, that are relevant to the job you're applying for.
  • Quantify Achievements: Use quantifiable results to showcase your impact on project outcomes.

Customize Your Cover Letter

  • Highlight Transferable Skills: Explain how your academic skills apply to the desired position.
  • Company Research: Showcase your knowledge of the company's mission, values, and how you can contribute to their goals.

Seek Internships and Volunteer Opportunities

  • Gain Industry Experience: Consider internships or volunteer work in your target industry to gain practical experience.
  • Skill Building: These opportunities can help you develop new skills and demonstrate your commitment to a different career path.

Prepare for Behavioral Interviews

  • A behavioral interview is an interview technique employers use to assess job candidates with situational questions about your past experiences. Be prepared by reading the job description carefully and reviewing projects you’ve worked on that demonstrate your ability for a job such as this one.
  • Practice Mock Interviews: Conduct mock interviews with friends or career counselors to refine your responses.

Attend Career Fairs and Workshops and Seek Guidance from Career Services

  • Career Fairs and Workshops: Many universities offer career fairs and workshops for PhDs seeking nonacademic careers. Also look out for industry-specific career fairs and events where you can learn about potential job sectors.
  • University Career Services: Use your university's career services for guidance, résumé reviews, and interview practice.

Be Open-Minded and Persistent

  • Broaden Your Horizons: Don't limit yourself to positions directly related to your academic field. Transferable skills can be valuable in various roles.
  • Rejections Are Part of the Process: Stay persistent and resilient, as job hunting can be a challenging journey.

Transitioning from academia to nonacademic careers can be a fulfilling and enriching experience. Although it may seem like a daunting task, with careful planning, networking, and a commitment to personal and professional growth, you can find a rewarding career that aligns with your passions and skills. Remember, your PhD represents more than just academic expertise; it signifies your ability to excel in challenging situations and your dedication to lifelong learning. Good luck in your nonacademic job search!