Applying for a job after finishing your PhD can be a little scary. After all, you’ve spent many years wokrin towards your academic goals and research as a whole, and now you have to go out of your comfort zone and face the job market. What are the things you should avoid?

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Key Takeaways:

  • A PhD isn’t just about deep research on a specific topic; it represents years of critical thinking, project management, and versatile skills.
  • Transitioning from academia requires adapting language and presentation. Avoid academic jargon, and instead of submitting lengthy academic CVs, create tailored resumes that focus on relevant skills and experiences for the specific industry role.
  • PhDs should avoid limiting themselves to narrow fields or well-known roles. With their diverse skillset, they can fit into various industries.

Transitioning from your PhD studies to a job can be a big step. Many times, those who’ve done a PhD feel uncertain about how their years of research and study will be seen by employers. Is it just about getting a fancy title, or does it mean you have real work experience? A lot of PhD graduates feel unsure if their time studying can be counted as ‘work experience’ in the job world. One of the users on Reddit raised the discussion, based on their recent experience. 

So, should you really open up about your lack of experience or just not say enough? 

What Is Considered Work Experience After Your PhD?

After finishing a PhD, many wonder, “Is my PhD time counted as work experience?” The answer is yes! When you do a PhD, you don’t just study; you work hard on projects, research, and maybe even teach classes. All of this is real work. Think about it: for several years, you’ve been solving problems, working on tasks, and learning many new things. Just because it’s in a university doesn’t mean it’s not valuable work experience. Moreover, some research shows that 67% of PhD students aim for job opportunities in academic research.

One of the users reacted by explaining that studying for a PhD is already on another level than other degrees, so it can be reghtfully considered work experience.

By default most EU PhDs do rightfully classify as work experience. You are considered “staff” (not student), you earn wages and pay taxes as any other job, if international you are also on work visa (not student visa). This may however differ in the US where PhDs are treated very differently, but generally speaking experience garnered is quite significant and can be listed under previous positions held.”

Some employers really value the skills and knowledge you gain during a PhD. For example, if you did a lot of research, you might be good at collecting and analyzing information. Or, if you taught classes, you have communication skills. So, when you’re looking for a job, don’t be shy. Tell employers about what you did during your PhD. It’s real work experience!

Common Mistakes When Applying to Jobs as a PhD and How to Avoid Them

PhD students possess deep knowledge and unique skills from their intense research work. Yet, when they try to get jobs outside of universities, they can face challenges. A big issue is thinking their skills are only good for academic work. However, the strong thinking and problem-solving skills they develop during their PhD studies are valuable in many job areas. 

Relying Too Much on Your Academic Past

Transitioning from academia to the industry can often pose challenges for PhD graduates, especially when it comes to communicating their qualifications and experiences. A prevalent issue is the use of academic jargon in applications. While these terms are standard in academic circles, they can be puzzling to industry professionals. To bridge this gap, PhD candidates should seek to translate their research and academic experiences into more universally understandable language, highlighting the broader applicability of their skills. 

“The point is to beat the resume screener. Humans always (typically?) scan the resume before offering an in-person interview.”

Another common pitfall is the reliance on academic CVs when applying for industry roles. These lengthy documents, while comprehensive, might not capture the attention of hiring managers looking for concise, relevant information. You should approach your CV very thoroughly, however remember that it has to be done in a certain way. The Guardian shared several tips on writing your job applications, so you might want to prepare before actually writing your CV. The solution here is simple: craft a tailored resume for each job application. This resume should focus on relevant skills, experiences, and achievements, presented in a manner that resonates with the industry’s needs. By taking these steps, PhD candidates can ensure that their applications are both clear and compelling, effectively bridging the academic-industry divide.

Having a PhD means you’ve spent a lot of time on one topic. It’s easy to think that this is the only thing you can talk about when you’re looking for a job. But it’s important to show that the skills you learned can be used in many areas. For example, if you’ve gotten really good at research or managing projects during your PhD, lots of jobs need those abilities, not just ones in your exact field.

“They all cited their research methods skills (quants or qualitative), teaching, people and writing skills, interviewing and focus group technique, etc. If you’ve been lucky to receive advanced research methods training through funding councils, it seems that mighy make you even more desirable.”

Also, sometimes PhDs might only look at certain jobs, like ones in universities or very famous companies. But there are many other jobs out there that can use the special skills of someone with a PhD. It’s smart to be open to different kinds of jobs, both in what you do and where you work. By showing a range of skills and being open to different job opportunities, PhDs can find a job that fits them well.

“Also, don’t refer to yourself as a PhD student. You’re a biologist, a sociologist, a linguist, a physicist, etc. Especially after completion of all PhD milestones. Don’t call yourself a “recent PhD graduate” either.”

Earning a PhD isn’t just about becoming an expert in one narrow field; it’s a testament to one’s dedication, analytical thinking, and versatile skills. The journey through a PhD program equips candidates with a toolkit of abilities that are highly valuable across various industries. The key lies in recognizing one’s worth, articulating it effectively, and being open-minded about where these skills can take you.

Lack of Recognizing and Not Advocating for Your PhD Value

A significant challenge many PhD holders face when stepping into the job market is not truly recognizing the worth of their specialized skills and knowledge. This can often lead to them applying for jobs that don’t fully utilize their capabilities or even settling for salaries that don’t reflect their true value. It’s essential to understand that a PhD is not just about the specific topic one researched; it represents years of critical thinking, problem-solving, project management, and deep analytical skills.

“I can confidently say that most people involved in any hiring process aren’t equipped nor qualified to evaluate your profile as a PhD-level researcher; all you can give them is a good story that they can buy into. So, it’s really more about how you organize and present yourself than whether to list years of relevant experience on your CV.”

One solution to this problem is for PhDs to actively invest time in understanding the broader applications of their skills in various industries. Consulting with career counselors or industry professionals can provide insights into how their capabilities can fit into roles they may not have considered. Networking events and workshops can also offer opportunities to understand the real-world value of a PhD. By doing so, they can position themselves more confidently, target roles that align better with their skillset, and negotiate salaries that truly reflect their worth.

A PhD journey is a testament to dedication, deep knowledge, and significant skill acquisition. When crafting a CV post-PhD, it’s essential to approach it with the same level of confidence and pride that accompanied every stage of the doctoral journey. Every research paper, analysis, and conclusion reached during the PhD has shaped a unique set of skills that are invaluable in numerous professional settings. By highlighting the skills and expertise with assertiveness, PhD candidates can pave the way for fruitful discussions with prospective employers, setting the stage for a successful transition into the professional world.

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