3 Things Every PhD Needs to Know About Getting a Job Outside Academia

But for another thing, networking will be your best friend in finding roles outside your specialty.

OK, so you’re a PhD candidate who’s suddenly realized they don’t want to work in academia—and thinking about making the switch into a completely new role is giving you the sweats.

Well, you’re preaching to the choir, because I was just like you once. But in the eight years since I completed my dissertation, I’ve worked successfully in three different nonacademic jobs in two different industries—I’ve been a career counselor, a recruiter, and am now a career coach and an entrepreneur. I’ve even found surprising new ways to use my Boolean keyword search skills from my PhD when I source candidates for the jobs I’m helping to fill.

Based on my experience, here are three things everyone in a PhD program should know about transitioning into a nonacademic job.

1. You’ll Have to Ask for Help

It’s so simple, but worthy of a reminder: It’s OK to ask others for help when making this change—in fact, you should.

For one thing, you don’t have to go through this alone. There are plenty of people out there who’ve probably made the same transition and can offer you advice. But for another thing, networking will be your best friend in finding roles outside your specialty.

Stumped on how to find the right people? If your department keeps track of alumni, reach out to those in a similar field and ask for an informational interview. Or, invite former students to give a talk about their career paths to your graduate student groups.

If your internal network isn’t as robust, use LinkedIn and social media to build connections with people who work outside your college (here’s how to send that cold email to just about anyone). Read blogs or follow accounts by people who’ve made the transition successfully and use those tips to drive your decisions.

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