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How Much Time Should I Spend on Marketable Skills, Networking, and Writing Job Applications?

This is a great question. The job hunt is, for the average PhD, as much of a mini marathon as your PhD was, so you want to prepare and plan well:

  1. Developing marketable skills (45%) – this doesn’t just have to be learning a hard skill, though this is of course valuable. This can also be learning what kind of job you’re looking for and why you’re a great fit, and making sure you know how to communicate the reasons to decision makers. It includes reading up on industry trends and leaders. You are ultimately responsible for marketing yourself when you’re networking and applying to jobs: make yourself marketable by becoming knowledgeable.
  2. Active Networking (45%) – are you attending local meetups and recruitment sessions? Are you organizing events and using your alumni network? Are you actively communicating what it is that you can offer as a potential employee and proving it without being needy? Have you made yourself available to potential employers or recruiters on LinkedIn or other active job lists?
  3. Looking for good openings and sending in job apps (10%; every day) – you should always be scanning the marketplace, because that helps you target who to connect with and what to apply for. This should be an ongoing process throughout your current and future career. It should never take you very long every day; could be 5 minutes scanning your favorite conference job board and job sites, or sending a friend your materials for a referral, but you should be doing something in this category every day if you are actively on the job market.

Do not spend all of your time blindly applying to jobs left and right without at least 1, and ideally 2 as well. At the very least, you must understand your fit for each position in order to land interviews cold, and ideally get some connections to help vouch for you.

These should be part of your every day habits, as your success on one front actively feeds the success of the others, and success can take some time.

“If you spray and pray, you will burn out quickly.  Be more deliberate in your job hunt – like a real hunter, only if you study your target, select the most appropriate way to reach it, get some outside feedback on your strategy, practice, aim, and THEN fire, will you have a real prayer of nailing your goal.” – Free the PhD

Frustrated by your job hunt?  Contact me for a consult call, or check out our Programs to get the information and support to find the job you want!


By Vay Cao, Ph.D.


Adapted from my Quora response.


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