While many people pursue a PhD to expand their knowledge and critical thinking skills, it is usually assumed that a person can have any job that they want with those three magical letters after their name. But once the time comes, the task of finding a job can be daunting. Since jobs in academia are steadily becoming an alternative career choice for PhDs, many of us need to leave the familiarity of our labs and academic institutions and venture out into the world of “real jobs.” Many media outlets report that while the number of PhDs awarded every year has steadily increased, the job market for PhD holders is shrinking. However, the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Doctorate Recipients from 2015 found that unemployment rate among science, engineering and health PhDs is 1.8%, compared to the national average which is around 4%1,2. Of those employed PhD holders, around half were in the business or industry sector.
With those encouraging facts in mind, how does someone find a job outside of academia? While you may be burnt out from your graduate or postdoctoral work, you need to channel that perseverance and tenacity that helped you get your PhD. Much like your career at the bench, there are many rejections and failures that happen during the job application process. But if you treat applying for a job like a problem solving a failed experiment, you need to see what you can change or do better each time.
Another important thing is to be ready to explain how your experience in the lab can help you be the best person for a specific job. For many hiring managers, your ability to perform experiments or write grants may not seem relevant, but you need to show them that these are important and useful skills. If you need help figuring how exactly to do this, stay tuned for an upcoming article about how your lab experiences can translate to workplace skills. By translating your biosketch into a resume, you can stand out as an applicant and show that the skills you acquired during your PhD are invaluable and make you a strong job candidate.
By Kelsey Sugrue