Going to enter the non-academic job market? What to do first

Going to enter the non-academic job market? What to do first

So, you have decided you are ready to enter the non-academic job market, or try it in parallel with your academic job search.  Good for you!

You will find the path to non-academic jobs is unnervingly less linear than the path to academic jobs: though academic jobs are very few, the path for identifying and applying to them is relatively straightforward. You should plan on a non-academic job search done in parallel with your academic work taking no less than six months.  It is certainly possible to take less, but you can’t count on that, and it often takes longer.  That said, when you are offered a job, should you accept it you will probably need to start relatively soon, typically after a standard notice period.  Don’t expect to be able to start next semester, or after the summer, or when your dissertation is finished.

Here’s what to do first (two more posts coming on the next stages). This first stage typically takes around two weeks.

List your assumptions and constraints.  Assumptions include things like “I expect to have teaching support next year, so I won’t run out of funding before May of next year” or “my partner will continue to be employed, so we will have his salary and health insurance” or “my lease ends in X months, but I can get out of it if I get a job elsewhere before then” or “my department will partially find my attendance at next year’s academic job convention.”  Constraints include things like “I cannot move further than [commuting distance] from [location] so my partner can keep her job” or “My work permit only allows me to work within the EU” or “I have to have a paycheck coming in no later than [date]” or “I have to look locally unless interview travel is funded.” Write them down: these cannot be implicit or “understood.”

Discuss your assumptions and constraints with your partner or spouse and your academic advisor or director of graduate studies, if feasible.  A classic mistake of many academics, who are used to wrestling with problems alone, is not to discuss assumptions and constraints, out loud and in person.  You need to align your understanding of them with your partner or spouse and your advisor or graduate chair; people often tell me they thought they knew what their partner or spouse thought about this search, and were entirely wrong.  If you believe you cannot have this conversation without prejudicing your academic job prospects or your standing with your advisor, try to find someone in your department who can assess the likelihood of your assumptions being correct.  If that is not possible, try the most senior graduate student whose judgment and discretion you trust. If the risk seems to you too great, you may need to skip that conversation.

If you have not already done so, estimate household’s your monthly living expenses and your savings, if any. This exercise tells you whether and when you will need to get an interim job if you do not find a job you would like by the time you need a salary from a new job. Don’t forget to account for student loan payments and other payments you may have been allowed to defer while in graduate school.  If you plan to finish your thesis and / or continue searching for an academic job, don’t forget to account for expenses like memberships in professional societies, if you need them. Review it with your significant other; you will both remember things that the other has forgotten.

Join LinkedIn, and construct the short URL that will go directly to your profile page. You can join LinkedIn before you are ready to post your résumé on it (indeed you should not post your résumé until a non-academic friend or two have read it and critiqued it).  You should create the short URL because it is much handier for your résumé that the long URL, and people will want to see your profile on LinkedIn.

Once you have joined LinkedIn, you can start inviting people you know to connect, even if your profile is not filled in yet.  Don’t accept invitations from anyone you do not know or do not respect.  Ask yourself “would I introduce this person to someone whose good opinion of me I value?” “would I do him or her a favor?” If the answer is no, don’t accept the invitation.  Put a reminder on your calendar to add two or three people a week to LinkedIn, forever, or until LinkedIn is superseded in reach and usefulness by something else.

Get your contacts in order.  Only a tiny number of people can help you get an academic job, but a much broader range of people can possibly help you get non-academic work, and personal contacts help you get better information about companies and jobs and help your résumé not languish in a pile. Go through your address book, in whatever form you maintain it, and update the information: name, an email address, and a contact phone number is the usual minimum.  LinkedIn connections are enough for people whom you only know professionally, as you can contact them through LinkedIn.  Invite your contacts to connect on LinkedIn, and then review the suggestions LinkedIn makes, and invite those people to connect if appropriate.

Your contacts are a critical professional asset, so treat them that way.  Back them up according to the rule of three: one local backup, one cloud backup, and one external device backup (thumb drive or similar).

Next: how to start thinking about what jobs to apply for