Entering the non-academic job market: a checklist
Are you ready to enter the non-academic job market? Good for you! This post assumes you have read Going to enter the non-academic job market? What to do first and Going to enter the non-academic job market? The interim job.
Individual non-academic job searches tend to go faster than academic ones, and you need to have some things ready to go ahead of time so you can produce them promptly when asked. Here is a checklist of things you should do and have before going on the non-academic job market; they appear roughly in the order you should do them.
- Set up a LinkedIn page, and create the short URL associated with it (you’ll need this for your résumé).
- Start inviting people you know and respect to connect on LinkedIn: you do not need to have a résumé posted on your LinkedIn profile before doing this. Do not accept connection requests from people you do not know; do accept them from everyone you do know and respect, including people in every kind of job.
- You do not need a photo on your LinkedIn page, and if you do put one there, it need not be (but may be) a formal head shot. It can be informal, but not so informal it would make an employer question your judgment.
- Create a non-academic email address if you do not already have one.
- Talk to 10 or so non-academic friends and acquaintances about their jobs. Ask them (at least) what they do, what they like about it, and what’s the hardest problem they have to solve at work.
- After talking to them, read 100 or so job postings from a range of jobs, even ones you are not interested in – you are learning job-posting-lingo, not necessarily looking now. Find them on websites, on @careersingov, and in on- and off-line publications. Write down your questions (you may find some answers in this post).
- Ask one of your non-academic friends and acquaintances your questions from reading the job postings.
- Create a résumé (not a CV). Here’s some guidance on how to address common questions people have about their résumés.
- Have a non-academic friend review your résumé, and revise it based on the feedback you get.
- Make a PDF of the résumé, print it, and photocopy the result 5 times. Read the least-legible copy. If the typeface is not clear, sharp, and legible in 11-point type, pick another typeface.
- Read another 100 or so job postings. You should read a couple hundred before you apply to any job; they need not be postings of the kind of job you will apply for. Your goal is to understand common terms and the general ways people talk about non-academic work in a variety of settings.
- Update LinkedIn with your reviewed and revised résumé. If you have two or more strikingly different job types or skills, they can both be represented here. Your job letter will be tailored to the individual job you are applying for; your LinkedIn profile should not contradict that job letter.
- Create a Word or other text document with the items from your résumé cut and pasted, without formatting. You will be applying online for jobs and copying info from your résumé even if you submit it online; it is much easier to copy and paste it from a non-formatted doc.
- Make sure whatever clothes you intend to interview in are in good repair and have been cleaned and, if necessary, pressed.
- If you don’t have one and can afford it, consider getting something other than a backpack to carry documents and other items to job interviews. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, but a backpack sends a student-y message in many contexts.
- Create a short (250-500 words; 750 max, and shorter is better) writing sample. Here’s some information about the difference between academic and non-academic writing samples.
- Show your writing sample to two or three non-academic friends. Revise it based on their feedback.
- Ask 3-5 people to provide references for you when you are asked for them. Non-academic references differ from academic ones; here’s how.
- If you are applying for jobs in any country of which you are not a citizen, know and have documents for your visa status. Employers assume you are eligible to work (at least initially; permanent residency is a different discussion) in countries where you apply for jobs.
- Review your online presence (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, your own sites or blogs; do a vanity Google search) and be able to explain anything there, though you will most likely not be asked about it.
- You do not need business cards for your first non-academic job search. If you have them, you can use them; if don’t have them and want them, simple cards with your name, email address, and a contact phone number will suffice. They can be inexpensive through a service such as Vistaprint, but again, you do not need them. If you get them, try the same typeface you used on your résumé.
- When you have done all that and are ready to start looking for your next job, a good way to start your search is to enter the following terms into a search engine: the one or two skills you are best at or jobs you are looking for plus some geographical descriptor: “technical writer Boston” “event management Pittsburgh.” This isn’t usually where your job search will end, but it is how many successful ones start.