If you are applying to a non-academic job after or during your graduate work, you need to describe yourself to an employer differently than you would if you were applying to an academic job.
An academic job application, job letter, and CV present a candidate like this: “here are my credentials (education, teaching philosophy and experience, conference presentations, publications, recommendations), and here is what I work on and its most important insights.” The entity receiving the application (lab, university department, fellowship-sponsoring organization) then decides if that that work fits their needs and mandate.
A non-academic employer approaches applications differently. S/he has specific needs: more work than current employees can handle, a new kind of work for which they need people with new skills, problems that need solving, and most likely all of these. That employer wants to know whether and how the applicant can help the organization solve its current challenges, and perhaps its future ones as well. It is up to the applicant to demonstrate that her / his skills and experience can help the employer address those challenges. The academic approach of “here’s what I do” via a presentation of qualifications does not help an employer understand how you can help his or her organization.
On the non-academic job market,it is up to the candidate to explain her or his skills and experience and to persuade the employer that s/he can help address the employer’s needs. Your approach needs to shift from candidate-centered description to matching the candidate’s experience and skills to an employer’s needs. Not understanding this and failing to adjust accordingly is a major cause of failed non-academic job applications. Your core message to a non-academic employer is “My skills and experience can help solve your challenges.” Your résumé’s and job letter’s combined message must be “My skills and experience can help solve your challenges; here’s proof.”
Here are posts that will help you make a compelling presentation of your skills and experience to a non-academic employer:
- How to understand non-academic job postings, and common terms in non-academic job descriptions, with academic equivalents for your job letter and résumé
- How to describe your skills in your job letter, and some phrases not to use
- How to address common questions on your résumé
A full list of my posts to help you will your non-academic job search lives here.