Networking and Interviewing
For the non-academic job search, as in the academic job search, the same basic rules for networking and interviewing apply--you have to talk to people, be friendly, give off a good impression, and sell yourself as a valuable addition to the organization. Below are some tips for how to enhance your networking and interviewing skills for the non-academic job search.
Consider networking to be like research. Don’t be afraid to contact people—you have nothing to lose by asking them about their jobs! People are usually flattered to be asked for their opinion, asked for help, or asked to talk about themselves.
As more of our lives are lived online and maintaining an online presence is becoming increasingly important, consider ways that you can manage yours by tweeting, blogging, or building accounts on Facebook or LinkedIn. LinkedIn is widely used by recruiters and HR professionals to look for new hires or check up on applicants. To that end, your profile should market your skills, achievements and results. Think of your profile as your resume: market yourself for the position you want, not the position you have.
Action Steps for Social Networking
- Join the UT Non-Academic Alumni Network on LinkedIn to make contact with UT alumni who have successfully found non-academic jobs
- Join the Texas Exes student chapter for only $20 for one year to participate in the Texas Exes Career Network
- Join the Alternative PhD Careers Group on LinkedIn to see discussions related to transferring academic skills to private industry (discusions have a focus on the science and medical industries)
Explore the LACS Networking pages for general tips and resources.
Interview Tips for Graduate Students
Q: “You don’t seem to have any work experience in our industry. How do you know you will succeed here?”
A: Describe the relevant unpaid work you’ve done, or mention the research you’ve done about the industry or the organization, citing recent information, and give an example of how you are a quick learner.
Q: “We need our employees to be result-oriented. Don’t academics in your field tend to discuss problems in a theoretical way without providing solutions?”
A: Describe an incident when you identified a problem and solved it, preferably on a shorter timeline than the multi-year process of writing your dissertation. Examples could include organizing a panel or presentation to address a problem in your department, serving on a committee and producing something that helped people at the end of the collaboration, an adjustment you made in your teaching that produced measurable results, etc. Any results you can quantify are even better.
Q: “Writing a dissertation seems like a solitary endeavor. How are you at working with other people?”
A: Play up any committee work you have done, organizations you belong to, your rapport with students, and any experiences in which you wrote collaboratively or helped someone edit their writing.
Q: “Why are you leaving academia?”
A: Emphasize your personal strengths and why they make you a better fit for this job rather than an academic job. Or mention the characteristics about the organization you’re interviewing with that attracted you away from academia—better financial security, geographic location, contact with certain populations, etc.
Q: “Won’t you miss teaching or research?”
A: Specify what it is about teaching or research that you enjoyed and how you hope to be able to continue those aspects in your new job. Examples for teaching could be training or mentoring newer employees, making presentations, or working one-on-one or in small groups with colleagues. Examples for research could be managing projects, researching competitors or market trends, or writing reports.