So you’ve decided that you want to pursue a non-academic career. Now what? The next steps will be to match your experiences with potential careers, learn how to translate academic skills into your new field, and undertake the job search. Different career paths will require more specific skills and job search techniques but these are some general guidelines.
1) Think about what you like best about graduate work. Is it teaching others? Leading projects and problem solving? Writing and researching? Do you enjoy solitary work or do you thrive on the company of colleagues? By identifying your interests and preferred work styles, start to imagine the day-to-day activities and long-term goals that fit your strengths and preferences.
2) Discover how your experiences align with available non-academic positions. Use job posting websites like Indeed, Career Builder and Monster as research tools. Generate a list of prospective job titles by searching for general terms that describe your interests and skills. Job listings can also indicate the skills employers are looking for that you may not have and will need to start acquiring. Network with colleagues, friends, and family members who might already be working in similar fields to further identify your career goals and find unadvertised job openings.
3) Translate your academic experiences into the language of your target career. Every job has its own way of describing skills, experiences, and responsibilities. For example, an academic conference presentation could also be considered public speaking or communications. You will need to identify how potential employers use field-specific keywords to match your skills with their requirements. Use these keywords in resumes, cover letters, and interviews.
4) Look for opportunities to gain relevant non-academic experience. Although most employers will recognize the value of your advanced degree, you will bolster your chances of employment by demonstrating that you can excel beyond the academy. Identify volunteer or freelance positions where you can either use your current skills or begin acquiring the skills needed for your target career. You will develop relationships with people who can provide non-academic references and will gain non-academic experiences to discuss in cover letters and interviews.
5) Keep an open mind. You never know which companies or nonprofits may have job openings that fit your skills. Likewise, job descriptions are helpful but do not always represent positions precisely; you may find an excellent fit in an unexpected place. Be flexible and remember that few people on the non-academic market land their dream job straight out of school. Look for positions that move your overall resume in the direction you hope to go in the long term.