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ABC-advice for PhDs looking for a job outside academia (last part)

Bérénice Kimpe - International Cooperation

All good things come to an end... Here is the last part of our alphabet series: U-Z. Enjoy!
To read the first parts, click here:
A - E
F - J
K - O
P - T

U like unsolicited application
Even if they are unsolicited, it doesn’t mean they are not welcome. However, to avoid wasting your time or energy by writing them, you need to identify what the current or future needs of the company you’re targeting are and to submit your proposition of collaboration. The latter must describe the type of projects you could develop to meet the company’s needs. By doing so, you showcase your ability to see yourself in the position, your motivations by exploring precisely the company’s environment. You are proactive by proposing something in both interests (yours and the company’s). And even if your project isn’t suitable, for different reasons, it doesn’t mean you won’t be of interest for the person who is receiving your application: companies need people who can take initiatives! Anyway, in your job search strategy, don’t forget that unsolicited applications have a success rate of around 10%.

V like volunteering positions
If you think that only your research experience or the positions for which you were paid can be in your CV, you’re wrong! Many recruiters are interested in your extra-curricular activities, your social commitments. Why? Because it shows that you think out of the “research box”, meaning that research is not all your life. And because it may disclose other abilities such as strategic development, business partnerships development, fundraising, team building, team management… In many cases, it’s a great opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t have met otherwise and to discover new professional activities, to be informed on societal or economic trends.
So, if you’re an active member of an association (by that I mean you do more than paying your membership fees!), highlight it during your application: it gives a more personal touch to your application and may be a good way of icebreaking with the recruiter!

W like work history
That’s your life, or lives to be more precise: the personal, educational and professional ones. Before describing it in your CV, I would suggest you to analyse it, by drawing your time line. Draw a simple line and mark the major events of your life: your PhD degree, your meeting with someone special or with a mentor, the start and the end of your work contracts, a specific mission, the birth of your children… For each of these periods, write what made you happy and what didn’t, why you felt this way. It will help you to design the first patterns of your dream job (or at least a fulfilling job).

X like X-Files
If you’re a fan of this TV-show like I was (and still am), you know for sure two mottos: “the truth is out there” and “I want to believe”. Well, you can apply the two baselines to yourself when searching for a job:
-    “the truth is out there”: your own perception is influenced by many things, like your education, your environment, your culture, your resources… To get a more objective view on things (you, positions, potential…), confront your point of view with those of other people. It will help you to have a less biased perception of yourself or of your opportunities.
-    “I want to believe”: that’s an optimistic motto you should keep telling yourself when you feel low, when you have any doubts. I want to believe there are employers who trust their staff, who encourage their staff’s development. I want to believe I will find my own way despite adversity. I want to believe I will find a job that fits my values and personality. I want to believe that doing fundamental research is not dissuasive for the industry.

Y like YMCA (from the Village People)
“Young men, there’s no need to feel down (…) It’s fun to stay at YMCA”: you all know this disco hit and you certainly remember the famous choreography as well as the costumes the band was wearing.
To be part of the community dancing and singing on this song, you have to respect the code, i.e. putting your hands in the air to form the famous four letters. Adopt the same behaviour as the others, with your own style: the same goes for your application. Adopt the professional habits of recruiters (CV layout, vocabulary, communication style), with a touch of yourself!
The band was wearing clothes that were representative of some professions: cow-boy, policeman, soldier, construction worker. When you meet the recruiter, wear the right outfit: even if we can’t judge a book by its cover, the first impression you make will stay in the recruiter’s mind. Check out the company’s website to see how people are dressed.

Z like zebra
A zebra can be two things: the animal and the zone where you can cross the street.
What makes a zebra unique and easily recognisable is its white and black stripes. No one can’t mix it up with another species. And you can say it’s a white horse with black stripes or a black horse with white stripes. Exactly like you: a PhD with academic research and teaching experience or a PhD with transferable skills and methods. Up to you to decide which light you put on your profile (see K like kiwi).
Crossing the street is like transitioning out of academia: you leave the sidewalk behind you, you cross over determined and willingly, not because it’s a dead-end, you keep moving forward…smiling, of course!




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