Thursday, December 11, 2008

Words of Wisdon Part 2

As promised, here is a continuation to my advice for PhD's applying for non-academic positions.

Again, I'd like to start with this caveat: I was specifically looking for research positions, there are lots of other jobs out there for PhD's but I'm going to focus on research positions specifically because that is what I know. Second, this is based on my own personal experiences so take this advice for what it's worth based on the N = 1.

In this post I'd like to discuss the ways in which you can highlight the skills and opportunities that you've had in graduate school to sell yourself in the non-academic world. I compiled a list from the cover letters I wrote for jobs that showed interest in hiring me (and the one I accepted and current have).



1. Research experience: PhD students have a wealth of research experience, using different experimental and statistical methodologies.


  • Sell these as experience thinking creatively and being detailed oriented.

2. Collaboration: PhD students typically work with a lab full of people, research advisors, fellow grad students, undergraduates, post docs etc.


  • Sell these experiences as working well in a team. Successful interactions with individuals of various skill levels.

3. Conference Presentations : PhD students are encouraged to present their research at annual conferences.



  • Sell these experiences as perfecting your oral and written communication.

4. Teaching



  • Developing the skills necessary to discuss research and other professional topics for various audiences.

5. Lab Manager



  • Managing individuals and projects in an organized manor that allows you to be the driving force to move projects forward to completion.

These are the things I highlighted in my cover letters and that interviewers mentioned being impressed by during my interviews. I hope others find these helpful.

4 comments:

jess said...

thanks, Psych Post Doc :)

Psychgrad said...

Certainly, this is helpful. It's a weird shift of worlds to have to explain your skills to non-academics, but definitely an important skill.

My supervisor has been talking about making me lab manager (while I'm between jobs) and I really don't know what that means. I'm a bit worried that it'll just mean that I have to clean up the place.

Psych Post Doc said...

You're welcome Jess. I'm glad you found this post, I forgot I wanted to email you to let you know about it.

Psychgrad- I don't know what kind of research your lab does but when I was a lab manager it meant scheduling lab time for everyone that was using the lab space, running lab meetings, staffing the lab (i.e. hiring undergrad RAs), adn generally making sure that all planned studies were completed. I certainly didn't clean up the place. :)

Psychgrad said...

We don't do any of that - lab tab, RAs, etc...I talked to my supervisor about it today. It would basically be acting as a sounding-board for the other students and tidying things up.