Searching for non-academic jobs? Here are 3 mistakes to avoid at all costs.

It never fails.

I log into Twitter and I see a PhD complaining about how hard it is to land non-academic jobs.

First of all, I acknowledge that it is hard.

It took me two years to finally break into a full-time non-academic career. So I get it.

However, in hindsight, there were several mistakes I made that I could have avoided. In today’s post, I’ll share three mistakes you should absolutely avoid when you are searching for non-academic jobs.

And then, I will share how to rectify these mistakes.

Ready? Let’s go.

A generic resume

Whatever you do, don’t use the “spray and hope something sticks” approach when it comes to your resume.

LinkedIn as well as many other job websites have features that allow you to easily apply by uploading one resume. You then can use the “EASY APPLY” button to send that one resume off to several employers.

I did this at first and I am here to tell NOT to do this.

Here’s why.

Your resume likely has your educational and employment experiences up to this point, which is great. However, I doubt that one resume has keywords and relevant skills highlighted in a way that it captures the attention of every single recruiter who will see that resume.

Here’s a better way to tackle it.

WARNING: This approach will involve a little bit more work, but I promise, it is not as much work as you think AND it will be worth it.

Instead of using one resume to apply for multiple non-academic roles, think of about two or three types of roles you would like to pursue and create separate resumes for each of them.

I used to have a resume I used specifically for medical writing jobs and one for medical science liaison roles.

If you read this post, I share how you can read job descriptions and use that are a source for finding strategic keywords to highlight on your resume based on your experiences.

When I have created different versions of my resumes, I have done so in Google Docs so it is easily editable no matter where I am in the world. I also find that it is easy to use the search function in Google Docs to find documents very easily. So I recommend you create your resumes there!

Another thing to note here is that an academic CV tends to be much longer than a resume for non-academic jobs. A resume for a non-academic job usually is 1-2 pages. Yes, my friend! You will have to whittle your resume down A LOT. For an example of what my 2-page resume looks like, click here.

Not actively using LinkedIn to showcase my experience/skills

LinkedIn is free to use and if you’re not on it, let me urge you to get on it right now.

Fill out your profile completely.

You see, when you apply for roles, it is likely that the recruiter will try to Google you.

Usually, if you have a LinkedIn profile, this will show up as one of the very first results.

You can only say so much in a 1- or 2-page resume. LinkedIn is an opportunity for you to demonstrate so much more.

In my free LinkedIn training, I share three ways to use your profile to demonstrate more value and which will make your profile stand out. You may check that out here.

Stay ready so you don’t have to be ready!

Not building a network

Secondly, once you do join LinkedIn, don’t just sit back and be a lurker.

Instead, actively use your LinkedIn as an opportunity to connect with potential employers and colleagues in your field. While not everyone will respond, there are a lot of helpful people on LinkedIn who will answer your questions, chat with you about their careers and provide insider tips on how to actually land a role in their company.

Building a network and cultivating these types of relationships is so valuable and I can’t emphasize it enough.

When it comes to networking, don’t limit yourself to people in your discipline alone.

Connect with people in other fields who may be working in a role you’re interested in or employees at a company in which you would like to work.

If you have a degree in Immunology, you could end up at Google or Facebook.

So, think broadly and be open to connecting with people you can learn from whether they have your specific degree or not.

And where does one start netwroking?

Everywhere. I have used LinkedIn. I am beginning to attend local in-person meet-ups again. The people you meet at the conferences you attend and alumni that have graduated from your school are all examples of people you can connect with as you build your network.


Even if you never thought you would be searching for non-academic jobs, you should be ready.

According to the NSF, only around 17% of PhDs will land tenured faculty positions.

Thus, if you find yourself searching for non-academic jobs, you are actually in the majority.

But unfortunately, many find themselves grossly unprepared and frustrated as they come to the realization that a tenured faculty position is no longer a given for PhDs.

Your skills and education as a PhD is valuable in so many industries. Just look at the success of tech companies like Google and Apple.

My goal with this post was to share the mistakes I made that prolonged my transition into a non-academic role. By sharing these, it’s my hope that your path will be less bumpier than mine was.

All the best as you seek out non-academic jobs!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
Share This