realworld PhDs

A resource for job hunting PhDs.

Do it today. And tomorrow. And the next day.

One of the conversations I seem to have the most often when it comes to job hunting is “I’m thinking about changing jobs, but I’m not ready to start applying just yet.”  To which my question is always - why?  If you’ve already realized that something about your current position is no longer satisfying - whether it’s that you’d like to be making more money, you feel like you’re outgrowing the position, or you just want to make a change - that’s really all that’s necessary to start job hunting.


There’s also the reality that job hunting is unlikely to be a quick process.  I think some people still imagine that they’ll apply for a few positions and be out the door in two weeks - I’m sure there is someone in the world who has managed this, but it’s definitely not the standard trajectory.  Job hunting takes work - you’ll need to revise your application materials, start drafting and redrafting cover letters to best express your skills and abilities, start reaching out to your network to get your name out there.  

Like any big process, it’s much easier broken down into smaller pieces.  If you think you want to change jobs in 2016, start by scheduling time to revise your resume.  Actually pick a time - stick it on your calendar if you have to.  When I was actively job hunting, I scheduled time every day to draft cover letters, and I still schedule a few hours a week to submit query letters to publishers or to work on journal articles.  It’s easy to feel like this is time wasted or just procrastinating doing something else, but the reality is that you will not get a new position without first making time to prepare yourself and your applications.

The same goes for networking - unfortunately you cannot just think about building your network.  Schedule time once a week to work on expanding your network, whether that’s emailing people for informational interviews, catching up on twitter and tweeting at people who’ve posted things that interest you, attending a MeetUp event related to your field, or reviewing recent updates on LinkedIn.  

Scheduling time for job hunting can also help prevent burnout, something to which graduate students are particularly susceptible.  Back when I was a grad students, my friends theorized the “I should be working” formula - that the more grad students you have in one place, the faster they’ll start to announce “I should be working.”  When you have a few hundred pages of thesis looming over you, it’s easy to get in the mindset that you need to work nonstop to finish it.  Job hunting can inspire the same feeling, that if you push yourself harder and just keep working, you’ll see success that much sooner.

Unfortunately, the exact opposite is often the truth - job hunting is all about presenting yourself, and the last thing you want to do is present yourself as stressed out, overworked, desperate, or exhausted.  Instead, schedule specific times to focus on job hunting, and do whatever you can to pump yourself up for the experience - maybe that means revisiting your last performance evaluation, or rereading a paper or a presentation you feel you really nailed to remind yourself of your abilities, or just playing “Eye of the Tiger” on loop.  Set yourself a specific goal - revise your resume, update your LinkedIn profile, write (and submit!) two cover letters - and when you’re done, you stop.  You celebrate a job well done, and you move on to the next thing.  And then you do it all again tomorrow, or the day after, or the next week.