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ABC-advice for PhDs looking for a job outside academia (part 2)

Bérénice Kimpe - Responsable coopération internationale

We continue with the second part of the ABC-advice! Today, let’s have a look at the letters F to J: enjoy!
To read the first part (A – E)

F like family
One of my colleagues told me once that a great life is a balance between three pillars: love and family, leisure, work. At some point, your family will weigh a lot on your professional decisions: what’s the best for you and your family? A career planning is not only an individual decision, it will impact your family as well: some consensus should be found. Don’t forget that more and more employers are family-friendly: many of them offer flexible worktimes, children daycare, additional days-off to take care of the parents, sport activities… If such a balance is important for you, put it in your criteria while planning your career and target your potential employers wisely.

G like grass may not be greener out there
Many of us tend to think that we should probably feel better in a different environment, that it sucks to be where we are now. In short: the grass is greener out there. It’s a danger as long as it remains a fantasy, without any reality-based information. So now, the questions are: how do you check the colour of the grass out there? What actions do you undertake to reach the right grass?

H like hidden job market
The job market is like an iceberg: what we see is the smallest part of it. The visible job market (ie jobs are advertised) makes only 30-40 % of the overall job market. It means you really have to activate your network to get an access to the hidden job market: make yourself visible and let your network know you’re looking for a new position!
Another way of understanding this part is to consider the types of employers for PhDs. For most of you, when you consider working in the industry, you target big companies. Quite obvious because we all know them, they are visible, which is not necessarily the case of small and medium entreprises (SMEs). That’s a pity because they need you! 50 % of researchers in France are employed by SMEs, 73 % of R&D staff in the US are in SMEs. To find them, explore the clusters and the SMEs that get funded by the European Commission.

I like international and intercultural
Higher education and research are maybe the two most important areas where internationalisation plays a big part. There are so many programmes to encourage you to go abroad: Erasmus+, Volontariat International en Entreprise, postdoctoral funding schemes… And many organisations to help you to implement your project: ABG, CARE, Euraxess
But before leaving, answer the following questions: what are your motivations and constraints? What do you want to achieve by going abroad? If you do, it will be easier when (and if!) you come back to talk about it and market it in front of recruiters.
Last but not least, getting intercultural skills is useful even if you come back to your home country afterwards: it will help you change your framework of references and communicate with people having a different mindset from yours.

J like job advertisement
When you browse job boards, pay attention to structure of job ads. Most of the time, you will find the following parts: information on the company; job description; required profile; information on the application process. In each of these parts, you may find interesting information for your application: keywords (try to put them thoroughly in your CV and/or cover letter), additional skills that are not explicitly requested in the profile (eg event management means organisational skills).
Especially in international job ads, you are asked to indicate your salary expectations and your earliest start date: don’t forget to give the information in your cover letter, otherwise your application might be out!
By reading the required profile, try to relate it with your own experience and highlight on your CV the relevant information (eg if you’re applying for a position that is not so much technical or scientific, focus more on your soft skills).

To be continued next month…

ABG is a French non-profit organization. Our missions are :
  • To facilitate the transition of PhDs (whatever their field and seniority) from academia to the private sector;
  • To help companies recruit PhDs.

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