5 Tips To Help You Go From Unemployed PhD to Successful Industry Professional

PhD graduates must constantly prove their worth. The job market is saturated, and competition is cutthroat. In all industries, it’s becoming increasingly important to stand out from the crowd. If you’re an unemployed PhD graduate in search of your first industry job, we have good news—and bad news. The good news is that there are a variety of new roles and positions available to you as a PhD holder, such as data scientist or analyst, that you can leverage to find a job faster than if you had only your doctorate. But the bad news? You must emphasize your transferable skills instead of only highlighting your education. So how do you switch from PhD to successful industry professional? Here are five tips: 

Network, Network, Network

It’s important to understand that the hiring process can take some time, so don’t rush it. Instead, focus on networking with industry professionals. Look for job openings at your desired company, as well as for employees within the company. Get to know these people and make connections. You can’t find a job if you don’t know where it is. And getting to know people in your desired industry will help you find a job faster than if you were to sit at home and wait for opportunities to come to you. Networking also comes into play when you need references. References are crucial when it comes to finding work. So don’t be afraid to ask your new contacts for references. They’d be happy to help you, and they’d be even happier to see that you’ve taken the initiative to start building your network and finding a job.

Go Where The Jobs Are

If you’re an unemployed PhD graduate, you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed and discouraged by the process of looking for a job. We encourage you not to give up and to stay motivated. Remember—you’ve earned this and deserve to find a job in the industry of your choice. The question is, where do you start? The best place to begin your job search is by identifying the companies that are hiring PhD holders. This may seem like an obvious step, but it is often overlooked. Look for industries that are hiring PhD holders, and then research the companies within those industries. Once you’ve identified the companies you would like to work for, create a job search plan that includes how you’ll find the right person to speak with, what you’ll say, and when you’ll call (more on this below). Don’t skip ahead and start applying to positions. First, make a plan of action.

Develop Your Skillset

As a PhD holder, you’re likely skilled in a variety of areas, such as research, data analysis, critical thinking, communication, and more. You need to emphasize your transferable skills, as the hiring managers and recruiters who are reading your resume will be looking for these skills, not your education. For example, if you’re a data scientist and you’re applying for a marketing job, you don’t want to lead with that fact that you’re a data scientist. Instead, you want to lead with the skills you’ve acquired as a data scientist, such as strong critical thinking skills, the ability to analyze data, or your communication skills. Remember, most hiring managers won’t care that you have a PhD. They will care, though, that you’re educated and have the necessary skills to do the job. So focus on your skills and the unique traits you possess that will make you an asset to the company.

Show That You’re an Expert in Something

Find your niche. You may be a data scientist, but are you an expert in one specific area of data science? If so, highlight that expertise. If not, find a specific area of data science that you’re particularly interested in, and then go out of your way to become an expert in that field. In the job search process, you’re competing with many candidates, many of whom are skilled and educated in the same areas as you. So how do you set yourself apart from the crowd? By becoming an expert in a specific area of data science. That way, when a potential hiring manager or recruiter is reading your resume, they’ll see that you’re an expert in a specific field of data science and will want to hire you for their company.

Be Confident (Regardless of How You Feel)

You may have the necessary skills to land a job in industry, but you’re unemployed and have been out of the workforce for a while. You may be feeling nervous, unsure, or even unqualified to get a job in your preferred industry. You’re not alone. Every industry professional has felt this way at some point in their career. Whether you’ve been in the workforce for a few years or have just graduated with your PhD, you have to be confident in your abilities and your skills in order to land a job. If you’re feeling nervous, you may want to take a few deep breaths before you walk into the interview. Focus on the fact that you’ve earned this job and deserve it.


Regardless of what stage of your career you’re in, you likely know someone who has gone from unemployed to employed. That person may have advice to share, or they may not know what you’re going through. Regardless, you must remember that there is always hope. You can find a job in the industry of your choice if you network, go where the jobs are, develop your skillset, show that you’re an expert in something, and are confident in your abilities. You have what it takes to find a job in the field of your choice if you’re willing to put in the work and be patient.

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