The Office of Career Strategy is here to support GSAS students and postdocs at every stage of their non-academic career search. By meeting with our career advisors, attending events, and engaging with alumni and colleagues, you will not only be able to successfully navigate this process, but also control the pace of it as well.
Succinctly put, the job search process requires a number of small, easily achievable steps that, ultimately, result in obtaining a position. It is easy to dismiss these small steps in lieu of the greater goal (securing the position) yet these small steps help elevate qualified candidates throughout the application process.
The Yale Office of Career Strategy understands that the non-academic job search can appear a daunting process, especially if the non-academic career option is one you've only recently discovered! To help unravel this mystery, the Office of Career Strategy has developed a Career Strategy Checklist for GSAS students and postdocs, one that will ideally guide you regardless of where you are in your search!
The Career Strategy Checklist helps itemize the wide array of baseline resources offered through our office and, more specifically, details when and how they can be used within the context of your greater non-academic job search. Many will acknowledge their awareness of networking as an essential step, for example, but when and how can it be used? How does it compliment other aspects of the process? Ideally, this checklist will help clarify such matters and allow for this process to seem less chaotic.
Many individuals starting their job search might characterize the process as stressful. To alleviate this stress, many students are tempted to send out a flurry of applications, with the hope that a quick interview (or even an offer!) may present itself. If one hasn't taken the time to reflect on the types of positions one seeks, dwell on the skills we possess, or even take the time to thoroughly review our resume, we risk not hearing back from any of these employers. This, in turn, creates a sensation of frustration and defeat. Even if we have a finely crafted resume, only applying to positions online can offer limited returns, with applications lost in a sea of other applicants. By focusing on the philosophical aspects of the job search process, and then the practical, we can try and avoid these issues altogether.
Tip: The philosophical aspect of the job search focuses on:
- examining one's motivations, interests, values, and priorities through self-assessment tools or one's Individual Development Plan
- assessing one's skills (both the technical skills honed through your graduate program and your broader, transferable skills)
- investigating possible career paths (via our array of Career Links online resources, for example)
As we move through these areas, we gain a better of sense of how our past experiences have provided us with a variety of skills and, in turn, how these skills are applicable to a number of preferred career paths. This is known as the development of a professional narrative. A critical piece of a personal marketing plan, it will frame the way we present our skills, experience, and interests to potential employers. Once this narrative is in place and we feel confident in its content, we can then move on with what many mistakenly believe to be the perceived first step in the job search process: the construction of the professional resume.
Tip: The practical aspect of the job search entails what is most commonly associated with obtaining jobs:
- submitting applications
Within the practical phase of the job search, we still must diversify the ways in which we seek out opportunity and continue to grow and develop our professional narrative. Applying to positions posted on a website, for example, is immensely important, but a truly effective job search also involves outreach to alumni, colleagues, and contacts within an organization to learn more about a given industry or employer, so that we may better understand how our unique set of skills can be seen as a true fit.
As mentioned, the Career Strategy Checklists tackles both the philosophical and the practical. A majority of the tasks associated with the Introductory phase, for example, are philosophical. Conversely, a majority of the tasks associated with the Advanced phase are practical. These tasks, in sequence, help us grow and develop, as applicants and as professionals.
Many graduate students and postdocs come to us with questions surrounding the timing of their non-academic job search. When should I start? How long will this take? What if I begin too early? How much time should I dedicate to this while I write my dissertation? These are all valid, understandable questions, however the answer depends greatly on the individual. Ultimately, we recommend that you simply dedicate consistent attention to this process. A successful non-academic job search is one often based on momentum: understanding your skillset, developing a professional network, crafting a resume, and identifying potential employers of interest are aspects of this process that can occur at any point, days, weeks, months, or even years in advance. The momentum gained from achieving these goals feeds directly into our successful search for positions and opportunities.
As you progress through your search and start to identify potential employers of interest, make sure you are aware of different hiring practices and their timing.
Some employers are able to anticipate their entry-level hiring needs months in advance, usually large employers. These companies are in the minority, and are by no means representative of the range of opportunities that will be available. Employers who participate in the On-Campus Recruiting program fall into the advanced hiring category.
In addition to On-Campus Recruiting, there are employers and organizations that have established 1-2 year opportunities or programs. In the non-profit sector these are sometimes referred to as fellowships, or may also be listed as internships. Some well known examples of fixed-term programs in the non-profit sector are Teach for America, AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps. Other sectors may have established fixed-term programs, sometimes referred to as leadership development programs or rotational programs. The application deadlines vary depending on the opportunity; some have one deadline per year, while larger programs may have multiple deadlines throughout the year.
The majority of employers across all sectors – for-profit, non-profit, and government – fall into this category. Most employers hire when someone leaves or when the company or organization is growing, and there is an immediate need to fill the vacancy. When positions become available, employers often want to fill the opening quickly. Employers can be willing to delay the start of a position for several weeks or perhaps months, but this should not be immediately assumed. Therefore, time your application submissions appropriately and be honest if asked about your availability to start during the course of an interview.
Remember that even if your employers of interest hire on an "as needed" basis, it doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't work on your job search ahead of time - there are many important elements that benefit from an early start.
Tip: Building relationships through networking takes time, and your goal should be to develop a well-established and far reaching network before positions become available to assure you learn about opportunities. Even if you’re primarily targeting industries or employers who don’t hire in advance, you should be working on your job search throughout the year. Growing your network and gaining industry knowledge over the course of the year will be more manageable and more productive.