Developing a well-thought out professional narrative to market yourself to employers is essential to an effective career search, particularly for PhD students and postdocs who are considering a transition away from academia. It will establish the picture of you that potential employers take away from your resume and interviews. It is important to devote time to thinking about about the full range of your skills and experiences and how you would like to present them to employers. After all, if you don’t have a clear idea of your professional value, it will be difficult to convince employers. Developing a convincing story of your strengths and interests allows you to take control!
The narrative that you develop will be reflected in your application materials and interviews. While an academic CV presents a straightforward portrayal of your research and teaching strengths, a resume can highlight a broader set of skills and interests. Be sure to consider your audience when telling your story. Using technical and discipline-specific vocabulary is unlikely to be appropriate for everyone, especially once you start to look at opportunities outside of academia. Communicating complex material to diverse audiences is a key skill that is universally valued, so use this opportunity to showcase your abilities!
A strong professional narrative will address the following questions:
What Relevant Skills Do You Bring?
Think carefully about all skills that you have developed both in and out of the classroom. These include not only the technical skills and knowledge specific to your academic work but also an array of skills, often called “transferable skills,” that may be equally, if not more important to employers. By highlighting your full range of skills in a broader context, you will be able to communicate your value to employers with clarity and confidence. Learn more about PhD transferable skills here, and take advantage of the many opportunities at Yale to develop these skills.
Why Are You Interested in this Career?
Explain what motivates your career interest in terms of your interests and skills, and refer to your experiences to demonstrate your ongoing or developing interest in a given industry or role. For graduate students, the more successfully that you can convey the message that you have an active interest in this new career, rather than giving the impression that it is a Plan B to a career in academia, the more appealing of a candidate you will be.
Questions that are likely to crop up include: “Tell me about yourself”, “Explain your interest in ___”, and for PhD students and postdocs, “Why are you leaving academia?” Dedicate the time to construct a confident and clear narrative that conveys your motivation and genuine interest in making this transition to potential employers. Your story will be unique to you and will reflect your skills, interests, and preferences for different aspects of work life. As part of your story, you should draw upon your past experiences to explain your ongoing and developing interests in certain roles or industries to potential employers. Since many firms consider “demonstrated interest” to be important to their hiring decision, consider investing in activities while at Yale in order to explore and gain experience in industries, careers, or functional areas that you might ultimately be interested in. Click here for some ideas on how to get experience while at Yale.