At the PhD Pathways: Career Conversations event, PhDs currently working in international development and think tanks, shared their experiences and advice for finding employment and their views on pursuing non-academic careers. Among the panelists were representatives from:

 The panelists represented a cross-section of degrees in: Sociology, Physics, Finance and Business, and Educational Technology.

There are brilliant people in all types of organizations

All of the panelists have pursued exciting and intellectually-challenging careers in international development and in think tanks.

PhDs can have a “life of the mind” outside of academia, where intellectual discussion happens.

They agreed that there are brilliant people in all types of organizations. Many of these organizations also offer an academic-like environment; most will give you opportunities to attend conferences, write, and stay actively involved in your discipline. The panelists assured students they can achieve intellectually satisfying careers outside of academia. PhDs will be able to apply their degrees and knowledge to solve real-world problems. There are plenty of opportunities for PhDs to make an impact in their disciplines and in any of these or similar organizations.

PhDs bring rare and valuable skills to the workplace

Those skills include:

  • strong communication and writing skills
  • ability to partner and liaise with university professors in their field of expertise and government officials
  • entrepreneurial thinking
  • relationship building skills within and across organizations 
  • ability to absorb and recall large amounts of information
  • ability to identify when data and what type would make the most effective case
  • excellent presentation skills that can clearly deliver ideas
  • data interpretation skills
  • ability to effectively frame an argument and be persuasive
  • interdisciplinary perspective and approach

As you move through your career in these organizations and want to move up to higher levels, you will need to learn management skills. Many organizations provide professional development opportunities to build these skills.

Employers — Speak their language and solve their problems

The panelists shared their advice on conducting a job search and offered their views as hiring managers. As you approach employers it’s important to sell your skills not your research. Employers like to see that you understand the problems and challenges they face and that you have the skills and ideas to address them. Use the employer’s language or terminology in your resume and cover letter to emphasize your relevance to the job. In interviews, talk about the skills you bring and how you used them to make a contribution in another organization or in your field.

Hiring Managers Review candidates through Linkedin AND NETWORKING

Many employers are using LinkedIn to search for candidates using keyword searches. You can predict the keywords an employer will be searching for based on what’s typically of their industry’s language (review the company websites and job descriptions). Check out these tips to ensure you’re using LinkedIn like a pro.

  • Build your profile and use it to showcase what you can do
  • Join groups to expand your network
  • Publish on the newsfeed to become known in your field and on other types of social media to build your professional reputation.
  • Invest in networking to build your professional connections and learn more about what the employers are doing in your field.
  • Identify the specific departments which are doing work in your field and connect with people working there.

Finally, they agreed that networking is still key to finding and landing jobs!

Check out our Industry page on International Affairs to learn more and visit our Events page to look for upcoming PhD Pathways.