I just finished my Ph.D. in educational policy and I’m on the job market for next spring. I don’t want to be an academic, so I’m looking at all kinds of jobs in all kinds of places.

I’ve been a teacher (middle school and university) for my entire working career, so I’m not familiar with how non-teaching job searches work. So, here’s my question: how do I know if I’m qualified for a job based on the job description?

I feel like they are written so cryptically that I can never be sure if I’m totally wasting my time applying or if it is a case (as you often write about) of framing my CV differently? For example, should I take the “experience, knowledge and skills” section as non-negotiable?

I am trying to use my Ph.D. to break into a related–but not directly academic–field and I don’t know if my skills translate.

2 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    If you are applying to jobs that do not require the Ph.D. that you just got, people are not going to want to hire you. They will think: Why did she just spend all that time getting a degree she doesn’t want to use? And then they will think that you don’t really want the job you are applying for.

    It’s going to be pretty hard to convince someone that you don’t care that you are not using that degree. Which means that the jobs you are most likely to get are jobs that require that degree.

    I’m assuming you got the degree because you needed it for the work you want to do. You should apply for those jobs. If you can’t get a job that requires the degree then you should probably leave the degree off your resume and talk about other stuff you did during those years.

    Remember that a resume is a story, and you need to tell a story that makes getting a Ph.D. sound like a smart way to steer your career. I think your career counseling office might help you with this. Or, if that doesn’t help, hire a career coach for an hour to help you sort out your story.

    In any job hunt, the key is to have a really well-written resume. Showing you are a high-performer matters more than showing you have the exact experience they are looking for in the job description. Here are some posts on writing resumes.

    How to edit your resume like a professional resume writer

    Don’t let your resume be a roadblock to your career

    I hope this helps.

  2. Theresa
    Theresa says:

    Hello –

    I’ve been curious to see if there would be more comments here, as I have a PhD, but have traveled a non-traditional route with it, as have many of my friends.

    Please remember that education is never wasted – you have learned a lot from both the content and the process of getting your PhD – and it will all come in handy in unexpected ways.

    First, there are many opportunities to use that PhD in non-academic settings – for example, FHI 360 is a non-profit that focuses on health, education, sanitation, civil society development and other areas for both research and program implementation (www.fhi360.org). Places like these could be a good fit for you.

    Second, you can use your content expertise to transition – for example I have friends who went on to be editors, journalists and lawyers in their specific areas – and the first two options did not need further education.

    Third, there are sometimes programs at companies and non-profits that can help with the transition – fellowships, internships, etc. that are geared to attract people like you.

    Fourth, network, network, network – try to talk to anyone you can who has your same background and education but is not in academia. You’ll find that there are a lot more of them than you think.

    Finally, I think tailoring your resume is always a good idea – asking for informational interviews is also a good option for getting more info about places you are interested in working at.

    Good Luck!

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