A few weeks ago, Core Programs in the Graduate School, Career Center, and the Alumni Association sponsored an employer panel for graduate students and postdocs. We would like to share a few pearls from the terrific UW alums who sat on the panel and who also hosted conversations during the networking reception that followed.
The job search is about finding the right fit for your talents. Be creative about your career options, test out new ways to tell the story of your (deep) experience and skill set, and it is never too early to start exploring and building your network.
- Evolve your resume. Your resume should always be evolving and tailored to each job you are applying for. Also, describe examples of specific accomplishments, including those that came up during your education and training. What problems did you approach, how did you solve them, with what results? Find out more about building your resume here. If you’re interested in careers beyond academia, here are tips on how to revise your CV into resume format.
- Build your experience. Find out what key skills or top tools are used and needed in the field of interest, and learn them. Look at the whole picture of your experience, inside and outside of graduate education. Align your skill sets to particular positions or organizations. Use specific examples in your talking points and written materials with the goal of making yourself stand out from an applicant pool. Learn how to get internship and related experential skills as graduate students at this upcoming workshop.
- Demonstrate excellent communication skills (in writing and in person). Be able to discuss complex ideas in a simple, clear, concise fashion. Be ready to describe the research you are working on in 30 seconds or less–and in a way that anyone can understand.
- Consider entry-level positions. Don’t get discouraged by entry-level positions. It can be helpful to get your foot in the door, demonstrate your contribution and capability. Depending on the organization (check this out first), you can move up within 3-6 months.
- Find your passion. Pay attention to your energy and passion as those are the kinds of jobs you should be looking for (and not others!).
- Start early. It is never too early to start building and growing your network. Networking is possible even for those of us who initially shy away from it.
- Talk about your talent and passion. Practice. Get comfortable. Own it, but without arrogance. Do mock interviews.
- Set up networking meetings. Identify target companies to narrow your options, and then set up informational interviews.
- Use LinkedIn strategically. Start with classmates, alums, professors. Join LinkedIn groups in order to initiate professional connections and learn about new job postings.
- Attend receptions. Face-to-face conversations can spark interest and connections at these professional gatherings. Send a resume to those you’ve connected with as a follow up. Personal connections always move a resume up if it is already in the pool.
- Ask questions. You are interviewing the informant and the organization to determine fit as much as they are interviewing you. Show them you want to know what the work is like, that it matters to you (that is, you aren’t just looking for “a job”). Questions you can ask: What is your day-to-day work like? What is the best part of what you do? The most challenging? What is the culture like here? What would you change about your job (or the organization) if you could?
- Phone interview. Always prepare for this as you would an in-person interview, and follow up with a thank you email or note.
- Answering technical questions. If a potential employer asks you a technical question, or to solve a technical problem during the interview, how should you handle it? The interviewer mostly wants to know how you strategize solving a problem. It is important to show how you would approach the problem, what you’d consider, and why.
- Be relationally savvy. Organizations are looking for people who will be colleagues.
- Show resilience. You can’t always control what interviewers will ask or how they will behave. Show some resilience and keep your composure, as well as keeping things in perspective. If you don’t like how you were treated in an interview, chances are you don’t want to work there anyway!
- Not hearing back. You might not hear back. Be persistent. Keep honing your materials and learning from the process.
Best Wishes on Your Career Paths!
Kelly, Jaye, and Ziyan
Core Programs Team