In these last weeks of the year, I have had tens of appointments with graduate students and postdocs who are concerned about their job prospects after a sluggish academic job market this fall. Or, they are gearing up for the spring recruiting season that will begin on university campuses in January.

Your colleagues may be checking out for holidays, but the winter break is a perfect opportunity for you to get a jump on your job search. Here are a few things you can do over the next few weeks while you catch up on sleep and connect with friends and family over the holidays.

  1. Update your LinkedIn profile. 

One of the toughest parts of a job search is to find the information and connections that are relevant to your new career interests. LinkedIn helps you maintain a public profile where your new networking contacts, recruiters and hiring managers can review your educational and professional background.

  • Be sure that your summary section succinctly describes your expertise in a way that is relevant to your target audience and employer.
  • Highlight your work, volunteer, and educational experiences to form a coherent narrative of your professional expertise.
  • Periodically, post status updates with timely, industry-relevant information to stand out among your connections.
  1. Investigate the type of work that others from your discipline have gone on to do. 

PhD job seekers often have a tough time knowing where to start their job search. Graduates of your department or similar doctoral programs are a gold mine of career information. They have made the transition from academia into a new career field. Gather at least three names of people from your department that you will connect with for an informational interview.  You can find these doctoral-level alumni in a few places:

  • LinkedIn alumni groups or interest groups such as “PhD Careers Outside of Academia” and “Beyond Academia: Nonacademic Careers for PhDs.”
  • Word of mouth from graduates of your program
  • Versatile PhD also provides a robust online community of doctoral level job seekers and professionals.
  1. Create a resume.

There seems to be some confusion about whether a resume and CV are similar versions of the same document. In short, they are not. CVs and resumes serve different purposes, have different audiences, and feature different content. The first is a detailed record of your academic accomplishments and educational experiences and can be several pages, while the latter is a snapshot of relevant work experience and skills condensed into one to two pages.

If you are applying to jobs in the nonprofit, private or government sectors you will need to submit a professional resume. For a strong resume, tailor your experiences and outputs  to the position, team and organization to which you are applying. Have someone outside of your field with a knowledge of industry review your resume prior to submission.

  1. Take a personality test. 

I recently attended a 3-hour career exploration workshop in my role as career advisor at the University of Pennsylvania. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) offered this workshop to undergraduate and graduate students who are at the beginning of their career planning process. People who attend usually want answers to questions like, What kind of work can I do with my background? What type of jobs should I apply for given my level of work experience?  CAPS administered two personality tests – MBTI and Strong Interest Inventory – to help job seekers understand their preferences of work styles as well as workplace roles and interactions.

My favorite assessment is Strong Interest Inventory as it provides an overview of careers and fields that may be of interest to you given your preferences. This information introduces job seekers to industries beyond the academy, and can be a launch pad for job research.  A career advisor, your campus CAPS office or university career services office can administer a personality test for you. Be sure to work with a career advisor who can help you interpret, sort through and operationalize you test results.

  1.  Track your job search activities and keep notes on all your career research. CareerClarityOrganizer_cover image

Small interactions and online research can yield significant information that will clarify your career direction and job search strategy.  You are learning an enormous amount of information from holding informational interviews, reading up on industry blogs and connecting with companies on social media.  The Weekly Job Search & Career Clarity Organizer helps you track your connections, information received, companies of interest, and career paths discovered. This 50-page tool features assessments to help you make informed career choices based on your skills, abilities and professional connections. Use it to get the most out of your work with a career counselor or to organize your solo job search.

Take 15% off your purchase of The Job Search & Career Clarity Organizer until December 31. Act now to get a start on the New Year! At checkout, use code: holiday15

How will you use the next few weeks of this year and the New Year to prepare for your career goals?

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