Which industry jobs should you target?


My last blog post provided a framework on how to determine which sector(s) to target while looking for an industry job. Now what? It’s time to narrow your focus and discover potential positions and employers. Here’s how.

1. Identify your skills.

This one can feel hard because academics’ identities are defined by their research areas rather than what they’re good at. Examples: a planetary geologist who’s worked with MRO data likely has experience in image processing and geospatial analysis. A planetary geophysicist may have experience in numerical modeling and programming. These are all marketable skills in industry and should be highlighted in a resume.

So think about what tools you’ve used to do your research. This could be software, programming languages, lab instrumentation, etc. Make a list, focusing on skills you’d like to continue using in the future.

Note: if you want to move away from technical work, your soft skills will be much more important. Here are some examples of valuable soft skills, which are still important in technical positions.

2. Research jobs and companies.

Using your skill list and job keywords (determined from the steps in my last post), run searches in job websites. Glassdoor and Indeed are my go-tos. There’s a lot of overlap in their job databases, but I’ve still used both because Glassdoor has a better interface and Indeed has more postings. 

LinkedIn has a separate algorithm that uses information from your profile. (Set up a LinkedIn profile if you haven’t already. Though scarcely used in academia, LinkedIn is critical for networking and recruiting in industry.) It has turned up solicitations Glassdoor and Indeed have not, so it’s worth using as well.

In each website, play around with different combinations of keywords. See what jobs come up, and note the titles of ones that pique your interest. 

Simultaneously, you should research companies in the sector(s) you’re targeting to find out what kind of projects they work on, who they hire, and what their company culture is like. Perhaps they don’t have any relevant open positions for you now, but they might in the future. This is what happened with me and Planetary Resources. The first time I checked out their careers page, there were no opportunities for me; a few months later, the perfect position was available and I was ready to apply immediately.

I recommend using the various sites’ job alert/tracking features so that you can easily learn about new job postings. For my last job search, I was tracking local job opportunities with Glassdoor for about 20 different keywords. (The algorithms are imperfect though. My “GIS” search kept sending me jobs at gastrointestinal—GI—clinics. :-/ )

3. Survey LinkedIn.

Using the job titles you discovered in #2, search LinkedIn for people with those titles to get an idea of their job descriptions, skills, and backgrounds. Don’t count yourself out if you see people who appear to be better qualified (planetary scientists will always be nontraditional candidates!) but use the information to gain a general understanding of the roles and companies out there.

Also use LinkedIn to search for current employees of companies you’re interested in. LinkedIn tells you how many degrees of separation (up to 3) you are from another person. If you come across an individual with whom you share a mutual contact, request an introduction. Connections like those are a great way to get more information about a type of job and also get on the company’s radar.

4. Identify missing skills and develop them if possible.

Let’s say you don’t have a skill that is common one in solicitations for a role you’re interested in. If you are able to, develop that skill through a side project, or even better, through your research. For example, I had limited formal training in geospatial analysis, so I took a massive open online course (MOOC) to get caught up on jargon and methodology.

In fact, this led to a side project I submitted to a contest in which I won a prize. I put it on my resume and ended up fielding questions about it during my interview. Being self-taught shows curiosity and initiative, both excellent qualities in a job candidate.

This process might feel intimidating, but as a Ph.D. holder or candidate, you are clearly capable of performing research and developing new skills! By following these steps, you can begin to hone in on your perfect industry job.

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