Get organised – create a Career Planner

When I first started looking for a job outside of academia, it was initially a very hit-and-miss process. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, find interesting job vacancies, put in applications and learn from my knock-backs, all at once! Looking back now, I can see that success came once I’d met a series of consecutive milestones – these are the steps that I’ve set out in my post on developing a Career Roadmap.

I wish also that I’d had a systematic way of recording my planning and progress. Finding a job is often about overcoming a series of personal hurdles and the better you can manage this process, the quicker you’ll reach your goal. That’s why I recommend to all job seekers that they keep a hard copy or electronic Career Planner file to accompany their career journey.

So take an A4 ring binder or start a new spreadsheet or document. Depending upon your personal taste, you can decorate it with pictures, quotations or anything else that gives you inspiration or energy! Divide your file or document into 4 sections or tabs with the following headings:

1. Discovering my potential
2. Choosing my profession
3. Marketing myself
4. Getting an offer

The posts in this blog are organised into four categories, each of which relates to one of these sections in your Career Planner. So you can safely file away the material you create after you’ve read a post and after you’ve put the principles into practice.

Depending upon whether a non-academic career search will be your Career Plan A or Career Plan B, give your file the appropriate name. You are now all set to begin!


Use my Career Roadmap to kick-start your career planning

In my experience the main challenge that PhD students face when it comes to exploring their non-academic career options is knowing where to actually start! Having spent many years in university, it can be daunting to think of working in industry or in public service. PhDs typically ask themselves: what sort of job am I good for, having spent so long studying? Where are mainstream jobs advertised? How do I successfully put myself across at interview?

While the answers to these questions will vary from person to person, I believe that all PhDs will benefit from following a clear roadmap to get their career search started. The Career Roadmap set out below is based on my own experience and reflects the steps I took when starting to look for work outside of academia:

1. In the first step of the Roadmap, Discover your potential, the purpose is to explore your dreams and personal goals, and find out what motivates you in life.
2. In the second step, Choose your profession, the purpose is to identify a non-academic career area that fits with the passions, ambitions and goals you have identified.
3. In the third step, Market yourself, the purpose is to develop the materials and the network you’ll need for applications in your chosen profession(s).
4. In the fourth step, Get an offer, the purpose is to apply for advertised and unadvertised roles, to secure one or more job offers.

This approach will help you to overcome the difficulty of knowing where to start, and it provides you with structure and direction for managing your non-academic career planning and job search. In future posts I’ll map out each of the 4 steps of the Career Roadmap in more detail, sharing my experiences and linking to helpful resources.

Take action now: Have you created your personal Career Planner yet? See my post on getting organised to find out why you need one!