Episode #22: Tips & and tricks on how to prepare for your career after a PhD


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Dr Amanda González-Bengtsson is a Public Relations Manager at Stockholm University and her passion is to promote science and make it known in society and to stakeholders. In episode 22 of PhD Career Stories, Amanda returns for a tips & tricks-themed podcast. In this episode, we learn more on how we can start preparing for a career after a PhD already in graduate school.

You have only failed if you don’t keep trying.

– Dr Amanda González-Bengtsson, Public relations manager at Stockholm University

Transcript

My greatest advice is to start talking to colleagues and everyone you know, that you’re looking for a job one year before you finish the PhD.

Also, mostly send spontaneous applications.

If you’re not sure what you would like to do, take the career test from Decision Dynamics that determines your driving forces, which can differ from your thoughts about career. Also think about what you like in your current job. When did you feel the most alive, for example? That can give you a hint on what you would like to do.

During my PhD, I always kept track of all the extra-curricular activities I performed to make it easier in the end to my personal inventory for the CVs and cover letters.

That takes me to another thing. The CVs and cover letters should be specific for the job you’re applying for.

You can also ask your colleagues about your features and what you excel at.

The most important tips I want to share with unemployed PhDs is to go to career development and do a lot! Send CVs, contact CEOs to go for lunch. Send out spontaneous applications. Be on LinkedIn. Use the strategy “show, don’t tell” in your cover letter.

To this day I actually regret not using LinkedIn more. I think it would have been the perfect platform for me to meet employers. I think it can be a great resource, especially if you’re not as extroverted as I am.

One thing I would have done differently is to do internships throughout the PhD, at least one week per year. What you can gain in experience and connections far outweighs the money. You can always ask for leave of absence when you’re a PhD student.

Write in a personal way when you ask employers to have lunch with you. You saw them at a conference debate, they said “this,” you think “this.” They wrote a chronicle, they have a cool product that you like because of “this and that.” What you contribute to the company should always be your focus.

Read the book “Case in point” to prepare for interviews.

Remember, you have only failed if you don’t keep trying.

No matter how you feel, always engage in productive behaviors. Then you’ll also feel better. Live a fulfilling life in general. Have goals outside your career and it will not all just depend on one thing. People love to help you if you talk to them. Just asking is sometimes enough. Always try to look out for their interest too and give them tips.

If you’re a woman, read “101 mistakes women do in their career.” This will help you a lot if you want to get ahead in your career.
The most important skills you in general can use in the industry that you get from your PhD are a lot. For example: analyzing, composing texts, present, work independently, critical thinking, give and take criticism, time management, pedagogy, problem solving, team work, present and pitch research, administration, management, leadership, building networks, presenting complex data in an easy and understandable way, language skills, filtering information from a large amount of information, citing materials, get accustomed to familiarize yourself with new knowledge, know where to seek knowledge and information, prioritizing and thus manage stress, conflict resolution, work outside your comfort zone, personal development, keeping deadlines, evaluate the performance of others, manage adversity, create activities, streamlining and optimizing to enable cost-effectiveness.

I also think that you should definitely join a board of some kind or a working group to get work experience.

Take initiatives and communicate them according to the STARS method, which is a structured manner of responding to behavioral-based interview questions by discussing the specific situation, task, action and resolve of the situation you’re describing. Always think in STARS.

Recruiters and headhunters, contact them. Show them your skillset, make them put you on their list of contacts.

Get help with writing your CV and get many to review it, but don’t get stuck in this phase. Sometimes it’s better to send something than nothing.

I can almost guarantee you that if you don’t have a job yet, it’s because you’re not doing enough – or more likely, not doing the right things that will get you ahead.

Finally, follow Tina Persson on Facebook and take every word she says seriously. Put it into action. You have so much to gain from it.

Good luck! I believe in all of you listening to this and I wish you an amazing future.

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