Explore the steps to take when looking for a non-academic job, and find important resources for the process of finding, applying for, and interviewing for a job. Most of these steps can begin in the year or two before you plan to enter the job market.

Steps You Can Take

Identify and Translate your Skills

Every graduate student has numerous skills and capacities that are valuable to employers, but identifying our own skills can be difficult. There are many lists of transferable skills commonly held by graduate students, which might help you think through what skills you have developed during your degree. The book The Professor Is In (Section X) has a list of 100 skills that are transferable to non-academic settings, Beyond the Professoriate has a list of 10 transferable skills that employers want, and this slide deck by Beyond Academia walks you through the process of translating academic experiences to non-academic skills.

Once you have identified your own skill set, you will need to diligently translate these skills into the language of your industries or careers of interest. This is particularly important because most employers are unfamiliar with what a Ph.D. graduate has spent their many years of research and dissertation writing on. Through informational interviews and career exploration tools, you will become familiar with the language and jargon relevant to your career of interest so that you can translate your skills effectively.

There are dozens of books written on the transition from graduate school and academia to non-academic careers. You can find out which texts are relevant to you by reading the summaries offered in this reading list from the blog From PhD to Life. 


Identify Job Postings

Looking through job postings can be helpful both for learning what career options are out there and for applying to jobs. When you are ready to secure a new job, be sure to reach out to your networks and let acquaintances in your academic and non-academic communities know you are looking for a position. For example, if you are presenting at a conference, mention that you are currently on the job market. 

Some key websites to find job listings include:


Develop a Resume

While CVs are the gold standard for academic positions, you will need to convert your CV to a resume to successfully apply for positions beyond academia. Many resources are available to guide you in this process. See “From CV. to 1-Page Resume,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2013) and “How I Reimagined My Resume,” Humanists at Work (2015). Dig through The Professor Is In and Ask A Manager blog posts on resumes.


Write Cover Letters

Even when job postings do not explicitly request a cover letter, it is the best practice to include one . For the cover letter, be sure to focus on how your skills and experience align with the position requirements, rather than trying to explain your transition out of academia. Also be sure to make clear why you are interested in the particular organization to which you are applying. Dig through Ask A Manager blog posts on cover letter writing.


Prepare for Interviews

Finally, as you start learning about positions from your network and submitting applications, you will need to prepare for interviews. It is important to practice interview skills with multiple audiences. Ask your committee, your colleagues, your friends, and your family members to conduct “mock” interviews—even if you have to provide the questions ahead of time, it helps to rehearse your answers out loud and in front of an audience. You can also practice by using the interview preparation tool Big Interview. Big Interview offers video lessons on the interview process, and uses AI to simulate practice interviews tailored to the positions for which you are applying.

For advice on various aspects of the process—from etiquette tips and how to dress for interviews to negotiating job offers and salaries—check out the Berkeley Career Center’s site on Interviewing. If you are preparing for a virtual interview, read this GradNews article on virtual interviewing.