Interpreting nonacademic job ads

Ph.D.s seeking careers outside of academe constantly hear about how important it is to let potential employers know about skills honed on campus that can translate to a new work environment. But how do you do this when you may not even understand what those skills are? By using the handy guide that employers supply in every job ad, writes Julia McAnallen, director of Ph.D. Career Services at Michigan State University in East Lansing, in an article published today at Inside Higher Ed.

Employers write ads in the language of their industry rather than in that of the university lab. McAnallen explains how to decipher what these ads mean and gives useful examples of how to translate your academic experience into specific evidence that you possess the desired skills. 

Budgeting experience, for example, is a commonly requested skill that can include “managing grant funds, whether your own fellowship dollars or parts of a larger faculty research grant,” she writes. “Even managing the budget of a conference, meeting, student group or other smaller budget is relevant.” For further help with translation, she points readers to an excellent resource about transferable skills. Recasting your experience in the language of the job ad will convey your abilities more effectively to the employer, and it also has the added advantage of showing “that you are not entrenched in another cultural system, unable to adapt to the needs of a different workplace and style of work,” McAnallen writes.

And don’t ignore job opportunities that interest you because you can’t demonstrate all the mentioned skills, she advises. A strong and specific case that you have a substantial majority of them is enough to support a plausible job application, she says. Check out the full article for more tips.

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