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Sep 6 / Sarah Sheesley

Five Simple Things You Should Do Right Now

by Lauren Tanabe, Ph.D.

The start of the academic year is a time of excitement, but it can also be overwhelming as you begin to think about the steps you should take in your job search. Fear not, this post is full of easy tasks you can complete in between experiments that will have a big impact on your future. Start with small goals as opposed to larger intimidating ones that can leave you feeling depleted before getting started. As you complete the tasks below, you’ll start to feel better about the future and you may be surprised by the opportunities that arise.


1. Get Some Business Cards

At the SciPhD Bootcamp at Wayne State this past May, the presenters stressed the importance of always carrying business cards. You never know when you’ll need one! This is something that you can and should do, today. There are a number of online printing companies that offer deep discounts. I got 500 cards for $8 during a Vistaprint promotion. Be sure that you include all pertinent contact information and consider using an email address not affiliated with a university such as gmail, so that there’s no chance it will be terminated when you graduate. If you want to do something a little different, include a QR code on your card. When a prospective employer scans it, they’ll be able to read all about your qualifications — far more than you could ever include on a tiny business card.

2. Update Your LinkedIn Profile

What did you do over the summer? Did you participate in a BEST internship? Publish a paper? Join the Postdoc Association? It’s time to update that LinkedIn profile.

Make sure you have a professional-looking headshot, and remember that your profile should reflect who you want to be. It should be immediately clear to anyone reading the profile what your goals are. Are you searching for a job? Put it up there front and center. While you’re at it, make sure to fill in the Summary section or update it appropriately. It doesn’t need to be a thesis. Just make sure it’s professional, well-written, and clearly expresses your goals and achievements. Shoot for a little over 40 words. This will make your profile more likely to show up in someone’s search.

3. Facebook with Purpose

Sure, it’s fun to scroll through memes and see what’s going on in your friends’ lives, but these days, professional organizations and companies use social media platforms beyond LinkedIn. Do a quick search for companies you are interested in working for and follow their Facebook pages. Sometimes you can find job offerings posted here. Also search for groups, since there are organizations for every kind of scientist you can imagine. There are groups for those aspiring to positions in industry, writing, teaching, and business. Here you’ll be able to ask for advice and, in time, mentor others. It’s a wonderful way to make fruitful connections.

Perhaps the best part of being in these groups is that you will continually be reminded of things pertaining to your career interests as you scroll through your newsfeed — important, since keeping career goals at the forefront can be difficult when you’re trying to complete a Ph.D. Keep in mind that if you friend some of your new connections you will want to make sure your profile is on the professional side. If you’re tech savvy, you can use the control settings so that your new connections don’t see anything unsavory. It is critical, however, to keep in mind that your social media footprint should be a professional one across the board. It might be time to switch to Snapchat for more casual interactions with friends and family.

4. Set up One Informational Interview

Informational interviews are about exploring your options. If there’s a field that you suspect may be a good fit for you, or a company you might be interested in, then reach out to someone and set up an informational interview. Some of us introverts may find this task a bit daunting, but start with the goal of completing just one. Use your social media network to help you find someone. If you’re not sure where to start, look for fellow alumni — you both already have something in common. A simple 20-minute phone call or a chat over a cup of coffee could lead to more opportunities. Always end the interview by asking if they know of anyone else you could talk to. The worst thing that happens is you realize that a particular job may not be for you. Better to figure it out sooner than later.

5. Attend the Upcoming BEST Orientation and Activities

If you’re still unsure about what you want to do with your Ph.D., that’s OK. But don’t ignore your uncertainty; make an effort to gather more information so that you can figure out what might be a good fit for your skills and personality. Luckily for you, the Wayne State BEST program is about to kick off for the 2017-18 year. The program Orientation will take place on Wednesday, September 27th from 4:30 – 6:30 pm in Margherio Hall on the School of Medicine campus. Come, have some pizza and a beverage, and hear all about the various options for science Ph.Ds. Panel discussions in five different career tracks (research administration, teaching, business, government, and communication) are scheduled for the first week of October.

Don’t forget your business cards!

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