Applying for advertised posts is a well-known and well-used strategy for securing a job and may be an approach that has served you well previously. However, if you rely solely on publicised vacancies as you move forward in your career, you are very likely limiting your exposure to job opportunities. Positions are not always advertised, are invariably hidden from general view or haven’t yet been created.
As Robert Alford rightly says in his quote above, you need to prepare well before the end of your PhD or contract so that you are armed with strategic information, contacts and the tools to make a successful transition. Networking is a key tactic when exploring your options; just as you peruse the literature and investigate the research of other labs in your pursuit of new ideas and research avenues, so you need to do the same in your job search.
Using the internet to research the job market, people and companies can yield some very interesting results and help pave the way to your next position, whether within or outside of academia. Here are five ideas for you to try out:
- To expand your knowledge of the job market, search company employees to investigate their range of job titles. For example, I have made a list below from a well-known pharma company by searching people on LinkedIn that work for the company:
I must admit, I’m not sure what some of the job titles mean or what their roles entail, but you can investigate these further by researching the profiles and backgrounds of those in these positions. If it turns out you’re keen to pursue this career, make contact with some of those in this role. If you’d prefer to work for a smaller company (SME) look for people working in your area of interest, note who are their employers, and investigate these companies further on social media or by visiting their websites.
2. Once you’ve established the type of post(s) of interest to you, instead of ‘cold calling’ people, you can try to find people with whom you have some commonality. They are more likely to respond positively to you. One method you can use is to investigate alumni or previous employees from your current or former university or research institute, who are working in this role. For example, you can do a very easy search using the ‘alumni’ button on university profiles on LinkedIn and then doing a keyword search. Once you have identified one or more relevant people, you can introduce yourself as someone who also attended or worked at the same institution.
3. Many companies have a presence on Twitter nowadays, broadcasting information about their latest news and developments, as well as responding to others within their circle of interest and influence. Information such as this is invaluable when researching potential future employers and, furthermore, you can see who is following them – very likely many of their employees. They, in turn, will be following others based in associated industries, relaying their news and interests, and so on. This research may well lead you to interesting places and to new and surprising discoveries, so that, just as with your scientific research, you come across unexpected information (e.g. courses, jobs, contacts, funding) previously hidden to you.
4. For those of you aiming for a career in academia, use specialist forums and communities that are associated with your research interests. Researchgate is one of the best platforms for academics to display their research profile and publications. Asking and answering questions can spotlight you and bring you to the attention of others. Discussion lists and forums provide news related to your interests and are populated with people who could be potential collaborators or even future colleagues and employers.
5. Conferences are one of the best ways to network in academia, however with many of them cancelled or postponed in these challenging times of lockdown and social distancing, there are fewer opportunities to engage face-to-face. On the upside, many conferences are now being offered on-line as a series of webinars in place of in-person events. For some people this can actually make them a more viable and accessible prospect, with expenses such as travel and accommodation reduced to zero and registration offered at a much lower rate. Take advantage of these on-line gatherings, not only to hear from speakers, but to connect with participants by email, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., as you would do if you met someone interesting at a regular conference.
I hope these five ideas have given you a flavour of how to make the Net work for you and wish you success as you network your way to your next job!