Day 2: Q&A: How to be Competitive

A key instructional design feature of SciPhD programs is a focus on one behavioral outcome: how does the PhD candidate compete with an advantage for a desired job?  All SciPhD candidates are new PhD’s, soon to be PhD’s or Postdocs.  All have run or are running the “PhD Life Cycle” which has numerous parallel performance requirements that are similar to work in industry: the high standard of performance and “testing” to ensure mastery of technical content, and successful publication in a peer-reviewed publication. This standard of performance is no easy task, yet most PhD’s fail to represent that experience in their job search. Most PhD candidates only focus on the success of mastery of content -what they know – and fail to share their experience of the business (how they mastered content) and social (how they worked with others to attain mastery) competencies.

As such, our instructional design is a discovery process using basic business and social techniques that uncover valuable work experiences complementary to the mastery of knowledge.  And then we practice communication and negotiation techniques to hone the candidate’s responses that builds confidence in their engaging the job search process with emphasis on the interviewers specific interests and needs, and salary negotiations: a competitive advantage!

We still get questions from our candidates and here are a few with answers:

Q.    The flipside to the postdoc question… can doing a 3-6 year postdoc hurt your job prospects outside of academia?

A.     Depends on job you are seeking. If highly technical and Postdoc is leading edge in same field – then it may help you for a higher level entry position. If seeking a more general job – then its probably not helpful.

Q.    In the last session you mentioned that the purpose of PostDoc is to gain skills so that you are more hirable in the industry. If you get a job offer after finishing your PhD, would you start at a level lower than the one that will be offered to the PostDoc? In the long run will it count against you that you did not do a postdoc?

A.  If the Postdoc experience meets a job requirement that you cannot meet with the PhD alone, then it adds value. Your Postdoc experience is evaluated relative to the job you seek.  By itself, it may have little if any value except in career academic job requirements.  Unfortunately, it just depends on the job!

Q.  My question is how to develop your brand while not making it seem like you have strong sense of self?

A. It is important to have a presence of self-confidence AND a willingness to learn about the company, the job, other team members, how to help your peers …  You are a cog on the wheel and not the wheel.  What is not OK is if you convey a sense of self that says “I have all the answers, you need only come to me.  I’m the expert.”  That is the kiss of death!

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