Finding that first job after we finish our academic training is not as easy as it sounds.
These days, we all know that the amount of individuals qualified for a job is very high while the amount of available jobs is very low. To make things worse, when we do find a job that we want to apply to, the list of requirements tends to be frightening, especially because most of them (if not all) always ask for “years of experience”.
So, the inevitable question we should all ask is, how can we market ourselves to head-hunters or hiring managers under such circumstances, when all we have to offer is our training?
Let me start by saying that “our best defense is our offense”, and before we start looking for a job, we have to be pro-active about it. What I mean is that we shouldn’t wait until we finish our degrees to find out what people are looking for. Make sure that during your training you are aware of the skills and expertise that the market needs. If you do this, you will be able to develop those skills before you are out of school.
Also, while in school, find opportunities that allow you to diversify your training. For instance, finish a certificate program in a related field (marketing or finance), or gain teaching experience, or maybe take online courses. Having that extra training might be just what you need to set yourself apart from the rest.
Market your skills and your training creatively. For instance, finishing a PhD in science entails much more than just doing experiments. Sometimes you have to share with your PI and colleagues many of the responsibilities needed to run a lab.
You might not be aware of it, but working in a lab gives you many opportunities to learn about lab management, how to establish and maintain vendor relations, scientific writing, mentoring, employee management (undergraduate students mostly). Think about your training, did you do or learn any of those things? If so, find a way to showcase them in your CV.
Another way of gaining relevant experience before you graduate is by doing volunteer work. If you are interested in an alternative career, for example, something in business and science, you might want to volunteer in a financial office at your school or maybe help a charity with their marketing campaigns. In either way, you will gain experience and develop skills that could be required for what you are looking to do once you graduate.
Finally, it is very important to understand that in every single job that we take, we will gain valuable experience, whether we realize it at the moment or not. If you have to take a “not so perfect first-job” do not be disappointed. If that is the case, look at it as a stepping stone and make sure you learn as much as you can from as many people as you can.
When looking for our first job, our strongest set of skills and expertise will come from our training, but if we are creative enough, we can find ways to showcase all those extra things we have learned along the way. Never underestimate any experience you have. You will be surprised to know how many times that unusual skill or that non-traditional job you did for a month can get you closer to your perfect job.
Hands down, many of the skills that I constantly use in my job, I learned from working at my father’s hardware store when I was a teenager. Good Luck!