Networking Seems So Sleazy

December 31, 2014

People changing jobs often turn to their own network of professional contacts for leads. Richard Bolles, in his well-known career guide, What Color is Your Parachute?, says that tactic has a 33 percent success rate. But it’s a particular challenge for Ph.D.’s in search of a nonacademic career, because they often have a limited professional network outside of academe.

In my role as a career coach, I hear about this challenge all the time from graduate students and postdocs looking to leave higher education. Here are the most frequent barriers they confront, and some tips on how to overcome them.

“I don’t know anyone outside of my field and my department.” Students who make that statement often seem to assume that their academic colleagues and mentors don’t know anyone in the world of practice either. And that may be true. But especially if your Ph.D. is in a field that has related jobs in business or industry, your faculty may have contacts beyond the academy that can serve as leads into a new career.

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