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Non-Academic Careers

Non-academic careers are careers that are outside of academia and often in industry, government, non-profit, and entrepreneurship. Here are some resources for helping you pursue a non-academic career.

Explore non-academic careers 

  • Google, “what can I do with a PhD/Masters degree in___”. This will generally give you some leads on which you can expand.
  • Use Job Bank’s Explore careers by field of study feature. 
  • Explore LinkedIn as a means of career exploration. You can search alumni to learn about the sectors and careers in which other people who graduated from your program are now working (Google “LinkedIn alumni search”). 
  • Don't forget entrepreneurship! Graduate degree holders graduate with fantastic leadership and management skills, which translate nicely to entrepreneurship. Check out these articles to learn more about advanced degree holders who opted for entrepreneurship:

Get experience outside of academia 

This will help you expand your non-academic network, sharpen your soft skills, potentially provide you with non-academic references that can be valuable in your industry job search, and allow you to explore diverse work environments. 

  • Take a part-time job.
  • Seek out volunteering opportunities with organizations that do work that interests you so that you can gain experience that will relate to future career paths.

Sell your academic experience by selling your skills  

See Communicating Your Skills for Employment to learn how you can better sell yourself in a way that is meaningful to those who do the hiring.

Use a resume and a cover letter 

Having a well-tailored resume and cover letter that demonstrates you have the specific skills and qualities that the employer requires will help to sell you to employers and will show employers that you have an understanding of how things work outside of academia. See Resume Vs CV for more details.

Tailor your LinkedIn and consider your personal brand

You don’t want employers to see you as a graduate student; you want them to see you as a professional in your field, and it’s up to you to begin marketing yourself as such. Use your LinkedIn profile (and all of your online presence) to scream “professional” to employers by focusing on your professional achievements as opposed to strictly your academic ones. Consider of the practical implications of your research that you can communicate to employers.

Demonstrate a genuine interest in the company/position/sector

You don’t want employers thinking that you are too “high level” or “overqualified” or that you will leave for an academic position the first chance that you get.  In order to convince employers that you will be dedicated to the job:

  • Clarify your goals. What are the aspects of the job that makes you want to work in this position? Let the employer see how much you genuinely want to be there by expressing your enthusiasm for these aspects.  
  • Do your research. Research the position, the industry, and the employer. If you can demonstrate to the employer that you understand the industry and that your knowledge fits into the industry, the employer will see how much you actually want to be there.

Avoid academic jargon 

You want employers to see that you will be able to communicate with them, colleagues, and clients in a way that is applicable to everyone. Academic jargon can make you sound like you don’t have a firm grasp of what it is like to work in industry, where the goal is to communicate clearly and effectively to all.

Network, network, network!  

Many graduate degree holders lack a non-academic network, which could potentially limit their opportunities for employment, but by actively networking, you can take advantage of the hidden job market and rock your job search (an estimated 70-80% of unfilled jobs are not advertised online!). Some tips:

  • Don’t wait until you are actually looking for a job to start networking.
  • Follow up. If you meet someone, don’t wait for them to contact you again. Following up will help to ensure that your connections are meaningful and beneficial.  
  • Conduct informational interviews. Ask for our Non Academic Careers tip sheet for potential informational interview questions. 
  • Attend networking events and go armed with an elevator pitch that highlights your skills and accomplishments, rather than being too focused on just your research topic. You can Google “networking events Windsor, Ontario” to find professional networking events near you.
  • Check out these sites for some potential networking events in Windsor:

To learn more, ask for our Non Academic Careers tips sheet or make an appointment with a career advisor.

The following job posting sites often hire graduate degree holders. You can also use Google and other basic job posting sites (such as Job Bank and Indeed) to find these positions.

The following articles and resources will provide you with more information about pursuing non-academic careers as a graduate degree holder:

To learn more, check out our Brighspace site or make an appointment with a career advisor.