Job Search

The Job Search is a work project just like most other work projects you have planned and completed in the past. The plan includes your desired outcomes, priorities, milestones, and the required tools, methods, and other resources (especially your time) for completion.

If you are unemployed, you should be spending 35 hours a week on your search. If you are employed, spend 15 hours a week to get some momentum going. If you spend only two or three hours a week on your job search, you may complain that you have been searching forever, when actually you have not even begun. If you are employed, you can do most of your job hunting in the evenings and on weekends—research jobs and organizations, talk to people, and write cover letters and follow-up letters. You can even schedule your meetings in the evenings or early mornings.

Some scientists feel they don't have time for this, and simply want to click the “send” button and go directly to job interviews (usually through answering advertisements or using search firms). Others want to skip the self-assessment process (see My Career Plan) or don't even select targets for their search. Their job search campaigns are often weak and long because they have no foundation.

Based on your foundational work in self-assessment and exploration, you should be able to develop a plan for this specific job search. Specific tasks, tools, and techniques are provided in this section to help you develop an effective job search plan.

 Sample One Year* Plan

A high quality job search campaign results in truly desired job offers. Including preparation and implementation, it will take 200 – 400 hours or more. Some campaigns can be condensed to a couple of months; however, most active professionals find that a one-year plan is more realistic. Whatever time you can and do spend on the job search campaign, the process will be more effective and less stressful if you can break it into pieces and proceed by steps.

*Note: For the Academic Research/Teaching Sector start 18 months ahead; for Commercial/Industrial, Not-For-Profit, Government, Military, Hybrid Organizations, etc., 12 months is recommended.

Sample One-Year Job Search Campaign Plan (PDF)


Months 1 and 2

Spend an hour each week on Self-Assessment. Investigate the job search process. Schedule your time.

  • Use books, articles, checklists, written exercises, feedback from mentors, colleagues, friends, family members, counselors, advisors, etc. 

Results:

  • List of personal strengths and preferences
  • Statement of desired Professional Role/Professional Objective

Months 3 through 8

Spend one to four hours each week doing research on career possibilities, including conducting informational interviews.

  • Define Target Area(s) of interest, and list specific targets with detailed contact and organizational information.

  • Draft communication materials (Core Message/Elevator Speech, CV/Resume, Research/Teaching Philosophy Statements, etc.).

  • Begin to practice your delivery, and get trusted feedback. Schedule your time.

Results:

  • Confirm and refine Professional Role/Professional Objective
  • General Target Area(s) defined, and specific target organizations identified
  • Communications Materials prepared

Spend one to four hours each week on Personal Networking, including practicing your delivery.

  • Connect with targets. Get curious about other professionals, and offer information and help to them as well.

Results:

  • Get the message out about you and your availability
  • Gather information about targets and potential targets
  • Meet organizational Insiders, gain information and referrals
  • Meet Hiring Officials, gain information and feedback
  • Refine and tailor communications materials to respond to targets’ needs and wants

Months 9 through 12

Spend at least one full day each week on actively seeking jobs and sending out applications.

  • Implement ≥ 2 appropriate job search strategies (e.g., postings, networking, agencies, direct contact, etc.).

  • Continue Networking.

  • Prepare for and conduct Interviews – Telephone, SKYPE, In-Person, etc. – and follow up.

  • Continue to develop and refine target information and communication materials.

Results:

  • Meet/Interview with Hiring Officials and Search Teams
  • Receive and Negotiate Offers

Now celebrate the new position you’ve landed, and prepare to start work!

 CV

A comprehensive statement that includes your academic background, teaching, and research experience.

Points to consider before you begin

  • Increases in length as you gain experience and establish a publication record
     
  • Lists information within each major section in reverse chronological order, listing the most recent first. Includes information going back to your undergraduate years
     
  • Lists your teaching experience first when applying to small liberal arts colleges or community colleges and add a section for community or academic service
     
  • Reports all pertinent information and be honest about your abilities
     
  • Consult with advisors, professors and others knowledgeable regarding your CV

Information to include

Identification

Name, address, telephone number, and email address. Be sure to include your departmental address and home address for academic application. Do not include information regarding age, marital status, race, gender identity, ethnicity, etc.

Education

List all institutions, degrees and completion (or expected) dates in reverse chronological order - stating the most recent first. If you attended an institution but did not complete a degree, you do not need to list it unless you feel the training is beneficial to your career.

Dissertation

List title of dissertation beneath the information on your doctoral degree including the name of your adviser. Some fields require a description of the dissertation on your vitae. Consult with faculty members or a career counselor on this topic.

Postdoctoral Experience

As with your dissertation, provide the title and a brief description of your work and the name of your adviser. Your description needs to explain how your postdoc work differs from your dissertation.

Teaching Experience

Include all full-time, part-time and adjunct teaching experience in reverse chronological order. List your title, dates of employment, name of each course, and a brief description of your responsibilities. Be sure to include your involvement in course design, preparation of materials, weekly instruction and grading.

Awards, Fellowships, Honors & Grants

List applicable awards since you entered college in reverse chronological order. Include the date of receipt, name of the department and institution.

Publications

Include bibliographic citations of articles, pamphlets, patents and research reports you have published. Use the form of citation appropriate to your field. A signed contract and a firm sense of when the publication will appear in print are necessary for a "forthcoming" publication.

Research Interests & Teaching Competencies

Describe your current research interests and teaching competencies. List no more than four or five areas under each heading, in order of preference. Be sure to list general categories and specialized areas as well. This allows the employer to be aware that you are willing and capable to teach the undergraduate and general education requirements offered in their departments.

Professional Affiliations

List the major professional organizations to which you belong. Indicate the level of involvement if you have served in one or more of these organizations, as well. Committees are also worth mentioning as they demonstrate interests areas as well as applicable skills.

Other Possible Categories

Academic Service, Community Service, Foreign Study and Licensure

 CV to Resume

Begin to view your academic career in terms of skills and experiences.

 

CV

Resume

Purpose

Academic positions and research positions in government and industry For every other position outside of academia or research science

Length

Flexible No more than 1-2 pages


Focus

A full list of your academic and professional history and accomplishments. Also focus on where you have been. A summary of your experience and skills that is most pertinent to the position you are applying. Also, focus on where you are going.

Components

Education, training, publications - a full list of essential honors and grants Skills and experiences related to the position you seek

Omit

Activities unrelated to academia Titles of courses taught, list of publications and/or presentations

References

 Include Do not include

Style

Style does not matter that much; content is much more important Style and content are both important. Bad style is very costly.


Points to consider as you develop your resume

  • Resumes need to be adapted to each specific job to which you are applying.
     
  • Writing a bad resume is easy. Writing a good resume is hard. Be aware that it will take time and many drafts. If you are targeting many different career paths simultaneously, be aware that it is important to have several different resumes that accent different skills and experiences as needed.
     
  • Keep the resume simple and concise which communicates professionalism and clarity.
     
  • Make it easy for the eye to scan- using capital letters, bold print, underlining, and spacing sparingly and for your strongest credentials.
     
  • Describe your accomplishments in a quantitative manner. State how many students were in a class that you had taught or graduate students mentored.
     
  • Use action verbs in an active past or present tense when describing experience. Instead of stating, "was responsible for operation, maintenance, student training of users for x-ray fluorescence spectrometer, 1992-1995," say "maintained and operated x-ray fluorescence spectrometer; trained and certified 44 students over 3 years."
     
  • Proofread several times and have others review as well.
     
  • Use white or cream inexpensive Bond Quality Paper (the watermarked paper that is slightly heavier in weight) if you can.
     
  • Present information in order of importance to highlight the skills and experience pertinent to the position in which you are applying.
     
  • In general avoid "Job Objective" statements. Summary or Highlights of Qualifications section is becoming more popular to clarify experience, credentials and skills.
     
  • Omit personal information such as age, marital status, race or ethnicity. Although, it may be wise to include a reference of U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status if your nationality is ambiguous.
     
  • References or the phrase "References available upon request" are usually omitted. It is important to determine a list of your references - preferably a mix of academic and non-academic individuals. Be sure to contact your potential references for permission and to prepare them with the skills and traits needed in this type of work. For the job interview, it is important to have a prepared list of references with contact information, in case employers ask.
 Cover Letter

Your cover letter and curriculum vita and/or resume may well be the most important documents you will ever write.

The structure of the cover letter

First Paragraph

  • Identify the title of the position in which you are applying.
  • Mention how you heard of the opening (journal, Web site, referral from individual, etc.).
  • State why you are interested in the position and/or organization.

Second and Third Paragraphs

  • Explain your qualifications for the position (educational background, work experience, etc.).
     
  • State one or two accomplishments to clarify your skills and abilities you bring to the job. Do your best to connect your qualifications to the needs of the department or corporation.

Final Paragraph

  • Express interest in meeting with the employer to further discuss your candidacy.
  • Offer to provide extra materials or additional information.
  • Thank the committee or individual for their consideration.
  • Provide your contact information - preferably a phone number to best reach you.

Other points to consider

  • Each letter should be printed on plain white or cream bond paper with a matching envelope. If you are enclosing a resume, the letter and resume should be on matching bond paper. Type size should be 10-12 point.
     
  • Address the letter to a specific individual using his or her correct title. (If the posting only states "Chairman, Search Committee", call the department administrative assistant for the name of the chairperson).
     
  • Tailor your cover letter to the company or university to which you are writing. Research to help you determine your approach. Check the company's Web site and other resources on the internet.
     
  • Ideally, the cover letter will be one page in length.
     
  • Avoid using acronyms, contractions or abbreviations.
     
  • Highlight your strengths and qualifications as to why you are a good fit for the position. Do not mention weaknesses.
     
  • Have it proofread by at least one other individual. It is critical that it is free of errors.
 Interviewing

Preparation

  • It is very important to practice. You can practice with a friend, career counselor or whomever you trust. Be sure to have them ask you questions as if you were in the interview. You can also practice in front of the mirror, tape yourself or simply talk out loud.

  • Practice will give you a chance to think through your answer, visualize the process, clarify the points you would like to make, hopefully decrease some of your nervousness, and prevent some unnecessary mistakes.

  • Get an itinerary ahead of time that shows the names and titles of people you will meet with during the day.

  • Read as much as you can about the company or university, including the people who you will meet with.

What to Wear

  • Wear a suit. The more conservative and classic, the better.
  • Use simple, non-descript jewelry.
  • Do not wear perfume or cologne as it can distract or disturb your interviewers.

What to Bring With You

  • Several copies of your resume/CV. Use white or cream inexpensive bond quality paper (the watermarked paper that is slightly heavier in weight) as it is easier to read.

  • A copy of your references.

  • A list of at least five questions regarding the position. List them in order of importance in case there is only time for a few to be asked in the interview. The questions will help assist you to determine if the position will be a good fit and/or demonstrate your interest in the position.

  • A pad of paper and pen to take notes (optional).

  • Portfolio or briefcase to hold a pad of paper, a pen, directions, copy of your references and a list of questions for the interviewer(s).

Upon Arrival

  • Arrive early - about 10 to 15 minutes before your appointment.

  • Go to the restroom to check your appearance one last time.

  • Smile, make eye contact and check-in with the receptionist in a professional manner. If they are not formally part of the search committee, they are likely to be informally.

  • Stand and smile while greeting your interviewer(s) with a firm handshake. Make eye contact and use names when introduced.

In the Interview

  • Be yourself.

  • Remember to breathe and think through the questions that are being asked as well as ask for a moment to think, if a question is difficult.

  • Use eye contact and speak to the individual to whom is asking the question(s). Make sure to include the other interviewers with your eye contact as to not leave anyone out of your discussion.

  • Be aware of your body language for example crossed arms, foot tapping, playing with a pen, etc.

  • Think about what you are saying. Describe your strengths and assets as well as provide relevant examples. Be clear about what you can bring to the company or university.

  • Never say anything negative about a previous employer or a former colleague.

  • Raising salary questions in an interview will send the wrong signals. Let your interviewers bring up this subject first.

  • Thank the interviewer and determine what the next steps are in the interview process. Ask the interviewers for their business cards. It is important to obtain their contact information to send a follow-up letter as well as the correct spelling of their names and titles of the individuals with whom you met.

After the Interview

  • Take notes on your interview regarding your thoughts about the environment, information you learned, and any further questions you may have. These notes can assist you in preparation for a second interview as well as information on whether the position may or may not be a good fit for you.

  • Write a follow-up thank-you letter as soon as possible. Email is okay but a hard copy is best.
 Core Message / "Elevator Pitch"

A short spoken statement (30-second mini-abstract) about you that lets people know who you are, what you do well, and what you are looking for. In your own authentic voice, it is a well-prepared answer to the questions, "Tell me a little bit about yourself," or "So, what do you do?"

Core Message Statement / "Elevator Pitch" Template (PDF)

How and When to Use Your Core Message Statement ("Pitch")

  • In an informal social setting: A way to introduce yourself or to start a conversation, or to answer such a question as, “Now tell me again, what the heck is it that you do?”
     
  • At a networking meeting, conference, workshop, etc.: Approaching a referral, target author or presenter, target lab director, new potential colleague, etc.
     
  • In the job interview (on telephone or in person): “So, John, tell me a little bit about yourself.” If you have done your homework, you will know what kinds of things to highlight. If you haven’t done your homework, you can still try a basic statement, or you can attempt to ask them about their particular needs and interests before you launch your pitch, and then try to address their needs and interests. Think about what you want them to say about you when you are gone.
     
  • In your letter of introduction or cover letter: It can provide an excellent basis for your second paragraph.
     
  • As an introduction for a presentation, workshop, class, or speech that you are giving

Helpful Hints

Develop your core message statement / "pitch" quickly by writing it out first, and then talking it out. Make adjustments until it sounds and feels right for you.

You may develop several different pitches in order to address specific situations and specific targets.

Practice out loud in front of a mirror, in the shower, or in the car. Practice with friends and colleagues.

A positive core message statement (“pitch”) will enhance your professional presence and stature, boost your self-confidence, and reduce your anxiety. It helps you establish your identity as a professional, and it opens doors for connection and collaboration.

Take the initiative. Make eye contact. Smile. You belong here. You have much to contribute.

 Job Search Resources

Networking or personal connections with others is continually cited as the number one way to obtain a position. Plan on spending more of your job search time developing your contacts and relationships with potential employers versus applying for positions via the internet. It is the only way to learn about unadvertised positions as well as effectively distinguish your application from amongst the applicant pool. Get connected!

► Referrals and word of mouth

► Conferences in your field of interest

► Journals and publications in your field

► Career fairs

► Departmental postings

► The company or university/college Web site


Industry Web sites

Academia Web sites

Government Web sites

Contact Us

MCW Biomedical/Health Sciences Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Fellows may schedule confidential career consultation appointments to discuss any aspect of their professional development or job search concerns.


Virtual Career Center
Medical Education Building
First Floor, M1420
Medical College of Wisconsin
8701 Watertown Plank Rd.
Milwaukee, WI 53226

John Lombardo, PhD
Career Services
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Office of Postdoctoral Education

(414) 955-4977 | jplombar@mcw.edu

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Page Updated 02/17/2015
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