Today we’re joined by Jeff Dunn, who works as a Campus Relations Manager for Intel. He took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his line of work and provide advice to PhD students looking for jobs.
BA: How did you get into this line of work?
Jeff: I took an entry-level Employment Representative position out of college.
BA: What did you like about that first job?
Jeff: I loved interviewing people, but I did not like the bureaucratic environment. In the jobs I took after that, I made sure there was more interviewing and less bureaucracy.
BA: What does your job entail?
Jeff: Managing relations with six college campuses for my company. I spend a lot of time on college campuses, recruiting students.
BA: What does a typical day look like for you? Is there a typical day?
Jeff: No typical day, but over the course of a week I do similar things. Correspondence is a big part of my job, both with students and with my colleagues. I also visit a campus every week and prepare for the next campus trip. Then there are meetings and project work to keep me busy when I’m not traveling or communicating.
BA: As a recruiter, what do you look for in an applicant?
Jeff: Primarily enthusiasm and interest, but also good technical and critical thinking skills.
BA: How about in the applicant’s resume? What advice would you give?
Jeff: I like to see an objective to show interest and I look for measureable results in past descriptions – use numbers! It’s also a good idea to use keywords so hiring staff can pull your resume from the database. I recommend including all awards, coursework and volunteer experiences that you are proud of and are likely to talk about in an interview.
BA: How can an applicant effectively market their academic skills for a non-academic job?
Jeff: Transferrable skills remain relevant, and everyone starts out somewhere. Many employers hire right out of college, so they’re used to seeing applicants with academic backgrounds.
BA: What can an applicant do while in graduate school or as a post-doc to make themselves competitive?
Jeff: Internships and co-ops are great! Research the top 15-20 organizations you might want to work for, and see what opportunities they offer to students. You might be surprised by how many opportunities are out there.
BA: How can PhDs prepare to transition out of academia?
Jeff: I would recommend connecting with people who work in the private sector before you finish your PhD or Postdoc. Get an understanding of the deadlines and cost limitations of a for-profit company to see if that environment will suit you. If you’re considering doing a postdoc, it’s worthwhile looking to see which companies in your field hire postdocs – LinkedIn is a good place to do this.
BA: Are there common qualities that those successful in transitioning out of academia share?
Jeff: Those who are successful always meet their deadlines. In terms of personality, they are effective collaborators and have influence skills. That basically means they work well with others.
BA: Now for a few more general questions about finding jobs and getting interviews. How do you start making contacts outside of academia?
Jeff: Connect with people on LinkedIn. Offer to help others in your field of interest before they help you. LinkedIn is great for research, not just job leads.
BA: How do you find out which employers want to hire PhDs?
Jeff: Again, I suggest using LinkedIn as a research tool. Glassdoor and job boards will also give you a ton of data about which organizations hire which degrees and whether they’re looking for specific disciplines.
BA: How do you get an informational interview? What do you ask once you get one?
Jeff: Just ask people, use LinkedIn or referrals. Once you have an interview, keep it to 20 minutes. Good questions to ask are how they got started, what a typical week is like, what starting salary ranges are, and what is not so great about the job.
BA: You’ve emphasized networking, but how important are personal connections?
Jeff: The way I see it, networking can be important to getting an interview. You have to remember though, that it will not qualify you for the job.
BA: What types of skills are important to gain before graduation in order to get a job in a field you want?
Jeff: I would actually say it’s not the technical skills you learn in your course, but the interpersonal skills you learn by working with people. If you look at most job postings, these “soft” skills are spelled out. They’re used in hiring decisions, so take the time now to improve them.
BA: How do you get an interview?
Jeff: There are three parts to this. The first is to follow up on your resume, and be persistent in your approach. The second is to use your network, maybe they can help you with the HR department. The third is to do outstanding work in school – as I said before, you need to be qualified for the job.
BA: How do you prepare for an interview?
Jeff: Prepare a list of your past success stories which you can relate to multiple interview questions. You should also prepare 10-12 questions to ask the employer, because you’re interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.
BA: What should you do during an interview?
Jeff: Listen carefully so you answer the questions that are actually asked. Follow up on your own responses by asking if your answers are detailed enough. Ask your own questions, as I mentioned before. Finally, be sure to smile and be polite.
BA: Do you have advice for following up after an interview?
Jeff: Follow up with a thank you note the next day. Within two weeks, you can follow up to check on the status of your application.
BA: Let’s say everything went wonderfully. How do you negotiate a job offer?
Jeff: Wait until the offer is given, then ask if there is flexibility. Be sure to take time to consider the offer, maybe it is different from what you expected but still acceptable. In negotiating, talk about your individual strengths and what you can bring to the organization. You want to make sure they know your value.
BA: Thank you for all your advice!