Day 2 preview: The Hiring Process, by Josh Magsam

I’m very excited to be a part of the Fourth Annual Beyond the Professoriate web conference! There were so many excellent panelists and discussions in 2016 – I can’t wait to join the conversation again this year!

During my four years here at, I’ve had a part in helping the company grow from about twelve people to just over fifty (and we’re still hiring!). All of this rapid growth has given me a great opportunity to learn the hiring process from the “other side of the table,” and the experience has been an eye-opener. I’ve seen a lot of truly exciting candidates walk in the door, settle in to a great interview, and then make a few common but often devastating mistakes – and when the other candidates are equally strong, these mistakes can make the difference between “yea or nay” in the final decision.

With that in mind, I wanted to highlight one frequent mistake I see far too often (and I made this mistake myself, as a job seeker).

That mistake is…

Interviewing for the job you THINK you want, not the one they are trying to fill.

Here’s a common scenario: a candidate comes in for an interview, and is hitting all the right notes. A relaxed but professional demeanor, striking a comfortable rhythm in conversation, asking smart questions, making eye contact with the interviewer – folks, we have a winner!

And then it happens – they say the words that every team manager or director dreads to hear: “I’m excited about Acme Coyote Supplies and the Parachute Tester position I’m interviewing for, but I really see myself growing into Cannon Engineer within 6 months or so.”

What the hiring manager hears is, “This position is my foot in the door, and as soon as I see an opening in another team or department, I’m going for it – I don’t have any interest in actually learning this position and growing within it.”

Or maybe – “I assume that you only want to hire people who want to move upwards quickly, and I’m trying to signal that clearly.”

Here’s the thing – we get it, you’re ambitious! And that came out in your resume, your letter, and your phone screen… it’s one of the reasons you made it to a final interview. But the kicker is – you don’t know exactly what this job will be like, or what you will learn along the way. Once you’ve started, you might find out that Parachute Testing is actually very exciting and interesting, with perks (Fresh air! Wilderness!) while the Cannon Engineer position is not as exciting after all (lots of mixing gunpowder and wearing itchy gloves).

And ultimately, speaking as a hiring manager – the advertized position is open because the company genuinely has a need for it. We don’t want to think about having to go through this search again in three or six or even nine months because we gambled on a candidate who might be happy with the position for just a little while, but will quickly learn that there’s a long ramp-up or a steep learning curve, and quit due to a lack of interest in mastering the position and its associated responsibilities.

So – what should you do to demonstrate that you really do want this job, AND you’re interested in growth, WHEN it’s appropriate?

It’s actually quite simple – here’s a quick list of tips to help you with your interview strategy.

  • Ask questions about the position itself. What’s the day-to-day look like? What are the biggest challenges that newcomers often face? What has typically been the biggest struggle for a new hire, and how have they overcome that? In other words – drive home the point that you really want to succeed in this position, and want as much information about it as possible.
  • Focus on the team and the manager (or teammates, if it’s a team interview) – what has made them successful at the company? What roles and responsibilities have they been able to gain as they’ve matured within the team / position? Again – there’s often a lot more going on behind any open position than the job listing describes, so this is your chance to get that information first-hand.
  • Ask about the company culture (and you should have done a bit of homework on this in advance, too!). What does the manager love about working with their team / what does the team love about working together? Do teams collaborate with each other (do engineers work with support teams, for example) or do the teams focus on their area without a lot of overlap? This shows you’re interested in the manager and future teammates, and that you’re interested in cross-team collaboration, while still remaining focused on the advertised position.The best approach? Remember that they if they called you in for the interview, they likely believe you can do the job and now they just want to get to know you. So focus on learning more about your future coworkers and what they need you to do!

Josh Magsam will present The Hiring Process on Saturday, 13 May, at 5:15pm EDT as part of the 4th annual Beyond the Professoriate conference! Register here.

Career Day Is Worth Your Time. Here’s Why.

What can you expect on Career Day?

On Saturday, 6 May — the first day of Beyond the Professoriate conference — we’re bringing together 16 PhDs to talk about their careers.

11:00am EDT Careers in Higher Education
12:30pm EDT Careers in Government
2:00pm EDT Careers in Nonprofits
3:30pm EDT Careers in Business/Industry

Our panelists will share their stories and provide advice for graduate students and PhDs navigating the job search process. They come from a wide range of backgrounds, from English to entomology, and political science to psychology. Check out all our speakers here.

–> Register for the Conference

Hear from PhDs working in nonfaculty roles.

If you’ve ever wondered where all those PhDs who don’t work as professors end up, now’s your chance to learn from a bunch of them all at once! All our panelists are keen to share their experiences, to help make your career journeys go as well as possible.

Ask questions before, during, and after each panel.

We’ll use webinar technology so you can comment and ask questions (anonymously if you like) during each panel. We’re also gearing up to launch a new online community, and everyone going to the conference is invited to join — for free! Great for longer conversations and networking before, during, and after.

Get inspired to step up your own networking.

Everyone says you have to do it, but it can be stress-inducing! Our panels are a great way to get a feel for networking, learn about different jobs and industries, and gain the confidence to build relationships with professionals in your own growing network.

Advice from PhDs who’ve been there, done that.

Good intentions are grand, but not everyone around you may be able to give good advice on how PhDs can go about landing jobs they want and build meaningful, rewarding careers beyond the professoriate. Our panelists know what it’s really like.

Any questions? Just ask.

You can register for the conference right here, or email us anytime by replying to this message or writing to Interested in purchasing tickets for your students, postdocs, or staff? We’d love to have you. Read more about group discounts on our blog.

How Your Students and Postdocs Can Attend Beyond the Professoriate Conference

Did you know that we offer discounted group rates for 10 or more tickets (purchased in one order)? Yep!

For less than the price of an individual early bird registration, institutions can arrange for their own students, postdocs, or staff to the conference. Full details can be found on this page. Group ticket sales end 13 May and prices remain the same throughout our sales period. (We know it can take a while to get organized to order in bulk.)

In the past we’ve had groups from the University of Calgary, McGill University, and McMaster University in Canada, and a number of US institutions, both public and private, including Duke University, Michigan State University, Rice University, Tufts University, UCLA, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Kansas, and University of Wisconsin. So far this year we’re thrilled to have a large group from the University of Texas at San Antonio joining us! We are also pleased to welcome Mitacs fellows once again.

Prefer to subsidize tickets for your students, that is, pay a portion of the registration fee? We can arrange that. Email us at

Let us know if you have any questions. Both Maren and I (Jen) are happy to discuss conference details, purchasing process, or potential sponsorships and collaboration. The full conference program is available as well as all the speaker bios.

Ready to purchase? Get the best deal on registrations for your students, postdocs, or staff via our Eventbrite page by selecting the number of tickets you want, either 10+ or 20+.


Who attended Beyond the Professoriate conference in 2016?

Did you know that we get a pretty diverse group of attendees each year, as judged by field?

In 2016, we asked participants to indicate their graduate field of study, broadly divided into STEM, humanities, social science, education, health, and other. Here’s how things stacked up:

39% STEM
26% humanities
18% social science
7% other
6% health
5% education

We make an effort to include a bunch of different disciplines in our group of speakers, so it’s nice to see a bunch of different types of academics showing up!

Registration Open for the 4th Annual Beyond the Professoriate

Woo! We’ve released the full program, all the speaker bios, have a poster, a press kit, and registration is now open. Early Bird tickets are on sale through 15 April via our Eventbrite page — only US $49 + processing fee.

Join us!

4th Annual Beyond the Professoriate
The Online Career Conference for PhDs
6 and 13 May 2017

Live streamed, with a 21-day on-demand video replay of all sessions

Early bird (ends 15 April) USD 49 + Eventbrite fee
Regular USD 59 + Eventbrite fee

Group discounts available for purchases of 10 of more tickets

Registration link:

Career Day
Saturday, 6 May 2017

11:00 a.m. – 12:20 p.m. EDT:  Careers in Higher Education

Doreen Badheka, PhD Program Director for Special Projects, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Rutgers University – Newark

Emily Bell, PhD Manager, Desjardins Centre for Advanced Training of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre

Tania Munz, PhD Vice President for Research and Scholarship, Linda Hall Library

Beth Seltzer, PhD Educational Technology Specialist, Bryn Mawr College

12:30 – 1:50 p.m. EDT: Careers in Government

Mylynka Kilgore Cardona, PhD Map Curator, Texas General Land Office

Jessica Hartshorn, PhD Forest Health Specialist, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Chandra Moffat, PhD Research Scientist – Entomology, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Dragos Popa, PhD Senior Analyst – Strategic Planning, Performance Measurement, and Corporate Reporting, Health Canada

2:00 – 3:20 p.m. EDT: Careers in Nonprofits

Lisa Bélanger, PhD Founder & Scientific Director, Knight’s Cabin Cancer Retreats

Trina Filan, PhD Community Impact Coordinator, United Way of Lewis & Clark

Michelle Seiler-Godfrey, PhD Grant Writer, High Desert Museum

Synatra Smith, PhD Education Coordinator, Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center

3:30 – 4:50 p.m. EDT: Careers in Industry or Business

Erin Arizzi, PhD Communications Specialist, SAS

Megan Brown, PhD Senior Talent Analytics Manager and Data Scientist, Amazon

Simon Landry, PhD Head of User Experience, TACTAI Inc

Darek Moreau, PhD Senior Aquatic Scientist, Stantec


Professional Development Day
Saturday, 13 May 2017

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET:  Leveraging Your PhD: Identifying Career Paths to Suit You and Your Goals

Catherine Maybrey, PhD Owner, CM Coaching Services

12:15 – 1:15 p.m. EDT: Stages of the Job Search Process

Rachel Leventhal-Weiner, PhD Data Engagement Specialist, Connecticut Data Collaborative

1:30 – 2:30 p.m. EDT: Your Resume & Cover Letter

Kristine Funch Lodge, PhD Career Coach and Founder, IncipitCareer; Recruiting Specialist, Alvord Taylor

2:45 – 3:45 p.m. EDT: Build Your Brand & Your Network

Jared Wesley, PhD Director of Learning and Development Policy, Alberta Public Service Commission

4:00 – 5:00 p.m. EDT: How to Articulate Your Transition Story in a Non-Academic Interview

Heidi Scott Giusto, PhD Owner and Operator, Career Path Writing Solutions

5:15 – 6:15 p.m. EDT: The Hiring Process

Josh Magsam, PhD Director of Community Success, Discogs

2017 web poster

Jen & Maren on Beyond the Professoriate

Jennifer Polk and Maren Wood talk about their journey to creating Beyond the Professoriate, an organization that provides professional development programming for PhDs, particularly individuals moving into nonfaculty careers. They discuss what they’ve learned over the years, what they most appreciate about their main annual event — an online career conference hosted entirely online, and respond to audience questions.

Learn more about Beyond the Professoriate at and check out the 2017 online conference at!

Jen and Maren in conversation about Beyond the Professoriate from Jennifer Polk on Vimeo.

Engaged Academics in the Age of Mass Distraction

New Webinar Featuring:
Maren Wood, Jen Polk, and Michelle Dionne Thompson

March 3rd, 2017 12:00 P.M. ET

Cost: $30.  We’ll donate $7 from each ticket to the ACLU

The last month has been exhausting. The assault on progressive values has come fast and furious. I feel like I’ve had a bad case of whiplash as we moved from the Age of Obama to the Age of Trump. As a Canadian living in the US, I’ve found myself at a loss about what I – one individual, one woman, one immigrant – can do to make a difference. I’ve upped my subscriptions to newspapers; made my protest signs and attended rallies; signed up for daily action alerts; donated money; phoned senators; applied for US citizenship so I can vote; applied to immigrate my partner back to Canada so we can move ….

But it’s not enough. And while I desire to become more critically engaged in my community, I have felt overwhelmed, scattered, directionless, and unsure of the best way to channel my time and talents.

As I’ve reflected on the work I’m doing here at Beyond the Professoriate and in my coaching practice, I’ve thought: what more can I do? And I’ve thought a lot about a conversation Jen and I had with a professor who stopped by our booth at the American Historical Association conference last month. The faculty member told us that, after the election, she had decided to become more engaged with grassroots organizations in her home state. What she had learned in a few short weeks was just how valuable her skillset was when employed beyond the academy: quickly finding reliable information on specific issues, distilling that information into a persuasive argument, and then writing scripts that others could use when speaking with representatives. Used to speaking in front of an audience, she was not intimidated to show up at town halls and ask pointed questions. Things she did on a daily basis as an educator allowed her to quickly become a leader in her small community.

And I thought: this is what I do. When I work with clients or do workshops on campus, I try to help smart, talented, academics think about ways to employ their skills broadly. And it doesn’t just have to be those who are looking for new careers – the work we do at Beyond the Professoriate can help any academic who wants to employ their unique skillsets beyond their work as educators and scholars.

I approached Jen and Michelle with the idea of doing a webinar to help academics do three things: First, to help you identify your core values. We can’t do everything, we can’t attend every protest, we can’t give money to every worthy cause or organization. It’s just not possible. So how do you decide what is most important to you? Jen Polk will provide concrete action steps you can take to help you prioritize.

The next steps is to figure out what it is you can do in terms of tasks and skills, and to turn your expertise into a skill that can directly benefit organizations and causes. Maren will walk you through how to do a skills inventory of your work as an educator and scholar, and provide strategies to identify organizations where your abilities can be put to use.

And we’re in this for the long haul. We’ve got 2? 4? (not longer, surely!) years of resisting and rebuilding. How do you pace yourself? How do you practice self care? Michelle will talk about strategies to help you avoid burn-out.

We hope that you can join us! We’ll be donating $7 from the live webinar to the ACLU. If you can’t attend live, the recording will be available afterwards to those who register in advance.

Do you want help with your job search?

Are you gearing up or actively engaged now in job searching for non-faculty positions? If so, read on.

The PhD Career Exploration and Job Search Course starts soon. The first class is on Thursday, and there are still spots open.

This course is something I offer with Maren Wood (my partner in Beyond the Professoriate) and Heidi Scott Giusto, another PhD who’s presented at all three of our annual conferences. We launched the course in the fall, and it was a success! So we’re doing it again.

The course takes “students” — who last time all had PhDs! — through the whole process of exploration and searching for a new job or career. We do this in 10 classes that cover everything from identifying your values to interviewing like a pro. Each class is done live, online, and we cap course enrollment to ensure folks have a great experience.

Learn more here. You can download the syllabus.

One of the great things about the course is that it brings together what Maren, Heidi, and I each do best in one package! In my own 1-on-1 coaching, I love working with clients who are in the career exploration phase. That often includes some really heavy emotional stuff, and I really value helping clients navigate that process. So my part in the course is to bring in that life coaching component.

Maren is awesome at getting PhDs to think about their transferable skills in a much more intense way than I’d ever encountered before! She is serious about this and is convinced we have a LOT to offer — but it takes work to dig up this stuff in a meaningful way. Then, and only then, can you start putting together resumes that showcase your relevant-to-an-employer experience.

And Heidi’s the expert I send all my own clients to when they want top-notch job documents and professional coaching for job interviews. In the course she breaks down her writing process, and makes what can seem totally overwhelming into a clear, reasonable, and manageable task. Heidi’s also the queen of handouts!

Between Heidi’s handouts and all our other materials, plus “homework,” this is an intense course. It’s why we record all the classes, so folks can watch them again (and again!) as needed.

One of the things a past participant loved was that the course was also a community. We use Slack to share information and resources, and that means folks can talk to each other — and to us instructors — in between classes. It was awesome to see participants share their work, ask and receive feedback, and keep us updated on their insights and discoveries!

It can take several months to find a job, and even longer if you’re still exploring your options. That’s why it’s important to start this process earlier than you might think you should. If you want to be applying for jobs this spring and summer, now is the right time to gear up for doing that. If the PhD Career Exploration and Job Search Course appeals to you, we hope you’ll join us.

Learn more about the course here. It starts on Thursday, 19 Jan, at 8pm ET (5pm PT), and costs US $995.

PhD Job Career Search

4 Tips for a Non-Faculty Job Search

This past week, Jen and I attended the annual American Historical Association conference in Denver.  We spent hours talking with graduate students, faculty, and recent PhDs, about how to successfully find non-faculty careers.  Here’s some key pieces of advice I gave to people who stopped by to chat:

You don’t have to know what you’re going to do for the rest of your life.  You just need to know what you’d like to try next.

So many of the people I coach feel that they can’t leave academia until they know with 100% certitude what their new career will be.  This can be paralyzing.  The truth is, few people stay in the same job for more than a few years.  A study by LinkedIn found that on average, those graduating college since 2000 had 4 jobs the first 10 years after graduation. This means, of course, that your decision to leave academia for a new career isn’t all that strange.

 And people aren’t just changing jobs – they’re changing industries.  A communications or public relations position at a non-profit might lead a person to a related job in a tech start-up company, or perhaps in health care.  The transferability of what s/he does is the skills and core competencies the s/he gains at one position that can then benefit an employer in the next.

You don’t have to know what you’ll do for the rest of your life because that will change as you meet new people, gain new experiences, and explore career options outside of academia.  What you need to do is find something that uses your skills and gets you moving in the right direction – and you are the best person to determine what that direction might be.

 2. Focus on organizations, not specific job titles.

With that in mind, thinking about your main interests and values – where do you see yourself working? And what from your academic background have you enjoyed?  In answering the latter question, think more about tasks and skills than your specific subject matter expertise.  Do you enjoy problem solving? Mentoring others? Are you interested in helping others learn?  Are you interested in communicating complex information to the general public? 

 Next, research organizations – either where you’re living or where you’d like to live – where you’d be actively engaged in a mission/goal you believe in, and where you could put your skills to good use.

Think very carefully about how your skills would benefit the employer. Carefully research the needs of the employers – look at current employees on LinkedIn to identify the key skills and core competencies people have at this organization and company.  Which ones do you have that you could highlight in your resume and LinkedIn profile?  Read the company website – what services do they provide? What products do they create? What is their mission? What do they help clients achieve? 

3. Few people land jobs by submitting a resume to an online job board.

I hear from so many academics who have spent months if not years submitting resumes to online job boards and become discouraged and disillusioned.  This may be how the academic job market works, but the non-faculty job market functions very differently.  Most people find their job through their community or network. 

Once you’ve identified employers of interest and can clearly articulate your skill set and how you can benefit the employer, it’s time to set up face-to-face meetings (informational interviews) with people who work at organizations you’d like to be a part of.   There are rules for the informational interview that you want to be aware of, but know that this is common practice outside of academia.  Nobody will be put-off by your request (even if they don’t write back, it probably just means the person is too busy).

 You do, of course, need smart professional documents.  When someone is interested in hiring you, they’ll ask you for your resume, or ask you to apply for a job.  You want to be able to submit a polished resume that is specifically curated to the position and the needs of the employer.  

 4. Get started now.

Depending on the study the number can vary, but in Canada and the United States, it takes an average of 4 to 6 months to find a job. It may take you longer since you’re changing careers.  So don’t wait until you’ve defended your dissertation or wrapped up your semester of teaching to start looking.  Most companies take around 3 months to fill a position, from the time it’s posted through to the moment they offer it to a candidate.  The chances that someone would offer you a job that you’d have to start in 3 weeks is a remote possibility.  

We’re here to help.

Our PhD Career Exploration Job Search course starts on January 19th.  This is a great time to sign up and start preparing for a non-faculty job search.

– L. Maren Wood, PhD

Director of Research; Co-Director of Educational Programs
Beyond the Professoriate

Job Options for PhDs, Plus 3 Actions to Take Right Now

We’ve all heard that PhDs need to look at jobs beyond the professoriate. There simply aren’t enough faculty positions available for those who want them. And there are plenty of reasons not to want one even if you can get it: geography, the “2-body problem,” pay, workload, etc.

The good news is that there are many other possibilities! By now, you probably know this, at least theoretically. But this is where a lot of graduate students and academics get stuck: they know there are other things to do, but they have a hard time putting their fingers on exactly what those other jobs are.

Let’s say you’re a humanities PhD. Cool, me too. Not so cool is all the people asking, “are you going to be a professor?” and then looking disappointed when you fill them in about the academic job market. Ugh. So then your friend suggests you look in related fields. “How about writing, or editing? You could be a journalist!” Right, except those jobs aren’t plentiful and they tend to have career paths that involve training and experience you don’t have.

If you’re in STEM, you might be told to look for jobs in government labs — as if those were easy to land. Or maybe you could launch a startup! (I mean, you could! But it’s probably not the right move for most of us.) You get the point.

Here’s the thing, though: We know that PhDs are employed at extremely high rates. Government stats tell us this. Maren and I have lots of “ok but”s to say about this, but the fact of the matter is that doctoral-degree holders (and master’s degree-holders) are smart, capable individuals and we can and do get jobs. It can take a good, long while — as it does for many other folks, especially career changers — but it does happen.

Here’s what it takes: Broadening our knowledge of what’s out there, a great deal of personal and professional reflection, networking (primarily by means of informational interviews), and then narrowing down the possibilities, applying to openings with top-notch job documents, and interviewing like a pro.

If you’re feeling stuck at the “but what else can I do?” stage, you can move forward. Here’s 3 things you can do right now:

  1. Take stock of your values, strengths, and priorities. The more you strengthen your inner resolve, the more able you’ll be to take risks, like networking in a new field.
  2. Reach out to someone you know from grad school who’s working beyond the professoriate. Send them an email requesting an informational interview. You’re exploring your options and curious about their career. Do this even if it’s been a few years since you connected!
  3. Start making a big, long list of every task you did during your PhD. Focus on what’s on your academic CV and what’s not there. What exactly did you do to get that publication, present that paper, teach that course, volunteer in that high school? It’s all about skills.

What action will you take to move your career forward?