Essential Questions For Career Pivoters

Questions as a tool of informational inquiry is core to After Your PhD. If you do not ask questions, you are not actively involved in your career development.

Questions drive learning and personal growth. By seeking answers, you acquire new knowledge, skills, and perspectives that are valuable for your career advancement.

The main question I asked myself during my PhD was, “what will I do after my PhD if I don’t become a professor? “

While I would argue this is the central question many academics ask, it’s not a productive question when you are making a tangible plan of action in your career exploration. It lacks direction.

Questions without boundaries and direction are not helpful, but knowing the right questions can lead us to where you need to go. Asking yourself questions about your career goals, values, and aspirations can clarify your path forward. This self-reflection is crucial for making informed decisions about your career trajectory..

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Questions About Yourself vs Questions About Your Next Career Path

I typically break down questions into two categories: questions about yourself and questions about your career path.

Questions about yourself often are bigger questions about your goals in life, living situation, and your personality traits that align with a new job. Without having direction, knowing how to pivot becomes almost much more difficult because the narrative you are sharing with others is not strong or focused across different mediums like a Zoom call or on LinkedIn.

If you don’t know what you want to do, how can recruiters and hiring managers know from your resume, LinkedIn profile, or your discussion with them?

– After Your PhD, Ryan Collins PhD

Questions about your next career path are more typically related to skills, industry knowledge, and gaps that you need to address to make the pivot. This can take longer to achieve, but are usually identified early on during informational interviews.

Being able to answer questions from both of these categories is what generally leads to success.

To help provide some needed questions, I provided some essential questions below aimed for general career pivoters as well questions more aimed towards PhDs.

Questions For Career Pivoters

  • What do I dislike about my current role?
  • How can I leverage my existing skills and experiences in this new career?
  • Will this new career path encourage my curiosity?
  • How will my career pivot impact my personal life and family?
  • How do I plan to continue learning and growing professionally?
  • Does this career path suit my salary expectations?
  • What type of work environment brings out the best in me?
  • Are there any new skills I need to learn?
  • What is missing from my resume?
  • Is the industry that interests me growing?
  • Do I know the jargon/language of the industry?
  • What kind of networking or professional relationships will I need to develop in this new field?
  • Do I need a portfolio to show off my work?

Questions For PhDs Interested in a Career Pivot

  • What about academia makes me want to leave?
  • Are industry jobs best for me? Have I explored government or public sector roles?
  • Have I considered freelancing, consulting, or entrepreneurship as alternative career paths?
  • Do I know anyone in my network who isn’t a professor or a graduate student that can answer my questions?
  • Am I open to relocating for new career opportunities?
  • Are there career paths where I can teach?
  • Are there career paths where I can do research?
  • Do I have enough industry or public sector experience to make a career pivot fast?
  • Should I add my PhD on a resume?
  • Does my dissertation matter in my next stages of my career? Should I leverage my dissertation in my job search?
  • What steps can I take to maintain a healthy work-life balance in my new career path?
  • Are there any in-demand skills you learned during your PhD that would help you in the new career path?

Book Recommendations For Career Pivots

Books are a great way to learn industry jargon because you have to see and hear about terms and acronyms are used.

One of the first books I read in my transition to SEO was SEO for Dummies. Clearly not an academic book, but it was still vital to my understanding of SEO. In my field, there are few “textbooks” outside of the Art of SEO since you learn a lot by doing (hence the creation of After Your PhD), but I recommend them nonetheless.

Outside of SEO books, view this growing list of books to help you in your career pivot in industries ranging from data science, UX, and product management.

Consider These Career Services in Your Career Pivot

Monster Resume Career Services

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