Only about 0.9% of the population holds a doctoral degree, and because that degree does not come without the completion of a dissertation, it means that everyone with that degree has a very specific skill set:
- Top expertise in the topic of their dissertation research
- Significant expertise in both small and large research design and implementation
- Higher level thinking/critical analysis skills of synthesis and evaluation
- Writing skills
- Soft Skills of strong work ethic, taking initiative, long-term project completion/perseverance, ability to work independently, self-direction, and time management
Translating Skills Sets to Successful Employment
The unemployment rate of individuals with Ph.D. degrees is the lowest among all other academic diploma and degree levels. This is probably a result of the fact that, unlike popular opinion, there are positions in many fields other than academia, and there are many Ph.D. grads who want and get positions outside of academia. In fact, non-academic areas of employment include all of the following:
- Any kind of research position related to the field of your degree and dissertation work
- Financial Services and engineering
- Psychology and Sociology
- Insurance Industry
- Business and Economics
The key to boosting you employability in your chosen field of specialty will require some pretty specific steps long before you get to that dissertation.
- When you enter your doctoral program, you must do so with a clear idea of the ultimate career you want.
- You will then need to research the forecasts for positions in your field(s) of interest. Delve deeply here, because you want to get as much specificity as possible.
- Once you have the forecast analysis and data, you can begin to consider possible dissertation topics that will increase your value to a potential employer. You need to continue to keep abreast of this forecast data as you get closer to your dissertation project, so that you can continue to refine possible research questions to meet industry needs.
- Select a dissertation research question that is fully relevant to the career field you will pursue. For example, if you are a doctoral student in math, and you want a career in actuarial science, then your dissertation research will perhaps point toward an optimization project that develops a better method of risk analysis when determining insurance rates. Once that dissertation is finished and that degree conferred, you will be a “hot” commodity, as HR departments of major insurance companies become aware of your dissertation title.
- When you submit your applicant materials (resume or CV, whichever is appropriate), it is a good idea to do more than simply state the title of your dissertation. Most HR professionals and recruiters may not understand the “language” of that title. In addition to that title, you should summarize in more “lay” language the thrust of your research and what your outcomes were.
Addressing the Lack of Work Experience by Focusing on Your Dissertation
Yes, work experience in your field is important, and many employers wish to see a combination of academic credentials and related work experience. Fortunately, you are in a unique position, if you are a new graduate and have only that dissertation to show as “work experience.” Develop the attitude that the dissertation itself constitutes work experience. After all, look at what you have accomplished through that dissertation work:
- You have addressed an important research question in the industry
- You have implemented actual field research
- You have answered the research question and now have something of real value to contribute to the industry and to the specific organization with which you seek employment.
Use your dissertation to your advantage as you seek career positions outside of academia. With the right approach, you can convince any employer that the dissertation itself brings huge value to their organizations.