How to Land Your Dream Job After Graduate School?

Step 1: Research your future opportunities

Take a step back from your work and begin researching job opportunities on Google, LinkedIn or Handshake (if your school offers it). The earlier you find positions that fit your background and future goals, the easier it would be to tailor your resume, cover letter, and research presentations for those positions. One important note is that each company has different titles for the same positions after PhD; for instance, a "senior scientist" in one company may be a "scientist" or "investigator" in another. An easy way to check whether the job description fits your background is see if the position requires the degree that you are trying to obtain (e.g. PhD, Masters, etc.). Researching prospective opportunities is time-consuming and may take about a month to complete, assuming you still have research or coursework that you are completing on the side. It would be helpful to create a Google spreadsheet to keep track of the job postings that most interest you, as well as the companies that you are interested in. An example spreadsheet might look like below:

Sample Spreadsheet for

By keeping track of prospective positions with a spreadsheet, you can begin clustering the companies that are hiring and their locations. More often than not, competing companies are around the same area to draw in talent (e.g. large cluster of pharmaceutical companies in the Boston area). You may be tempted to begin applying to these positions right-off-the-bat, but do not waste your time! If you begin applying to every position that you see, most of your applications will end up in the trash. Follow along to the next steps to maximize success!

By the end of this step, aim to answer the following questions: (some remarks for these questions are in bullet points)

  1. Are you interested in pursuing a position in academia, national labs, or industry?

    • Majority of PhD's actually end up outside of academia (less than 5% actually become faculty), but those that do become faculty have a "permanent" position after tenure, which is 6+ years (1+ year post-doc and 5 year tenure track).

    • National labs are on the middle between academia and industry in terms of pay and freedom.

    • Industry usually has higher pay, but you may be limited to the research that your company is interested in.

  2. What is the ideal location that you would be willing to work in?

    • This is important if you have family that you would like to be around.

    • In addition, if there are many similar companies in the area, that might help in terms of future job prospects.

  3. What companies are you interested in working for?

    • Look into company websites and identify their core mission. If the company's goal align with your own, then that is a great fit!

    • You can also look up companies in GlassDoor, but take the negative reviews with a grain of salt (as with any review site, negative reviews are more common than positive ones).

    • If you are interested in the company, make sure to follow them on LinkedIn! To do this, look for the company and hit the following sign. You can also hit the "+" button on any of their posts, then hit "Follow".

By answering these questions, you could narrow down your job search and spend more time on the companies that you really want to work for. Finally, after you have narrowed down your search, make sure to turn on job alerts for the companies or titles that you are interested in. You can turn on Google or LinkedIn job alerts (the links will show you how).