How to Land Your Dream Job After Graduate School?


Securing a job after graduate school is not easy, especially when you have many other duties to carry out (e.g. research, teaching, and writing your dissertation). This post is intended to fill in the gap between being a graduate student and publishing papers to being a well-informed candidate and applying to promising jobs. Some crucial steps to job hunting are:

  • Leveraging your research abilities to narrow down future career opportunities

  • Advertising yourself by having an online presence

  • Using your communication skills to grow your network via informational interviews

  • Leverage your network when applying to jobs to increase the likelihood of a positive response (e.g. an interview)

  • Acing the job interview and making sure that the job/team aligns with your own goals/expectations

By no means is this post comprehensive, so check out some of the additional resources below. A successful job hunt requires a quite a bit of luck and a lot of perseverance - so best of luck in finding your next position!

Additional fun topics that I had while applying

Postdoc or no postdoc?

You will encounter many post-doctoral opportunities from many research groups in academia, national labs, and industry. Postdocs are temporary positions that span 1-2 years and geared towards teaching you skills that you have not gained during your PhD. If you are interested in an academic track, you will probably need a postdoc to reach a faculty position. Otherwise, postdoc positions are usually suggestive since companies want researchers with more experience. The consensus advice that I got from this question was that if you pursue a postdoc, perform research that is distinct from your PhD - otherwise, you are not learning new techniques that would improve your future job prospects. In general, do not feel obligated to complete a postdoc if you do not have to.

Here are some interesting (and scary) perspectives of postdocs:

Big versus small company?

You will find both small and big companies when applying to positions. Here are some of the pros and cons of each based on my informational interviews:

Big company:

  • You may be placed in a position where you are focused in one type of expertise

  • Has a lot of resources to tackle challenging problems

  • May have more opportunities to move positions within the company

  • May have more job stability

Small company:

  • You will need to wear multiple hats (i.e. multiple roles)

  • May have less bureaucracy in terms of starting a new project

  • May have limited resources to tackle big projects

  • Potential instability if there is not enough revenue


This post would not be possible if it were not for the many informational interviews that I had. Hence, I am thankful for the colleagues, UW-Madison alumni, and scientists in the field whom spared some time for me to meet and learn from. Many thanks to Grace Nguyen for helping me with the digital art and proof-reading.