Find the best job fit through informational interviews
Many graduate students and postdoctoral scholars focus on obtaining a faculty position, and the Graduate College provides resources (ex: the PFx Seminar in the Fall) to help you prepare for and pursue a faculty position.
If you want to diversify your approach — or if life disrupts your plan to become a faculty member: use these resources to learn what options exist beyond the academic job track.
- Begin a self-assessment in the free Individual Development Plan tools: MyIDP (for Sciences) or ImaginePhD (for Humanists or Social Scientists)
- Complete each assessment to identify your greatest skills, interests and values.
- In the future, you may want to redo the assessments if circumstances change.
Talk to experts
The best way to explore career paths is to talk to people who do the work. Informational interviewing is the best way to gather intel about career fields or organizations; the notes below detail how to conduct an informational interview.
Center your situation
ldentify the parameters that factor into your job search. Limiting factors may include:
- Location — are you able and willing to relocate, and which radius would you consider?
- Job market — what are the hiring trends for the work you are interested in?
- Work style — what work hours or mode of work would be a good fit for you? Some types of work or organizations have different expectations pertaining to workload. Will you be expected to travel? How many hours are worked per week or during busy periods?
- Skill gaps — as you research a type of work, you may learn that certain skills are expected. Formal instruction may not be required to meet those gaps but you may need to do hands-on work to demonstrate your development.
- Financial needs — what are your minimum salary requirements? What benefits are non-negotiable? What is the cost of living, and how is the housing market if you plan to relocate?
Plan and implement
- Use the planning tools in MyIDP or ImaginePhD to outline your steps and track your progress.
- Attend a PFx Lunch and Learn session to learn about career paths and tools.
- Complete lessons on job-searching and applying for positions (faculty or professional) in the PhD Career Training Platform available to ASU students through subscription.
- Register for Handshake to learn what opportunities are available through Career and Professional Development Services.
Conduct an informational interview
When contacting the person, identify yourself, mention how you heard about them and ask for a 20-30 minute appointment. Make it clear that you are not seeking an interview but merely hoping to learn more about the roles they offer or the field in general.
- While the session is not formal, prepare for the meeting by rehearsing a brief self-introduction, several open-ended questions and your goals for the meeting.
- If the person asks if they can answer a few questions via email, politely request that they meet with you virtually instead you can gain a lot from a face-to-face meeting that you can miss via email exchange. An informational interview is one way to grow your professional network, and a face-to-face meeting is a more ideal way to remember each other in the future.
Sample email request from PhD Career Training Platform:
Jodie R. gave me your information and suggested that you would be a great person to contact; I am exploring a career transition and how to use my communication skills in the non-profit sector. I would really appreciate hearing about your career path and how you leveraged skills from your PhD into your position as CEO at XYZ non-profit. Can I email you a few questions about your experience or schedule a 20-minute zoom call? I am happy to make myself available whenever it is convenient for you. Thank you!
If they do not agree to meet, thank them for their time and ask if you can connect again sometime in the future — then reach out to someone else to interview.
Not sure what to ask? Use some of the questions above from Item #4: Center your situation.
Or you can use these questions from the PhD Career Training Platform:
- How did you end up in this career/why did you choose this career?
- What do you do on a daily basis?
- What are some skills you use in your position?
- What do you enjoy most about your work?
- What do you enjoy most about your workplace
- How would you describe the organization’s culture?
- What types of employment training programs are available at your workplace?
- What positions did you hold prior to your current job?
- Is this a growing or shrinking industry — in what ways?
- What are the biggest challenges your company/organization is facing?
- What advice do you have for someone who is interested in this career?
- Do you know anyone else I should speak to in order to learn more about this field? I'm eager to make more contacts!
Once the interview is complete, follow up with a thank you note.