Prepare for Your Job Search
Before you begin submitting applications, there are several important steps you can take to prepare for your job search and maximize your opportunities. Consider the following steps to help you build a foundation for your job search.
1. Assess how your advanced degree fits into your overall career plan.
- What skills does your graduate degree help you develop?
- Conduct industry and organizational research to help you identify related skills.
- To help you get started exploring your career goals, we have the following Career assessment tools available to you through the “Resources”, “Online Resources” tab in connectSC
- Your Next Step, a career management tool where you can access career assessments, clarify career goals, develop professional resumes, and cover letters, prepare for interviews, develop a network, access jobs, and implement a strategic job search plan.
- Versatile Ph.D., a forum to help currently enrolled Ph.D. students in the humanities, social science, and STEM disciplines identify and prepare for non-academic careers.
- Explore ImaginePhD, a free online career exploration, and planning tool for Ph.D. students and postdoctoral scholars in the humanities and social sciences.
2. Build your network.
- Cultivate relationships with your professors, classmates, potential employers and alumni. Join the Trojan Network.
- Get involved within the USC community through Graduate Student Government and other Student Organizations.
- Join professional associations and attend conferences in your field of interest. To search for professional associations related to your discipline, refer to the Career Access Resource Library (CARL).
3. Find a mentor.
- As you network and meet other professionals, identify mentors who can provide career guidance. Your mentor(s) may help open doors once you embark on your job search. Join the Trojan Network to reach out to alumni working in fields of your interest for career advice.
4. Investigate industry trends and recruiting schedules early in your program.
- Identify key skills and experiences you need to develop to stay competitive in the job market. Find opportunities to develop these skills as a student.
- Seek out top employers that you want to work for and participate in recruiting events.
5. Attend professional events and conferences.
- Beyond the Ph.D.: Ph.D. and Postdoctoral Career Conference (traditionally during the Spring semester): This conference features interdisciplinary keynote panels, industry and academic round table sessions, and career sessions.
- Virtual Career Fairs (Fall/Spring): Meet employers recruiting for full-time positions and internships across a variety of industries.
- Career workshops: Topics include resume, CV and cover letter writing, interviewing strategies, job search strategies, and negotiation strategies.
- Ph.D. Pathways: Career Planning and Preparation is an educational series hosted by the USC Graduate school which includes a week of academic job search workshops such as CV/Resume and cover letter writing, interviewing, negotiating job offers, and writing your teaching philosophy/research. Stay current on all events by following the Graduate School on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and blog.
- School-specific career events: Contact your school-based career services office or academic department to inquire about upcoming events.
- Professional associations: Check your local and national professional associations’ websites for upcoming events. Search for professional associations related to your discipline on the Career Access Resource Library (CARL).
- Visit USC The Graduate School: Stay current on all events through the Graduate School’s social media channels: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and blog.
- Dornsife Ph.D. Academy: The Dornsife Ph.D. Academy provides training in leadership principles, financial management, public speaking, and effective communication while offering students training in both disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields.
Start Your Job Search
Upon completing self-assessment, career exploration, and developing related job search skills, you will most likely feel better prepared to conduct a successful job search. Below are resources to help you identify job opportunities in academia and beyond.
American Association of Community Colleges: Job bank for community college job opportunities
BioCareers.com: Bio Careers is the first and only career service dedicated to expanding professional options for life science PhDs and MDs. The service provides online career resources and job postings to post-graduate and alumni candidates. To access this resource log in to your connectSC account.
connectSC: Search through thousands of job listings using search terms such as “PhD,” “Postdoc,” or industry terms to identify relevant positions.
Find a Post Doc: Job board dedicated to new and recently qualified PhDs.
HigherEdJobs.com: U.S. and international higher education job opportunities
Highered360.com: Lists open positions at colleges and universities, academic and industry associations for Higher Ed Professionals, Conferences, articles featuring job search topics, and resources for PhDs and Postdoctoral resources.
National Postdoctoral Association: Job board and career development resources
Ph.D. Jobs Showcases Ph.D. jobs at all types of corporations, academic institutions, and laboratories in all 50 states and worldwide.
Postdocjobs.com: A free postdoctoral job board
Professional Association Job Boards: Search on the Career Center’s CARL database for industry-specific resources and professional associations.
The Versatile Ph.D.: The Versatile Ph.D. is a forum to help currently enrolled Ph.D. students in the humanities, social science, and STEM disciplines identify and prepare for non-academic careers. USC has partnered with The Versatile Ph.D. to bring premium access to their site for all Ph.D. students.
UniversityJobs.com: Job board for postdoctoral and faculty positions
Virtual Career Fairs: Meet employers recruiting for full-time positions across a variety of industries
Resume or CV?
Purpose: To promote your unique qualifications for private and public sector jobs
Length: 1-2 pages, depending on your experience and industry
Content: Highlight job-related skills and relevant experiences; focus on your accomplishments
Writing Your Resume
Please refer to the following links to resume writing guides and samples:
- USC Career Center Resume Guide: Includes resume and cover letter tips and samples
In the United States, a curriculum vitae (CV) is used for documenting and promoting scholarly and professional experiences when applying for academic (faculty), research positions, academic postdoctoral research opportunities, grants, and fellowships. Based on reviewing your CV, an academic committee might choose to invite you to interview for available academic positions.
CVs vary from discipline to discipline. It is recommended to reference CVs of others in your field (fellow grad students, postdocs in your lab, new faculty in your department) and have your advisor review it as well.
Length: 2-3 pages toward the earlier stages of your career; additional pages can be added as you further your career
Content: Tailor experiences to highlight your fit with a specific role, department, or institution. Standard CV sections include: Education, Teaching Experience, Research Experience, Honors and Awards, Professional/Volunteer Experience, Publications, Presentations, Scholarly/Professional Affiliations, Research Interests, Extracurricular Activities, Licensing/Registration/Certifications, Grants/Fellowships, University Service, Technical Skills, and References.
Always keep in mind that every CV should include information about your education and relevant professional experience. The organization or layout of your CV should reflect your experience in reverse chronological order (list most recent experience first, and then go back in time) and put the most important information on the first page of the CV so it stands out easily to the reader. As a general rule, whatever is most important for the hiring committee to know should command the most space toward the top of your CV. Make sure your CV is clear and concise. Lastly, if you are applying for positions in different types of institutions or departments, you will probably need more than one version of your CV.
Writing Your CV
- Before drafting your CV, it is a good practice to review your qualifications and the qualifications listed on the job/announcement of your interest. Using the categories suggested (i.e. Research Experience, Publications, and Presentations, etc.), list everything that will connect your experience to the qualifications of the job. This is a great time to inventory your expertise, skills, accomplishments that are relevant and connect them to the needs of the job at hand. The organization of your CV will depend on each application/job and the experience you want to highlight right away.
- Once you have found the job you want to apply for, it is important to understand and utilize specific industry/institution terminology throughout your CV so the reader is able to easily understand your qualifications in relation to their industry.
- Review the job description/announcement thoroughly and note the requirements/qualifications the employer/hiring institution is seeking. This is a time to be mindful and get into the practice of using the keywords mentioned throughout the job description.
- Please note: In today’s employment market your CV may be screened with an Applicant Tracking System software (ATS) by HR professionals. These systems manage high volumes of job applications electronically. For recruiters, it streamlines the recruiting/hiring process and helps to identify quality applicants. ATS will electronically scan your CV, score your qualiﬁcations based on the description for that position, and rank your application.
- The simpler the layout and format the easier your CV is to read.
- Stick with using standard fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial, Century, Helvetica, or Verdana in sizes 10, 11, or 12.
- Avoid using fonts smaller than size 10.
- Include your name on every page and add a page number on your CV. For example: Tommy Trojan, page 1 of 3.
- Highlight areas you want to emphasize by indenting, capitalizing, spacing, and bolding.
- Contact Information: Include your name, address (listing only City and State is acceptable), phone number, and email. Include your LinkedIn address and any online portfolios or websites, if appropriate. Contact information always comes first and is placed at the top of your CV.
- Education: List the education category first, in reverse chronological order (listing your most current program back to your undergraduate experience). Items to include: Name of institution and date degrees were awarded. If you are currently in a degree program list the date you expect to receive the degree. If you will not be completing your degree for a while, highlight completion dates of important objectives such as passing qualifying exams and coursework completed. If you are a Postdoctoral student, you may want to reflect on relevant experience first before listing education.
- Additional details to consider adding in this category: academic focus and title of dissertation or thesis
- Experience: This category is the space where you will want to highlight experience relevant to the job or announcement. Keep in mind the audience of employers you want to attract to your skills and expertise.
- For faculty positions, typical categories: “Teaching Experience” or “Research Experience”. Provide an overview of the accomplishments you attained in each category.
- For industry positions, typical categories: “Professional Experience” or “Relevant Experience”. Provide an overview of the accomplishments you attained. Use action verbs to highlight skills and accomplishments that match keywords found in the job description.
- Accomplishment bullet format: Action verb (stating what you did) + How you did it + Result (Quantify if possible $, #, %)
- Honors and Awards: Depending on how significant or prestigious your award and/or the number of awards you have, you may include them under the “Education” section. Otherwise, you can create a separate section and include a brief explanation.
- Publications and Presentations: List information in this section in reverse chronological order. Publications may include books, book chapters, articles, and book reviews. Include all of the information about each publication, including the title, journal title, date of publication, and (if applicable) page numbers. It is recommended to have separate sections if you have a long list. Consider subdividing by topic as needed: peer review papers, reviews, poster presentations, conferences, and invited talks.
- Scholarly/Professional Affiliations: List memberships in societies and professional organizations in your discipline. You might include your active involvement in the organization even if you do not hold a leadership role. For example, highlight your contribution to specific projects and events. In addition, you may want to reference your participation in moderating a panel.
- Grants/Fellowships: This category is where you list significant funding you have received. Include the funding agency and the project(s) that were funded. The work performed in support of the grant can be noted in detail under “Experience.” List internships and fellowships, including organization, title, and dates.
- Research Interests: This category answers the “What’s Next” question
- Extracurricular Activities: List your involvement in student organizations, alumni groups, and charity organizations, to name a few.
- Licensing/Registration/Certifications: List type of license, certification, or accreditation, and date received.
- University Service: Include any service you have done for your department, such as serving as a student advisor, acting as chair of a department, or providing any other administrative assistance/projects.
- Technical Skills: This category highlights your knowledge in software programs, foreign languages, social media, etc.
- References: Depending on your field, you might include a list of your references at the end of your CV. Always include your contact information on your reference sheet and it is recommended to title it, for example, “References for Tommy Trojan”. Make sure you ask permission of the person you intend to use as a reference. Always provide complete information about the person on your reference including their preferred degree (Ph.D., MD, CPA, etc.) or a title (Mr., Mrs., Ms.). In your list make sure you include the following: full name, title, department, institution, address, phone, and email.
Discover Campus Resources
Beyond the Ph.D.: Ph.D. and Postdoctoral Career Conference
Offered in the Spring, this conference includes keynote speakers, academic and nonacademic career panels, and round table sessions specifically tailored to PhDs and postdoctoral scholars.
USC Center for Excellence in Teaching
A university-wide, fellow-driven organization focused on enhancing teaching and learning.
USC Graduate School
Provides academic support, thesis/dissertation resources, and fellowship information. Visit Graduate School Blog for fellowship information, funding resources, professional development events, and tips on navigating educational policies and procedures.
USC Office of Postdoctoral Affairs
Access information on benefits/privileges, professional development workshops, blogs, and information on academic policies and procedures for postdoctoral scholars.
USC Office of Research
For information about student-related research opportunities visit our For USC Students & Postdocs page. For information on existing programs for students at USC that support diversity and scholarship in research visit our Diversity Student & Postdoc Programs.
USC Postdoctoral Association
Represents all postdoctoral scholars on all USC campuses. Provides professional development, networking, and social events. Stay connected by subscribing to the postdoctoral newsletter.