Terrible or Formidable? You are in charge of how the recruiters perceive you!

Presenting oneself in an industrial context can be a true challenge for researchers fostered in an academic culture. Bérénice Kimpe, career facilitator for PhDs in France and Germany, has a main message: make sure you present yourself the way you want to be perceived.

Recently, I was participating in a selection process for a European PhD programme. I had to laugh at what one of the jury members told us: the Russian ruler we call “Ivan the Terrible” in Western Europe, is called “Ivan Grozny” in Russia – “Ivan the Formidable”!

One person, two sides. Or at least, two ways of presenting him. Isn’t that what communication in a professional context is about?

You see your PhD as your starting point for an academic career. Right. But that’s not all! Your PhD is your starting point for your career, either in academia or outside, either in research or outside.

How can you change your point of view? By identifying and naming the skills you developed during your PhD and postdoc time, by confronting them with recruiters’ expectations in job ads. You will see that you are much more than just a researcher.

But then, how do you convince the recruiter that you are more than that? Present yourself the way you want to be perceived by him/her and use the same professional codes as him/her.

Of course, you only have one work history. You can’t change what you have done until now, but you can influence the way of presenting your experiences and your profile. For some positions, you will put a focus on your research topics, for some others on the techniques you used.

In case of an application in the industry, emphasise the results you obtained and choose them accordingly to the position: sometimes, it may be better to focus on scientific results (eg development or optimisation of a method, patent filing…), sometimes on other kinds of results (eg development and facilitation of a new international collaboration, successful grant writing …).

looking for a job, unemployment concept

Don’t forget to tell a story when you talk about your experiences and your results: it helps the recruiter to relate your profile with the requested one and makes you more convincing!

As for the professional codes, adapt your CV to the sector and the country you target; a German CV doesn’t look like an American one!

Let’s go further in the intercultural differences. You know for sure some words that have the same (or quite similar) spelling but not the same meaning. An example: “funny”. It means “strange” or “amusing”, depending on the situation. That happens a lot with intercultural communication: when a British guy says your project is interesting, don’t take it for granted and work harder on your project! Or if French people invite you to discuss their new concept, don’t think it’s a well-packed project on track, it’s generally only at the state of an idea.

More seriously, if you want to be sure to speak the same language as the recruiter, especially in the industry, browse some job boards to see what vocabulary is used (then re-use it in your application) and browse the DocPro skills portfolio (www.mydocpro.org) to get a definition of PhD-related skills.

So, are you ready to work on your profiles as John/Jane Doe the Academic and John/Jane Doe the Industrial?

Bérénice Kimpe works with international cooperation at ABG – an association which helps PhD students and PhD graduates from all scientific fields to steer their career. It also helps companies recruit PhDs. Read more at www.intelliagence.fr.

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