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Careers Café

How to find those weird and wonderful career options

Information on different career options is out there, just not all conveniently in one place.


Finding good career options takes a mix of experience, reflection, luck and detective work. I’ve talked about the first three a fair bit in past posts. The detective work can seem like a tough slog at first, because it feels like all the information you need about different career options should be “out there somewhere.”

It is out there somewhere, but not all in one spot. If you start with job titles that you know of, and that sound at least a little interesting, that can help lead to possibilities you hadn’t heard of before – all those weird and wonderful types of work that people who aren’t doctors, teachers or lawyers do. Here are a couple of ideas for uncovering new options.

There are good, ongoing Twitter discussions about career options outside of academia. Follow Twitter accounts like @FromPhDtoLife and @akrook and conversations tagged with hashtags like #withaphd, #altac, #nonac and #postac. (You could always cast the net wide with a Twitter search using “PhD” to find people who’ve included that in their profile name, and see who’s in an altac line of work. Of course, this can be the Twitter career exploration version of using Pinterest – if you don’t have some precise keywords to search by, prepare for a meandering time suck.)

LinkedIn still has some goodies for free. Get them while you can, because LinkedIn has hidden some information from people with freebie accounts. For now, though, you can still use the “advanced search” option to find profiles using whatever keywords you want. You can limit those searches in several useful ways; perhaps you want to search for specific job titles, or get an idea of what’s available in a certain geographic range or an industry of interest. Unfortunately, freebie users can only see the full profiles of people to whom they have at least a 3rd degree connection, but you can end up with quite a large 3rd degree network even if you have a handful of 1st degree connections.

Chances are good that people in jobs that intrigue you will have a skills section in their profile. Since your LinkedIn connections can suggest skills to add to your profile, even very modest users often have an extensive skills section. Browse the skills in profiles that interest you. If a skill sounds interesting, click on it. You’ll then see what companies have the most employees claiming that skill, what other skills tend to accompany it, as well as related individual profiles, slide presentations and discussion groups that you can join.

Some of LinkedIn has actually gotten more interesting recently. The job search function shows you – and lets you alter – the information it uses to suggest job postings. For example, it lists industries you might be interested in, and lets you choose the level of job you’re looking for. The “find alumni” search option shows you industries fellow alumni are in, which then allows you to identify organizations where they work, and see their profiles – a good start for identifying people for informational interviews. Now that LinkedIn has created a search link for SlideShare presentations, you might also see if you can find some quick intros to industries, roles, companies or topics of interest. (A caveat: the presentations aren’t vetted, and it’s always possible to find misinformation. Still, you can look at the poster’s profile to see whether they’re well-positioned to be credible.)

In the next post, I’ll suggest more ways for finding less obvious job titles. In the meantime, happy hunting!

Liz Koblyk
Liz Koblyk is the associate director of the Wilson Leadership Scholar Award at McMaster University.
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