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Marketing Your Postgraduate Degree to Employers

by Tamer Helmy, PhD, Independent Consultant | Oct 01, 2018

Jobseekers with postgraduate degrees are often challenged when translating their academic backgrounds to industry employers, often due to misconceptions of what graduate studies entail and the skills they provide. In my opinion, professionals holding postgraduate degrees generally do not market their degrees very well.

These specialized jobseekers need to address three questions to achieve success in their job hunts: 1) What are the transferable skills that can be provided by a graduate degree to industry? 2) Why have industries grown resistant to higher education? 3) How can I address misconceptions?

1. What are the Transferable Skills?

The answer to the first question crosses all professions. The focus should be on the skills acquired by pursuing higher education.

First, we should consider every person who earns a graduate degree a hero. They decided to hone their skills beyond a bachelor’s degree into a particular specialty, often sacrificing opportunities to enter the job market right away.

And think about this, according to the Council of Graduate Schools, the completion rate for postgraduate degrees has been about 50–60% in the last few years (1,2). In other words, half of the people who enter graduate programs do not finish. It is not an easy task; it requires tenacity as well as monetary and personal sacrifices. Individuals who delve into this process and manage to accomplish it have already proven they can succeed on a big project. Consider them project managers in a sense. These project managers are responsible for budgeting, data collection, conducting a novel research idea, critically thinking about the current methods used in the industry and trying to improve industry practices.

Finally, most graduate degrees require a final project that has to be expertly written, critiqued by peers and specialists and presented. These skills are essential to success in any business.

Jobseekers with newly minted graduate degrees must communicate these transferable skills to potential employers.

2. Why the Resistance?

There are many reasons some employers are reluctant to hire postgraduates. This could be, in part, due to comedies that tap into the stereotype of socially awkward scientists such as those portrayed in The Nutty Professor or The Big Bang Theory. I completely agree that at least 50% all the scientists I have met are socially awkward—but so is most of the entire human population.

Another unfortunate misconception is that highly educated individuals are seen as expensive, independent thinkers. But is this not required for success? Add to this, that they are also often held to higher, unrealistic standards. For example, I remember when I was at Arizona State University, someone’s relative gave him a rock and, this being a biologist doctorate student, asked him to identify it. The poor guy did not know what to do other than seek help. How can you explain to your relative that biology is different from geology, let alone that you, as a scientist, do not know everything about everything?

3. How to Address Misconceptions?

The burden is on postgraduate jobseekers to explain why their advanced degrees are relevant and how can they help benefit employers. Those postgraduates who have achieved industry success, in my opinion, have a moral obligation to advise these jobseekers trying to enter their fields. Higher education institutions should continue to improve their outreach to industries. Industry employers, on the other hand, should consider jobseekers with graduate degrees as highly qualified people who can think outside the box.

Yet, in spite of these “shoulds,” the onus is on graduate degree holders to sell their degrees to employers. A graduate degree is a valuable asset that needs marketing. Graduating with a master’s or a doctoral degree is not a guarantee of finding a good job, nor does it speak for itself. People with graduate degrees should strive to promote their skills and continue to be open to learning more, as they have always done.

[Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared on the author’s personal LinkedIn page.]

References

  1. “The Crucial Issue of Doctoral Non-completion.” Council of Graduate Schools. https://cgsnet.org (2007)
  2. Council of Graduate Schools. Ph.D. Completion and Attrition: Analysis of Baseline Demographic Data from the Ph.D. Completion Project.

About the Author

Tamer HelmyTamer Helmy is an independent pharmaceutical consultant and PDA Letter Editorial Committee member. He is a quality expert with more than 20 years of microbiology and aseptic processing experience.