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How to use your academic experience to land a corporate job

There’s an issue that has come up a number of times since starting my business. Job seekers who are looking for a job for the first time in their 30s or 40s find it tough to know where to start. This is a very common occurrence for those who have spent their entire careers in academia or research.

They’ve gone to school for many years without stopping. At the end, they have a long list of awesome accomplishments. But, because a full time corporate job typically isn’t one of them, the thought of going down this path can be very daunting.

I was recently interviewed by Fast Company on this very topic, because they’re hearing about the same issue!

If you find yourself in this situation, with mainly academic experience, here are a few of my tips for writing your resume for a corporate job.

  • Leave out your GPA. In the corporate world, it’s rare that anyone will want to know your academic grade point average.
  • Get your own e-mail address. Using your school’s e-mail for job applications just makes you look young and inexperienced.
  • Keep your resume short and sweet. One or two pages is the maximum length a resume should be. Corporations don’t have time to read a 10 page CV. Be concise.
  • Use plain language. There will inevitably be people who read your resume that don’t have the same impressive credentials that you do. Write your resume in such a way that a human resources pro or a recruiter could understand it. They’re often the first person to screen your resume. And, if they don’t understand it, you’re dead in the water.
  • Don’t list every publication you’ve ever been in. Or, if you do, consider a format that’s readable. A long bibliography written in a highly technical format is rarely appropriate in a corporate resume.
  • Be aware of your formatting. Your resume should have a consistent look and feel throughout.
  • Use bold to emphasize important things. But, keep it to a minimum. Use it to highlight important parts are your background, such as your titles.
  • Include internships, speaking events, and leadership activities. Although you may not have been paid, these activities provide students with valuable experience that translate into the working world.
  • Include class projects. It may sound silly, but very often, professors give you real life problems to work on. Sometimes, you even get to interface with the companies to solve them. Again, just because you weren’t paid doesn’t mean your experience doesn’t translate. Include these pieces of your work to show your future employer what you can do.
  • Save your resume as a PDF. So often, when we e-mail our resume to someone else as a Word document, the formatting gets all mixed up. Keep things simple and save your resume as a PDF before you send it.

Once you get your resume ready, it’s time to head out and find a job. Although good for research, the internet is not your ultimate answer to landing an interview. Take the time to network and get your feet wet in the community.

And, when you do land an interview, keep in mind that the most important thing in terms of hiring is can often be whether or not the employer likes you – rather than your degree. Take the time to both refine your personal brand, and work on being relatable. Show up to interviews looking polished and be approachable.

At the end of the day, you want to package up your years of academic prowess into an intelligent, relatable, refined brand.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland

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