This document began its life as an email to philosophy grad students looking for non-academic work. It might be useful to you even if you are not a philosophy grad student, especially if you are looking for work in the tech industry. All feedback is welcome (nate at natemeyvis dot com).

My background / credentials for giving this sort of advice.

I have spent roughly four and a half years on and around the non-academic job market. For much of that time I was responsible for recruiting and hiring at a genomics startup. It was therefore my job not only to manage our hiring process but to study non-academic hiring processes more generally. Moreover, we recruited, interviewed, and hired many academics--mostly biologists, but also philosophers, linguists, and other humanities types.

More concretely, I've conducted roughly 250 interviews. More than half of these were of candidates with Ph.D.s, and of those, many were people who one might describe as "transitioning from academia" (as opposed to folks for whom there was a well-defined Ph.D.-to-industry path, and who might never have intended to stay in academia). Roughly 1/4 of those were humanities Ph.D.s, and roughly 1/3 of those 1/4 were philosophy Ph.D.s.

So: I've spent a whole lot of time thinking about these issues. That said, my experiences are of course limited. The job market is a very big place. I know more about the startup side of things, the biology side of things, and the software side of things. There are many other sides of many other things, where the advice below might not apply so well.

Finding jobs to apply to

My colleagues have often wondered how they could find a job in circumstances where they didn't at all know what they were looking for. This is a reasonable concern. We can factor the problem into two parts: learning about job-types and learning how to find specific opportunities.

Philosophers are, in general, particularly skilled at writing and reading. These skills have many non-academic applications, of course; they are central qualifications for many jobs.

A few kinds of jobs that exist (mostly unknown to me ten years ago):

How to find specific jobs (also a good way to discover more job-types):
  • Pick names of companies out of a hat. Go to their Web sites. Click on "Careers."

  • Every month "Hacker News," a start-up / technology link aggregator and discussion board, has a "Who's Hiring?" thread. (Googling "Who's Hiring site:news.ycombinator.com" ought to turn up recent threads.) Many of these jobs are for coders or other folks with software experience, but plenty are not.

  • Ask around (I know it's obvious, but many people don't do this enough).



  • You are likely to have a "non-traditional" background for many of the jobs to which you will be applying. You might lack a background as an editor but be seeking an editorship, for example. Do not despair if you do not meet every desideratum listed on a job ad. Whereas academic job listings often include lists of qualifications that preferred candidates will far exceed, non-academic job listings often contain "wish lists" in the guise of hard requirements. (These generate amusing stories--e.g., about job ads requiring N years of experience in a computer language that did not exist N years ago.) If you think you might be able to do the job, and if the application requirements aren't onerous, give it a shot. There are no unit charges from Interfolio here.

    You might, of course, really be less qualified than the competition for that editorship (or writing job, or coding job, or...). It is therefore also useful to consider how to compensate in such situations. One strategy is to apply to start-up companies. Such companies are often willing to take on less traditional candidates, for at least two reasons. First, they often offer somewhat lower salaries and less job security than more established companies (they generally can't afford above-market or sometimes even at-market compensation, and there's often no guarantee they'll still be in business in a couple years). As a result, they often have to be willing to accept candidates who are by some traditional metrics less qualified. Second, they often need to get a small staff to handle the whole set of tasks for a company, so they need to find generalists. This sometimes leads to a desire to trade deep experience in a field for general intelligence and aptitude (and a good attitude about taking out one's own trash, a willingness to accept handwritten payroll checks, and so on).

    Preparing application materials.

    Application materials vary widely, but here are some suggestions: Interviews.

    There are more interviews and more kinds of interviews than can be usefully surveyed here. Some miscellaneous notes: A few miscellaneous notes.
    Copyright Nate Meyvis, 2019.