Challenging situation in finding a job in my field

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  • #1
Hello, I would like to present my situation and maybe hear some suggestions on how to overcome the challenge I am facing:

I have a PhD in a STEM field from Canada (I am an immigrant), and after I received my PhD, I worked 18 months in the academia as a postdoctoral researcher. During my postdoctoral fellowship, I was applying to positions in the industry, but most of my applications didn't even get noticed. In the very very few times I received phone screening interviews and my application didn't progress (which was the case in all screening interviews), I was told I don't have enough experience, or I was overqualified when I asked about the reason. After seeing that things are not working well, I decided to go home because I was sitting spending money with no income for months. I stayed there for about 14 months.

During that time, I decided to switch to a more in demand fields like machine learning, and data science because of my statistical and mathematical background. So, I started studying and doing projects on Kaggle and published my codes on GitHub. I returned to Canada for a part-time position in the academia for 6 months, during which I was applying to machine learning and data science positions, but again to no avail. I was told my field of study doesn't have anything to do with machine learning and data science, and I don't have any experience in the new fields.

I stayed for one year without a job, after that I decided to take a low-skill position that doesn't even require a college degree to survive and pay the bills. I didn't have any complaints. However, the pandemic hit, and after one year in, I was laid off. Now I am unemployed again for the last 6 months.

In the last 3 months I received 3 messages from recruiters from US and EU on LinkedIn presenting me with job descriptions related to my field of study, and if I am interested to connect with them. Because I haven't worked in my field of study for the last 2.5 years, and with almost 3 years of employment gap in total in my resume, I didn't reply back, because I didn't know how to address my lack of employments in my field and the gaps.

My question is: what can I do at this point? I have scarified a lot, and paid a lot of money to get my PhD, and I am hoping to get a return from all of this and not for all my effort, money and time to go to waste.

Thank you for reading and for any feedback
 

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  • #2
Office_Shredder
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If a recruiter reaches out to you, you might as well take the time to talk to them. I would write them back and see if they still have anything available, worst case scenario is they say no, or think your resume gap is too big. It's not like they are going to run around blacklisting you in the industry because you didn't land a job through them.

The most likely thing that happens on your first attempt is you don't get a job, and they give you a better description of what went wrong, since they make money if they get you a job (from the company) so they want to help you out a bit as a candidate.
 
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  • #3
Choppy
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A gap on your CV/resume is likely to raise some eyebrows, but it's not a reason to avoid applying for a position that suits you. Given the current economic reality, I think a lot of people are in similar situations. It sounds like you're doing the best you can by staying mentally active, learning new skills in machine learning and writing code. That's all stuff that I'd recommend you continue to do.

And keep at it.

When it comes to the job hunt, I'm an advocate of the sniper approach. Pick a field that you really want to get into and learn as much as you can about it. Talk to people working in the field any way that you can, even ones that aren't actively recruiting. Figure out if there as specific qualifications you need and the things that recruiters are looking for and then make yourself into the ideal candidate.
 
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  • #4
If a recruiter reaches out to you, you might as well take the time to talk to them. I would write them back and see if they still have anything available, worst case scenario is they say no, or think your resume gap is too big. It's not like they are going to run around blacklisting you in the industry because you didn't land a job through them.

The most likely thing that happens on your first attempt is you don't get a job, and they give you a better description of what went wrong, since they make money if they get you a job (from the company) so they want to help you out a bit as a candidate.

In the past when I replied, most of the time I didn't hear back from them (the recruiters) again, and when they followed-up with rejection letters, and I asked them on the reason, I didn't hear from them again (this was 100% of the cases).

I would like to respond, but the negative experience I had with them, combined with not knowing how to address my gap and lack of employment, makes me leaning towards not responding.

What could I say to address my gap and lack of employments in my field that would be acceptable to recruiters and hiring managers?
 
  • #5
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By all means, when contacted by a recruiter you should respond if you are currently out of work. That is a no brainer.

Another thing I suggest is that you write a few papers while you are unemployed. If you can get them published anywhere, it will give you improved exposure and beef up your CV.
 
  • #6
A gap on your CV/resume is likely to raise some eyebrows, but it's not a reason to avoid applying for a position that suits you. Given the current economic reality, I think a lot of people are in similar situations. It sounds like you're doing the best you can by staying mentally active, learning new skills in machine learning and writing code. That's all stuff that I'd recommend you continue to do.

And keep at it.

When it comes to the job hunt, I'm an advocate of the sniper approach. Pick a field that you really want to get into and learn as much as you can about it. Talk to people working in the field any way that you can, even ones that aren't actively recruiting. Figure out if there as specific qualifications you need and the things that recruiters are looking for and then make yourself into the ideal candidate.

What could I say to address my gap and lack of employments in my field that would be acceptable to recruiters and hiring managers, without sounding like a failure and being unemployable?
 
  • #7
Andy Resnick
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Hello, I would like to present my situation and maybe hear some suggestions on how to overcome the challenge I am facing:

I have a PhD in a STEM field from Canada (I am an immigrant), and after I received my PhD, I worked 18 months in the academia as a postdoctoral researcher. During my postdoctoral fellowship, I was applying to positions in the industry, but most of my applications didn't even get noticed. In the very very few times I received phone screening interviews and my application didn't progress (which was the case in all screening interviews), I was told I don't have enough experience, or I was overqualified when I asked about the reason. After seeing that things are not working well, I decided to go home because I was sitting spending money with no income for months. I stayed there for about 14 months.

During that time, I decided to switch to a more in demand fields like machine learning, and data science because of my statistical and mathematical background. So, I started studying and doing projects on Kaggle and published my codes on GitHub. I returned to Canada for a part-time position in the academia for 6 months, during which I was applying to machine learning and data science positions, but again to no avail. I was told my field of study doesn't have anything to do with machine learning and data science, and I don't have any experience in the new fields.

I stayed for one year without a job, after that I decided to take a low-skill position that doesn't even require a college degree to survive and pay the bills. I didn't have any complaints. However, the pandemic hit, and after one year in, I was laid off. Now I am unemployed again for the last 6 months.

In the last 3 months I received 3 messages from recruiters from US and EU on LinkedIn presenting me with job descriptions related to my field of study, and if I am interested to connect with them. Because I haven't worked in my field of study for the last 2.5 years, and with almost 3 years of employment gap in total in my resume, I didn't reply back, because I didn't know how to address my lack of employments in my field and the gaps.

My question is: what can I do at this point? I have scarified a lot, and paid a lot of money to get my PhD, and I am hoping to get a return from all of this and not for all my effort, money and time to go to waste.

Thank you for reading and for any feedback

I have a lot of questions- let's start with "what was your PhD in and what career did you hope to achieve with it?"

Then, "What was achieved during your postdoctoral experience?"

Then, "Why did you decide to move into industry after doing a postodctoral fellowship, which is typically preparation for an academic career?"
 
  • #8
Choppy
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What could I say to address my gap and lack of employments in my field that would be acceptable to recruiters and hiring managers, without sounding like a failure and being unemployable?

It's a competitive market right now. Unfortunately I haven't found anything that's been a good match for me. But I've been keeping my skill set up to date by:
- taking courses
- taking workshops
- assisting in research
- job shadowing/virtual interviews with people in this field
- working through online programming challenges
[fill in the blanks here, but of course, be truthful]

And remember the gap might not be the number one thing the interviewers are concerned about. I've been on hiring committees where we've been looking at candidates with gaps. Sure, we want to know why that gap is there, but really want to know whether you're qualified for the position and whether you'll be a good fit with the existing team, and out of the candidates who meet those criteria, do you seem like the best choice.
 
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  • #9
hutchphd
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In my limited experience with hiring the gaps in your resume will be far down the list of issues: assure them that (1)you were not incarcerated, (2) that you made productive use of that time (professional or otherwise). One reason for gaps is mental illness, and you may wish to finesse this. Then you need to show knowledge and interest in what they do and convince them you are a capable potential asset to their future.
Having had a very inconsistent resume myself, I would suggest you target smaller (startup?) companies where there is not an entrenched HR dept that controls all the hiring. Also are there temp manpower (staffing companies) folks who can help? My guess is that the next several years will be awash with temporary staffing.
But be upfront and honest. In some ways these tumultuous times inure to your benefit. Be proud of your accomplishments and have a clear reason for this pride. Good Luck
 
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  • #10
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Something important to know - it is normal to get a very low response rate applying cold to job ads. Some of those ads are for jobs that don't even exist. Some of them are ads for jobs whose occupant is decided on, and they're just going through the process for ceremony. Of the ones that are left, you will only get the occasional response, for reasons that should be obvious.

Targeting and networking helps, but isn't a cure. You've just got to get a lot of resumes out there. I don't know what your response rate was, but for a highly qualified individual with a very attractive resume in the DS/ML space, a 10% or less response rate is pretty normal. If you're entry level you need to send out hundreds of resumes.
 
  • #11
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As a side note, while pay is still very good for data science/machine learing/mlops folks, that's not the really hot market right now. It's data engineering that's the hot market right now. It might be worth giving that a quick spin.
 
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  • #12
StatGuy2000
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To the OP:

As far as opportunities in data science/machine learning field is concerned at this moment in Canada, if you do not have a degree program in one of the following -- statistics, computer science, certain engineering fields (e.g. electrical engineering, industrial engineering), applied mathematics, maybe physics -- it may be very difficult to break into the field.

In addition, there are further barriers if you are an immigrant to Canada, as employers in Canada value people with a strong command of either one of the official languages (English or French), and there is a perception (rightly or wrongly) that recent immigrants lack strong speaking skills. Some employers (who tend to be white Canadians) may also harbour racist views about immigrants which can be a barrier to seeking employment.

I'm not sure I can offer much in the way of advice, since given the situation we are in with the pandemic, it will be very difficult for you to find any type of employment in the immediate future if you don't already have extensive job experience. If you are getting calls from recruiters, take them, as they may be able to offer remote employment on contract. But be ready to possibly be unemployed for much of 2021.
 
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  • #13
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Recruiters are notoriously sloppy and unresponsive, but you should still respond to them. You don't lose anything by engaging with them and following up with them.

During my lay off, just about every recruiter I had a "meeting" with was in their pajamas and arrived about 20 minutes late, and then just disappeared. But, I still engaged with them. You never know.

Don't take it personally. I've been ghosted by more recruiters than I can count. That's what they do. They're sloppy.
 
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  • #14
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Yea, never forget the requirements necessary to become a recruiter - one must think to oneself "hey, I'm a recruiter". There are more than a few recruiters out there who have exactly that level of expertise in their field.

But there are some good ones. Find them and build that relationship.
 
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