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Translation of academic experience into business language (opinion)


It has become a cliché to say to postgraduates and PhDs who are leaving higher education translate their academic experience in terms of business and industry employers will understand. This is often presented as the first step transformation academic resume in resume.

Such advice is valid. However, few people who drop it appreciate the monumental challenge this translation poses to graduate students and PhD students, especially those who have spent most of their adult lives so far in the cocoon of an academic cult and who may never have written a book in their lives. non-academic summary.

To translate means to overcome the language barrier. Academics are advised to translate from their native language – let’s call it “academese” – into the language of the country they want to enter, or “businessese”.

But how do you translate into a language they’ve never spoken that comes from a country they’ve rarely visited? How can you talk about the wants and needs of non-academic employers, with whom they practically do not interact?

PhDs and PhDs are often told that because of their writing and teaching experience, they have a strong communication skills. This is true in a narrow sense – that they are fluent in their native disciplinary dialect of academic language.

But business is another language. It has its own unwritten rules, its tacit assumptions and cultural norms, its criteria for effective communication. The difference between academics and business people is a profound lesson that too many academic expats learn the hard way: through broken phone screens, wallpapers of rejected resumes and the eerie silence of an empty inbox a week after the last round of interviews.

Translator from academic to business

This table is designed to make the translation process as easy as possible. It is designed to help graduate students, PhDs, and anyone leaving higher education begin to overcome the academic/business language barrier. This can be especially useful for writing a non-academic resume, creating a LinkedIn profile, or formulating answers to common interview questions.


In a business way

I wrote a dissertation, published a book, or conducted some other major research project.

  • Conducted a multi-year research project that resulted in an X-page dissertation/book and numerous public presentations at national and international conferences.
  • Managed concurrent, long-term research objectives and synthesized them into a large-scale research report.
  • Responsible for all phases of content production and optimization, including planning, information gathering, writing, reviewing, editing and final approval.
  • Communicate effectively with stakeholders and cross-functional X, Y and Z teams.

I have been published in academic journals.

  • Published X articles in peer-reviewed journals while balancing multiple priorities under tight deadlines.
  • Conducted research and reported key findings and insights to subject matter experts.

I received scholarships, grants or awards.

  • Secured over $X in funding from home institution as well as multiple international organizations.
  • Produced high-level reviews of research projects. Summarized the key details of the project while articulating the broader implications for various organizations and stakeholders.

I spoke at conferences.

  • Organized X panels and made Y public presentations at national and international conferences.
  • Effectively communicated complex ideas to diverse audiences, including native English speakers.

I taught or assisted in courses.

  • Guided X students through Y sections of the course. Learning goals are tracked and criteria for assessing student success are developed.
  • More than X lectures of one hour each on a wide range of topics are planned and presented, conveying complex ideas to diverse audiences with varying degrees of training and familiarity with the subject materials.
  • Increased course retention by X percent over a Y-month period.
  • Exceeding college averages for content comprehension and overall student satisfaction by X percent. (Course grades can help quantify this.)
  • Graded more than X assignments and provided critical feedback.
  • He expressed complex ideas to students clearly and diplomatically. Continuous constructive feedback on assignments is provided, resulting in improved writing and analysis.
  • Coordinated assistants and conducted midterm and final exams.
  • Conducted games, debates and other interactive and entertaining educational activities.

I have developed my own courses or programs.

  • Developed and conducted face-to-face and distance courses. Designed exam and essay tasks to assess students’ understanding and critical thinking.
  • Developed appropriate learning activities based on course requirements and learning objectives.
  • A proposed and agreed structural review of university programs covering X course sections per year, ensuring Y percent course occupancy.
  • Collaborated with faculty and department chair to redesign the program’s core survey course, which was taken by more than X students.

I taught, worked with students, or helped them in some other capacity.

  • Mentored students to significantly increase overall course grades by X percent.
  • Supervised a class of X students during an intensive Y-week summer session consisting of over Z hours of instruction.
  • Coached and mentored student/faculty liaisons and coached students for professional success.
  • Conducted X hours of training through e-learning and learning management systems (Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas, D2L, etc.).

I was a department head, graduate student liaison, or other admin role.

  • X served in Y department at Z university.
  • Help increase student enrollment/retention/completion by X percent over a Y-month period.

These bullets are meant to be imported into the Experience section of the resume. However, they are not set in stone. If you’re using this chart to write your resume, adapt each bullet to your circumstances as well as the jobs you’re applying for.

Begin each line with a strong action verb, ideally one that conveys some kind of improvement: “enlarged,” “exceeded,” “remade,” and so on. Add numbers wherever possible: student learning, funding received, percent improvement, and the like. The numbers provide a concrete measure of professional achievement. If you don’t have exact numbers handy, make a guess.

You can expand on or combine many of these points into a STAR story that will unfold during the non-academic interview. If you are not familiar with the STAR method, an interviewing technique that provides a format for telling a story by describing a situation, task, action, and outcome, see This article. STAR is by far the most common method of structured interviewing. If you want to break into business and industry, always keep two or three STAR stories in your back pocket.

In summary, at all stages of the job search – resume writing, interviewing and beyond – it is essential to translate academic experience into business and industry value. Effective communication requires more than just writing and public speaking skills. This requires the ability to address the audience in their native language, using familiar terms to articulate their wants and needs, while addressing the tacit assumptions and cultural norms behind everything said. Translating there is possible and experience is the best teacher. This table is intended as a starting point only.

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