Switching from a College Professor to Corporate Executive

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It’s not always easy to make the shift from the academic world to the corporate world. These worlds can be vastly different, requiring different things from their high-level counterparts. However, being a go-getter, it’s shouldn’t be difficult for you to make the shift from professor to executive if you so desire. It’s just a matter of feeling confident that you can get the job done on either side of the fence. But if you’re still not sure about how to do it, here are some tips to help you make the transition. Try a Functional Resume While some recruiters and employers dislike the functional resume because they feel it doesn’t tell the whole story, this is still a good route to take when making a shift from the academic to corporate world. You are essentially changing industries, which means while there will be some basic skills that you will be able to translate from one career to the other, when it comes down to specific experience, you may be lacking some. With a functional resume, you will be able to place the majority of the resume’s focus on how you are specifically aligned with the executive position you are going after. Even if your experience isn’t vast, you should have knowledge of managing others, calculating figures, managing a budget of sorts (especially if you moved up to department head) and even projecting outcomes. The more you take corporate terms and align them with your academic experience, the better your chances will be of proving that you are the right person for the position you want. Make Your Accomplishment Statements Strong In your resume, there will be opportunities to spell out your accomplishments. It is extremely important that you use every chance you have to make your accomplishment statements as strong as possible. You could merely discuss the responsibilities you were handed as a college professor, but you know more than anyone that you would never allow your students to get away with this. So instead, this is the time to talk about what you’ve actually accomplished. How do you get this done? As mentioned in the previous section, you want to look for all of your experiences that align well with the position you want to acquire. If you’ve been a board committee lead, this is a good time to not just say you led a committee, but say exactly what you accomplished on the committee (talk about the committee’s hardships, how you helped pull it through, how many people you led, what goals you had and how you fulfilled them). You want to dig as deeply as possible to explain why you’re a good fit for the prospective position. Again, being a professor and future executive, there’s no excuse for you not putting your best foot forward. Probably one of the most difficult aspects of making the switch from one industry to another is being so settled in your current field that you have no clear perspective of how you can make a difference in a new industry. But this is the time to explore this side of yourself, because if you don’t know who you are, there’s no way that you can successfully sell yourself as a professor turned executive.

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  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Thanks for the comment, Christopher. You've really summed up the big challenge facing professors who want to venture into the corporate world. Although daunting, it's not impossible. The key is to really market yourself by having an amazing cover letter that explains why you're making the switch and what you have to offer. While you're right that many Applicant Tracking software programs might pass on a resume, you won't have to worry about this with job leads found through really great networking. One of the strengths a professor typically has is a really strong and diverse professional network. Use it to your advantage!
  • Christopher Brown-Syed
    Christopher Brown-Syed
    Encouraging advice.  However, another drawback lies in the fact that just becoming a university professor involves about 6 years at the doctoral student level, and another 6 years of probation once you're hired at the assistant professor level. That's twelve years out of industry, in a culture that respects only theory and research, not practice. You're apt to be rusty. With most HR departments using computers and specific screening questions, I doubt many professors would even get the chance to demonstrate those transferrable skills, having been weeded out on the first pass. The software uses checkboxes that ask things like, "do you have at least five years of recent management experience in X". Even questions like "who was your supervisor or manager in your last job" are meaningless in academia, where department chairs are usually elected by their colleagues, and would probably rather be doing research in the first place, and where even junior faculty serve on hiring committees. Perhaps a good job for an ex-prof would be HR? But no, there's probably a checkbox asking about certifications for HR. Sigh. Best stay within the ivory towers.

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