FWIW, a career coach or service can be very helpful if you're really struggling. Julie Clarenbach and Jo Van Every are post-academics who work as career coaches for post-academics! They have a couple e-courses as well.
Versatile PhD is our #1 favorite go-to catch-all source for career issues after academia. There is far more knowledge and support there than we can offer here.
(Post)Gradland is an ex-academic who ended up on a job search committee for her web content company that hired a PhD for a non-academic position and had this to say about the materials they received:
Academics, especially those of us in the humanities, have a tendency to ramble. This does not go over well in the private sector. It’s likely that the person reviewing your resume is someone like me, who is not a professional resume-reviewer and has maybe 15-20 minutes a day to devote to reading resumes and cover letters. I received one application from someone who had excellent qualifications but had written a five-page cover letter, much of it containing irrelevant information. This immediately gave me a bad impression of the person–simply put, I don’t want to be working long hours with someone who takes forever to get to the point. Your cover letter shouldn’t be longer than a page.
This excellent post from Leaving Academia summarizes the many fears we face when we start to consider a non-academic job search, and offers a lot of practical wisdom as you make this transition. Here's a taste:
You also developed other practical and marketable skills in your academic life. For example, you didn’t only write a Master’s thesis, course papers, or a doctoral dissertation. You also managed large volumes of information, established a data-storage system (both electronic and hard copy), and edited manuscript copy. You were a creative thinker, you adapted and navigated your way around unanticipated barriers (of the intellectual variety), and saw projects through to completion. You worked independently but consulted others for their expertise. And don’t forget all those “soft skills” that a PhD helps you cultivate:
- you are a master/mistress of time management and meeting deadlines
- you have superior organizational skills
- you learn things quickly and grasp complex ideas easily
- you are disciplined, motivated, and a self-starter
- you enjoy a challenge
Once you learn how to articulate your transferable skills, you will be able to explain in a job interview how well your background – graduate school and all – prepared you for the line of work described in the job ad.
The long and short of all of these sites is that yes, you do have skills that are valuable. The trick will be articulating how your background in academia prepared you for the specific tasks and duties of the specific job you're looking at. Good luck! And check out our other articles about the career transition after academia.