Finally! You finished collecting and analyzing data from your experiments. It means you will soon be busy writing your manuscript. Deep down inside, you feel satisfied that you will have at least one publication in the pipeline.
In your mind, you are ready to take the next step and apply for your dream job. But, you still have a huge question mark about whether your publication, skills and background as an academic postdoc are enough to beat your competition for industry work.
Below are some useful tips to help you enter an industry job from academia:
Be Honest with Your Supervisor
Ask your supervisor or mentor how he or she can help you obtain your dream job (Jensen, 2016). Put it on your agenda, so you remember to discuss it with your supervisor.
Be More Selective
If possible, choose research projects that bring you closer to get a job in industry (Jensen, 2016). For example, you might want to consider the types of projects that produce a product that will need marketed and patented. Your involvement with a patented product will definitely look good on your resume, particularly if you are interested in joining an industry R&D team as a research scientist. It will also be useful for you to learn the newest research techniques that are of interest to industry scientists.
Otherwise, you may choose collaborative research projects between your mentor and scientists from industry. This collaboration could help develop important soft skills in the areas of communication, project management, leadership and teamwork. It may also help you to network and get your name on their radar.
Networking to Open Your Path
Never underestimate the power of networking (Jensen, 2016). During a professional meeting—even if you’d rather sit quietly with your laptop—you should introduce yourself to a company representative, show what you know about the company, ask some questions (such as its products, working culture, employment, and history), and listen carefully to show your interest.
Networking is also useful when there is a new job opening at a company. When a current employee of a company thinks you will be a good fit for a new job opening, he or she may inform you about it. This employee may give you more details and direction about the requirements of the position and the hiring manager.In addition to professional meetings, LinkedIn is also a good way to make connections with employees from industry. LinkedIn also lets you easily search and apply for industry jobs.
Start Searching for a Job before Your Funding Runs Dry
Even if you think your professor has a lot of time before he pulls you into his office to have the ‘end of your funding’ talk, it’s never too early to search for a job (Jensen, 2016). It usually takes a while for a company to review applications and candidates, finish interviewing candidates, make decisions, perform a background check, and inform you about the decision.
You may explore a potential job for PhD level scientists by searching a job from websites, such as HigherEd, Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn, and job recruiters.
Below are some examples of potential careers in industry you may want to check out:
- Research Scientist
General responsibilities: designing, developing, and executing research experiments.
General preferred skills: technical skills and knowledge in biology, biochemistry, or related field of study; multitasking; teamwork; meeting deadlines; research experience; research writing experience; research publication experience; and good verbal, written and interpersonal communication skills.
- Laboratory Manager/Team Lead
General responsibilities: performing laboratory duties as assigned, managing a laboratory team and checking inventory. They also often perform research and train new employees.
Common preferred skills: technical skills and knowledge in biology or biochemistry, good communication skills, multitasking, good laboratory practices and regulatory compliance.
- Regulatory Affairs Specialist
General responsibilities: providing regulatory guidance, creating and compiling regulatory documents for submissions, maintenance, and relevant regulatory filings.
Common preferred skills: experience and background in a scientific field of study; good negotiation skills; good verbal, written, and interpersonal communication skills.
- Medical Writer
General responsibilities: preparing, editing, and finalizing brochures, synopses, regulatory documents, and clinical documents.
Common preferred skills: medical or life science background, good regulatory document writing and review skills, and interpersonal skills.
- Science Writer
General responsibilities: planning, writing, editing, and submitting proposals, progress reports, scientific manuscripts and other forms of scientific communications.
Common preferred skills: life science background, experience in writing research publications, critical thinking, literary research, proofreading, and editing.
To find out about more alternative career paths, check out “10 Alternatives to Completing a Postdoctoral Fellowship and Entering Academia after Graduation.”
Start Updating and Evaluating Your Resume
After doing thorough research on a particular industry career you are interested in, quickly update your resume. Evaluate your resume to check if you can learn new techniques, obtain appropriate licenses/certificates, or add specific skills and knowledge—anything useful to improve your chance of getting the industry job.
Keep in mind every job posting is different. Each posting will have different needs and different skill requirements, even if the job title is the same. Therefore, it’s important to tailor your resume for each job you’re applying for. Furthermore, consider the skills and elements of the job description as keywords. Use those keywords in your resume to help hiring managers and HR representatives move you forward.
Getting your foot into industry isn’t hard. It just takes a little bit of preparation, creativity and patience.
Jensen, D.G. (2016). A transition from postdoc to industry. Science | AAAS. https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2016/11/transit...
Searls, D. B. (2009). Ten Simple Rules for Choosing between Industry and Academia. PLoS Computational Biology, 5(6), e1000388.
Powell, K. (2018). How to sail smoothly from academia to industry. Nature, 555(7697), 549–551.