Thursday, November 5, 2015
After an increasing demand on career advice from my friends and colleagues I have decided to write this article that I hope can be useful for some of the people who wish to transition after completion of their PhD straight to the non-academic world. In this article I would like to describe my own personal experience in the search for a dream job. I would like to state right away that I was not interested in working as a scientist in the industry (start-ups included), neither to pursue an academic career or create my own company. So I have tried to make a summary of my activities and the steps I undertook to nail a position of Innovation and Development Manager for a non-profit organization.
1. Identify what you want to do after your PhD. This is the hardest and the most crucial step among all of them. You have to know exactly what position you want to apply to, because once you have that figured out, you will need to develop the skills required for that job. But how can you find out about multiple career opportunities out there? That is an easy one. There are multiple career events organized on campus all the time: career fairs, seminars organized by pharmaceutical or consulting companies. Find something that inspires you. Go to all of these meeitngs, meet people, ask questions and try to learn as much as you can about their jobs. Learn about pros and cons of their jobs and identify what would you like to do after your PhD. When I still had 2 years left of my PhD I have decided that I am absolutely not interested in quality control, clinical trials, regulatory affairs or everything linked to intellectual property. However I was interested in marketing, scientific communication, project management, business intelligence and consulting. That is still a very big list which I managed to narrow down further on. However I had a clear idea of the things I did not want to do and that was already something.
2. Acquire the necessary skills and education. Unless you want to continue a scientific career, skills developed during your PhD are not enough for any job outside academia. Therefore after you have identified what job you would like to apply to, learn about the required skills. You can either read about them on the internet or simply look for the job adverts. If this is really something you want, you will have to invest in your education, and not only time, but money. It is hard to combine additional webinars and courses with a PhD, but this is something you will have to do. Go to a project management course, learn how to work with SAP software, subscribe to a course on intellectual property, scientific writing, regulatory affairs or clinical trials (most of them you can find on-line), learn new languages or prepare for the interviews in consulting companies. It is a very tough world out there, the desired qualifications are often extremely high and keep in mind that you are competing with people who already have a business degree and work experience, which makes it even harder. There are a lot of courses on campus or seminars organized for PhD students for a reduced price. Profit from them while you are here! As for myself, I have obtained a degree in management and attended seminars on drug discovery and intellectual property while doing my PhD. I went to workshops and seminars organized by McKinsey, Roche and other companies all over Europe and participated in different scientific communication campaigns. I have learnt many useful things and connected with a lot of people. As I was interested in scientific communication, I have also started a blog. This is a great way to improve your writing and learn to communicate scientific topics to wide public. Do not forget to notify your social network about current updates on your blog in case you start one. Another very important point is finding out how you can enter a desired field. For instance, there are existing training programs in pharmaceutical companies in intellectual property or regulatory affairs. On the other hand, you can nail a position in consulting straight after your PhD. There are many options and your goal is to learn about the ones that are interesting for you.