How many manuscripts do you think lay somewhere on a shelf - half-written and abandoned by people who have no time anymore* to write them because they have left academia? How much data goes to waste because it will never appear in a manuscript after people leave?
I want to get these papers published** but at the moment I have no clue when to get that done.
*Yeah, it's weird but outside of academia people are busy too.
**Yes, we can argue about how much I need to do this, but right now I am still under the impression that it is useful enough to sacrifice free time for this.
In academia, it's usually pretty clear: there are technicians, grad students, post-docs and professors of different ranks (or similar jobs with slightly different names, depending on where you are in the world). And especially with grad students, post-docs and professors, they usually have increasing numbers of papers and an increasing age with rank. It is usually very clear who is more senior than who, and the person in charge usually has the highest number of important publications. In addition, as a grad student or post-doc, you usually only have meetings with people that are either higher in hierarchy (your PI) or lower (a summer student for example). It is usually very easy to figure out what the hierarchy is.
How different is this in industry! (and I know different companies may be structured very differently, so this may or may not be true for all types of industry). Here, my team leader may have less publications than me. Or more. Some of the other scientists don't have PhDs but they do have a lot more knowledge about industry-related things than me. And most of the meetings I have are with people that are similar in hierarchy. The first couple of times I found this very puzzling. It was almost like some mismatch signal going off in my brain when I couldn't figure out if the person was more senior or junior than me. Of course it doesn't matter, but it did make me realize how much the whole hierarchy in academia becomes ingrained in our system.
Way back when I was a grad student who had just started, I went to a career symposium that the homecountry scientific organization organized. It was before it was okay to say that you wanted to leave academia after your defense, so most of it was about manuscript and grant writing, creative thinking, networking and that kind of stuff, but of course a lot of those things are very transferable. I don't remember much of it, but I do remember one very important lesson: "If you want something (i.e. a job), tell as many people as possible, so they know what you want".
This may just be the simplest advice you have ever read, but it is important to keep in the back of your head. If you have a dream, don't keep it to yourself, but share it with whoever you're talking to - as scary as that may seem at first. Because how can people hire you if they don't know that you want the job? How can you use someone's network if you don't know they have these connections? I'm sure many people are willing to help others in their career, as long as they know that that is what you want.
Around the same time I started my new job, 2 other scientists started working there, and we found that the common denominator in us getting these jobs was the fact that we had already had informational interviews and probably the recruitment people got our CVs through multiple channels. So again, telling people that you want the job seems very important.
I think the only people in the world who don't really need this advice are toddlers, who already take it to heart on a daily basis (I WANT ICECREAM NOW!!!!). I guess the rest of our lives should be dedicated to learning how to ask things in a way that doesn't annoy those around us...
This week I started working with a company. I'm a scientist, doing neuro-related things in an R&D setting. I'm going to stay pseudonymous here, so I'm not going to share many more details. I do have some observations to share:
- the average age of people who work here is a lot higher than in academia. Many of the scientists here moved into industry after a PhD and a post-doc (abroad).
- there are many more organizational layers than in academia. The top people get their information through many filtering steps from the people below them.
- I get to work on a range of topics, which I am really excited about. I'm not sure yet if the downside of that is that I won't be able to go into as much depth as I would like. Time will tell.
- this week, while I was reading a billion papers, I missed the ability to go into the lab to add some variety to my day. There are labs, I'm just not the person to do things in them here. On the other hand, in academia I would probably be in the lab for just a few more years too.
- nobody has used the word 'optogenetics' or 'CRISPR' (yet).
- we work in a very open office-type of setting. With flexible work places -which adds a very interesting dynamic, comparable to a hotel swimming pool with limited beds where people put their towel down at 8 am to secure a bed for the afternoon. This also means that procrastinating by blogging or tweeting is not as much as option as it used to be when I was a post-doc.