The things that helped me move outside academia.

When you're in academia, as a grad student or a post-doc (or probably even as a PI, but I wouldn't know that), it is sometimes hard to envision what things you can do outside academia. When looking for a post-doc, it's pretty easy to look up other academic labs, see who works there, see what papers they have, etc. Most labs have websites that nicely list what they work on. Companies on the other hand, rarely have websites like that. Sure, they have slick looking websites saying what they make or do, but it's usually impossible to see who works there and what their jobs entail. So then how do you figure out if you could work there and in what kind of job? Here are a couple things that helped me find my job outside academia*:

Be among others looking for jobs: often, looking for a job outside academia can feel lonely: you cannot always tell your PI about it, and it may feel like you're the first and only one doing it. A couple years into my post-doc, my PI decided to leave academia. This meant for many people in the lab that they would be without a job within a limited amount of time. After the initial panic had faded, the lab turned into a little factory of people looking for jobs: people checked each other's CVs and resumes, talked about what kind of jobs would be an option and talked about how to get informational interviews and actual interviews. At that time, I wasn't actively looking for a job outside academia, I still had some time on my PIs grant, and I was planning to do another post-doc in the homecountry after that. But I listened to what everyone said, and most importantly: all of a sudden finding a job outside academia was a thing that around me did. If you're not in a lab that is disintegrating, find these people elsewhere: on twitter for example, or at events aimed at finding jobs outside academia.

Find examples of jobs on LinkedIn: as I said above, it is often hard to see from the outside what kind of jobs you can do. Or the other way around: what does it mean when somebody is "Regulatory affairs manager"? On LinkedIn, it can be helpful to look up companies you want to work for, and then see what the job titles are that people have in that company. Google what they mean and then figure out what you need to do to become that.

Informational interviews: when you have identified jobs you might want, find out if you have somebody in your network who has that job - or works for a company where you'd see yourself working. Approach them and ask for an informational interview. This may sound easier said than done, but in my experience people are usually very willing to explain to you what they do and how they got there.

Ask for help with your CV/resume: here, I was very privileged in that a family-member worked for a company in the same field as the one I was applying to, and in that way, they were very skilled in helping me perfect my CV. In addition, a couple tweeps were very helpful in improving my CV.

Just start somewhere: probably the best advice I read on twitter is that the next job doesn't have to be THE job: once you're somewhere, new opportunities and paths will follow.

*This list is in no way meant to be exhaustive, it is my limited experience in finding a job in industry. For much more advice, Biochem Belle is curating a list with all sorts of advice on finding a job outside academia.

One response so far

  • Christina Pikas says:

    I second your point about jobs on LinkedIn. My current job had a strange and uninformative title and write up. I couldn't tell what the person was supposed to *do*.... but... the employer was a good one and it required a specific degree (MLS) so I applied. It turned out to be a pretty traditional special librarian job (at first). So I would suggest people not get hung up on the title too much.

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