Career planning

Moving from academia to industry

career planning
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A job in industry can offer academics an opportunity to see how their science is brought to the bedside. PhD-qualified scientists acquire a vast array of skills, such as innovative thinking or problem-solving, that can be applied to an industry position. But how can you make a successful move to industry from academia?

Before starting your job search you must ask yourself: “What motivates you? What activities do you enjoy most? What are your work values and skills in terms of the type of role or organisation that would be compatible with them?” It might sound a bit complicated, but it is actually a very efficient tool: depending on the skills you enjoy using can give clues to the types of future careers that may be of interest. That is why academic career consultant Sarah Blackford recommends PhD students and postdoctoral researchers receiving assistance from a professional careers advisor or using personal audit exercises to identify their key drivers and start to think about the kinds of careers which may suit them best.

“Your PhD graduation marks the end of a long educational journey; the pinnacle of an intellectual adventure built upon previous master’s and bachelor degree qualifications, diplomas and school certificates. But far from signalling the end of learning, your PhD badges you as a person of learning, someone who is highly skilled in using research to find answers to questions, reveal new ways of doing things and to discover novel innovations,” says Blackford on her blog. “For those who continually embrace new learning–or ‘personal and professional development’ as we in the careers advisory sector call it– an interesting and rewarding career with sustainable employment prospects is likely to lie ahead,” she adds.

For young researchers looking for a career shift, “another important factor in making informed decisions is being knowledgeable about the world of work. Much as being familiar with the research landscape is important for PhD students and postdocs, being familiar with employment opportunities, organisations, people and communities associated with different career sectors is essential in order to successfully access new careers,” highlights Blackford.

Building transferable skills

According to the career consultant, in order to be more strategic and purposeful in your job search, you should be aware of your skills as well as know which ones you would like to take forward into your new career. It is also important to be able to demonstrate your suitability to an employer in your CV: a key element for career planning and an essential document when making a career transition.

When it comes to job hunting, your CV is paramount. “No matter that you have excellent skills and experience, no matter that you are convinced this is the job for you. If you are not communicating your suitability and enthusiasm through the medium of your CV, you are likely to be de-selected from the application process at an early stage and will never even make it to the interview,” points out Blackford on her blog. Whether if you aim to stay in academia or leave it for an industrial career if you are thinking on improving your CV, do not miss out on 10 of the most important rules to follow to help you to promote yourself at your best in a CV and covering letter by Blackford.

After your CV is updated, it is time for networking. For that, the career consultant recommends researchers to “put their research skills to good use by investigating the career landscape: social media platforms, especially LinkedIn, are packed full of the kinds of information that will help you to network your way into new career communities.” Sarah Blackford’s advice and resources can be found on her blog:

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