A guest post by Susan Hsiong, PhD
You worked hard as a lab rat for the past several years and you’re eager to move on to the next step. However, the transition from academia to industry is a tricky one. Companies are often wary of hiring someone fresh out of grad school without any industrial experience. Industrial R&D is very different from academic research (product and timeline driven) and they’re not sure how well you’ll make that transition. You may be able to do quality research but how well will you contribute to their objectives and bottom-line? I’ve been told again and again that the first industrial job is often the most difficult to obtain. However, once you’ve gotten some industrial experience under your belt, it’s much easier to find the company and position that you want.
Below, I have provided some links that were useful during my own job search, as well as some of the best advice I got.
- This is by far the best way to find a job. I heard that statistically, about 65% of people get their jobs via their contacts.
- Ask people you know, people you meet at networking events, pretty much everyone you know if they know people in the industry/company you’re looking to work in.
- Extend your network with professional sites like LinkedIn.
University Career Centers
- Find out about career fairs, employer info sessions
- Get feedback on resumes, cover letters
- Guidance on job search process
- Access to resources (links, books, etc.)
Job Search Websites
- Biospace (best one)
- Professional Organizations/Society websites (AiChE, BMES, SFB, AWIS, etc.)
- Local biotechnology associations (see Biotech Gateways in Blogroll)
- Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development (Toby Freedman, October 2007, Cold Spring Harbor Press)
Career Fairs (especially those listed on Biospace)
- Society for Biomaterials, Materials Research Society, etc. Many conferences sponsor career fairs, student-industry mixers or job boards.
Best advice I got
- Network, network, network – you can start at business networking sites like LinkedIn (and don’t stop networking once you get a job, these contacts will be important throughout your career).
- Start early! The job search process can take an average of 4 – 6 months so start sending out resumes, attending career fairs and networking months before you finish. The sooner you start, the better your chances are of securing a job straight out of grad school. And of course, it’s all about luck and timing.
- Be informed about the company you are interviewing with. Go to the interview prepared and informed about their products, their competitors, and their position in the marketplace.
- Many people from industry want a results-oriented resume, which may be a bit difficult for those straight out of academia. Try to make your resume results-oriented (patents, collaborations, publications, and presentations).
- Don’t assume that the company/group will automatically see the connection between your background and their technical wishlist. Help them make that connection and discuss how you can contribute to their group/project, etc.
- At the end of the interview, ask “How well do you think I fit this position”? This gives you a sense of how well they see you as a “fit” and allow you to address any concerns directly.
The job hunt is a scavenger hunt. You have to keep searching and you’ll learn new things along the way (new resources, contacts, potential companies). Each step will bring you closer to the end result. Be patient and persistent, and hopefully all that work will lead you to the golden egg (that coveted job offer).
If you have any additional resources or bits of advice, please leave them as comments to this post.