For those of you who will be in the NYC area on October 2nd, this is a great opportunity to learn more about the process of getting a startup funded. Registration is free and refreshments will be served.
By Adam Ruben
I never wanted to do a post-doctoral fellowship. Despite the title of my book, Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School, there was a lot I liked about grad school. And a post-doc just sounded like everything I hated about grad school (long hours, low pay, no respect, no defined end date) and none of the parts I liked (classes, teaching opportunities, camaraderie with classmates, beer).
But in my field, Molecular Biology, it’s practically a given that you’ll either (a) do a post-doc or (b) abandon the field entirely and live on an art commune in Montana. Granted, there are different kinds of post-docs—academic post-docs, industrial post-docs—but every research job seemed to require an additional 2-6 years beyond the Ph.D., toiling at the bench 12 hours a day, the only reward being an annual salary of $30,000 instead of $26,000.
I started asking everyone I knew: “Is there a way to...skip the post-doc?” It was like asking whether I could skip brushing my teeth. Yes, um, technically, I could do it—but I’d only be hurting myself.
As graduation neared, I found a job at a small biotech company, where I’ve now worked for more than five years. The company was small enough, they told me, that they couldn’t really hire me as a post-doc because I’d be the only post-doc at the company. So they’d hire me under the ambiguous but not-a-post-doc title “Scientist,” and hey presto, I skipped the post-doc.
Don’t get me wrong; I can certainly see the value of a post-doctoral fellowship. It’s a transitional time to develop the necessary skills you’ll need as a scientist—overseeing your own project, learning important research techniques, writing grants, and, most importantly, familiarizing yourself enough with an entire field to identify the next problems that need to be solved.
But I’m still secretly glad I didn’t do one.
The third episode of the PhD Career Guide PODCAST is now up and available for download from iTunes, Stitcher, and many other podcast directories. You may also listen to the episode directly on the PODCAST page!
This episode features Dr. Brian Gallagher, partner at the venture capital firm SR One, which is the independent corporate venture capital arm of GlaxoSmithKline. Given his varied background that spans multiple fields within pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, his insights are especially valuable to anyone who might be considering a career on the business side of either big pharmaceutical or small biotechnology companies.
As always, please consider helping out by leaving a positive iTunes review and spreading the word by telling your friends and colleagues.
By Dora Farkas, PhD
I have been working in industry for a few years now, and students ask me the same question that I was struggling with during my job search: “How can I get a job in industry if I don’t have industry experience?” Like many other students, I had my heart set on an academic career path when I was in college. I spent my undergraduate summers working in the labs of a Nobel Laureate, and I went straight to graduate school after my Bachelors. As an enthusiastic first-year student I set out to learn everything I could about my field to prepare myself for a faculty position. Within a few years, however, it became clear that the academic job market was, to put it mildly, saturated. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies were springing up in my area looking to hire bright young minds. There was only one problem: all job descriptions required prior industry experience.
The reality is that employers prefer that you have industry experience, but if you have the right skills for the job, you have a good chance of getting an interview, and maybe even an offer. I was a postdoc for three and a half years. I did not have any industry experience, but towards the end of my postdoc I received several phone calls from recruiters. I was also active in professional societies, and I followed up over email with potential employers a few times a year. My networking efforts paid off and I got calls from my industry contacts for recent job openings. When there is an opening in industry, employers need someone fast. Timelines and budgets are tight, and the sooner they can hire someone the faster they can meet their goals. Even more important, they need the right person. The right person does not only know science well, but he or she has leadership qualities. If you are a PhD in industry, there is a good chance you will have direct reports, so employers will screen for candidates who have demonstrated that they can lead research projects. If you have not held leadership positions in research, be sure to emphasize in your application how you contributed intellectually to the development of your thesis, any mentoring experience (e.g. teaching assistant, training younger graduate students) as well as any officer positions in student organizations.
Whether you are just out of academia, or you have been out of the workforce for some time, here are some ways you can set yourself apart from other candidates:
Yes, getting a job is a full-time job. If you have the right skills, by all means apply to jobs even if you do not have industry experience. Most importantly, tailor your CV and cover letters to the employer, and emphasize what value you are bringing to the company. Why are you the solution to their problem? Think like the hiring manager: if you had 30 seconds to look over the CV, what would you want to see? Important information has to be easily visible. Applications can take days to put together. If you cookie-cut them, they will end up in the recycling bin. In your cover letter (and any email correspondence you have with potential employers and networking contacts), focus on what the company needs and how you can help them.
The following excellent books have even more ideas for landing a job in this tough market:
Dora Farkas received her Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering and her Ph.D. in Toxicology from MIT. She is currently a Senior Scientist in AbbVie Bioresearch Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. Dora is the author “The Smart Way to Your Ph.D.:200 Secrets from 100 Graduates,” and the founder of Grad School Net, an online community for graduate students and PhDs. You will find links to her book, monthly newsletters, Q&A columns and blogs on her site, www.gradschoolnet.org
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