Transitioning from Academia to Industry

Justin Brown

There are a lot of reasons why someone might want to get out of academia and start looking to get into an industry job. Whether you found out too late that the life of an academic wasn’t for you or you’re just trying to get out of an environment that isn’t the right fit, there are lots of job options for someone with an advanced degree. While the transition between two very different environments can be difficult, being a PhD student or postdoc can be a huge advantage when it comes to looking for a job in the industry. You’ve already shown you can handle stress and can be productive at a high level, and these are things that recruiters look for. If you’re attempting to get an industry job that is relevant to your previous field of study, you get the bonus that all of those papers you wrote and experiments you performed are an added wealth of experience to your future employer. Take a sales job at a company that works directly with PIs and grad students just like you, they want smart, talented people that know how to talk to those PIs and grad students, people that can speak at a high level about all the moving parts involved in the lab. Who better to speak to them than a former academic?

If you’re still unsure whether you want to stay in the academic world or move into the industry one, you should try to work more closely with your lab’s industry contacts. Get to know them and ask them what their experiences are. There’s probably a good chance that some of them used to be in academia themselves, making them one of the best resources you can find for some advice not only on how to get an industry job, but whether or not it is the right decision for you.

Once you’ve made the decision to get out of academia the next step will be breaking into the industry and starting the job search. This can be very different than looking for postdoc positions and applying to PhD programs, while your papers and academic accomplishments are still important, industry recruiters want to know other things about you too. They need to see if you can fit into the company culture and that you have other experience outside of academia. You should definitely give your CV/resume a complete tune-up for each industry position you apply for. Research the company, see if you can tell what it is they value in an employee based on their website, social media, and history, then you can tailor your resume to stand out. This may mean trimming down your list of publications and the like, but it is still important to at least note these accomplishments, you worked hard for them! Once you do manage to break into an industry job, even if it’s not exactly what you were looking for, gaining that experience will help you move up and work towards that dream job.

Written by Justin Brown

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