There are times when the years spent doing bench work, attending lectures and teaching undergraduates gives the postdoctoral graduate the feeling that he or she has spent enough time in an academic setting. You may feel the attraction for a job in business’a job with the potential for a great income, intellectual challenge and the ability to use your skills in an area completely remote from academia. Still, you probably don’t want to waste the great education you have already acquired. The person who takes their PhD and enters the world of business is one who is unafraid of new challenges. It doesn’t always require that you get an MBA, although many who aspire toward business often take some courses in business to see if this is really the area in which they want to work. The best way to figure out what kind of jobs will be a good fit for you in the business world is to take a close look at the skill sets you’ve developed in academia, and work with your career counselor to find good matches for them in business.
So how do you identify your skills and turn them into a marketing tool for yourself? Check out the Skills Assessment and Identification tool that helps you break down the skills you have and how they transfer into the business environment. You begin by writing down the various jobs, training and avocations you’ve engaged in during your lifetime. You can include anything you’ve learned or done in the past—even the job that you had out of high school. Out of these activities come the various “Contact Skills” you have acquired by virtue of actually performing the previous jobs or activities you’ve done. These skills need to be specific to the job or activity you did. Secondly, you need to write down skills you’ve learned that are easily transferable to another job or vocation. For example, if you learned how to write grants as a research scientist, your skills as a writer and specifically, as a grant writer, can be transferred to any job that needs excellent writing skills. In grant writing, you would have learned marketing skills and market research as you’ve positioned your grant for maximum effectiveness with the granting organization. These are also transferable skills you can point out to your interviewer or in your resume. Thirdly, each activity or job you have undertaken required certain personal characteristics that made you uniquely qualified for the job or activity at which you were successful. These personal characteristics could be something like being a “logical thinker” or having “risk-taking traits”. When you really think about each activity you’ve done, a picture of the kind of person you really are will emerge and will help guide you toward the business or venture that best fits your personality.
Share the completed assessment with your counselor for help in fleshing it out. The completed Skills Assessment will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. They will help paint a picture of your assets as an employee and what you can uniquely bring to a business situation. Your counselor will be able to outline opportunities in the business world. In many cases, your best chances of finding satisfaction in the business world will be in areas you are the most comfortable with. For example, if you’ve done bench work for several years and have experience with the complexities of the equipment needed to perform this kind of work, you may want to consider working in after sales service for a company that sells high-end medical and scientific equipment. Many of these companies need people to help the purchaser/client understand how the equipment can work for them and what it takes to keep the equipment operational.
You may even have a sales focus in this type of position. If the client purchased the “basic model,” you could be in the best position to show them how a particular upgrade would benefit them. Another position could be that of regulatory affairs for a corporation that needs people who are comfortable with handling large amounts of data. As a scientist, your skills in data-handling would be ideal. In regulatory affairs, large amounts of data are needed to prove the efficacy of new medicines. When the regulators find problems in the data, they ask for new sets, which requires capable data handling. What you’re doing, in a sense, is using one of your transferable skills in handling data toward a career in a field you may never have thought related to what you’ve been doing in the past. Choosing a career in business often first involves a close self-examination—one that can be greatly aided with the help of your career counselor. The Bio Career Center Jobs Board is a great place to start looking for open positions. Once you have a firm idea of the jobs you’re after, you may want to go to interviews you aren’t completely interested in just for the practice of marketing yourself. In business, more than any other field, doing research on the company in advance is a must. If you go into an interview knowing your personality style, your career goals and your transferable skills set, you can actively market yourself as a valuable asset to any company.