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How to Transition from the world of Academia to a Career in Industry

Last week, our Founder, Elena Kyria, partnered with Melika Sarem, Pre-Clinical Development Manager and Founding Team Member at ReLive Therapeutics, to address some of the most frequently asked questions on transitioning from the world of academia to industry. Here are the highlights.

What comes to your mind when people talk about transition from academia to the industry?

It’s a difficult transition! We have young people who take up various areas of Science and want to make their mark in ground-breaking research by following an Undergraduate, Masters, PhD and even Post Doctorate route. But this space comes in with tight competition and it’s challenging to obtain government funding for your research – the success rate is between 15-20% in Europe.

So, they decide to move to industry. Moving into industry is great – it offers stability, better pay, a good career progression, and an opportunity to put all the technical skills you picked up during research into practical use in a new context.

But oftentime, they find trying to bridge this academia/experience gap demanding.

What are the points that students need to consider when they are planning to make “The Move”?

Here’s the primary difference between academia and the industry: Academia is all about knowledge, research, learning, and subject expertise. On the other hand, you have industry – what matters most here is your EXPERIENCE. I think you should anticipate a little of the end in mind, and sort of build your career portfolio with industry experience parallel to your research, so that the transition is smooth for you later.

For example, you can do an internship of 3 or 6 months in the industry during academic breaks or try to integrate your research with industry work. Just try to get some hands-on experience irrespective of the type of role. Because, what matters in the end is what you are bringing to the table.

What are the key features of a successful job application?

The best advice I can give for applications is always apply for the right kind of roles. I usually see applications where a candidate with no experience is applying for a role that needs a high level of experience, this is really just a waste of time. Try to branch out your search by applying for a variety of roles, but at the right seniority level.

For example, don’t only apply to R&D entry level roles. Instead, you can apply for clinical, quality, regulatory but always at the entry-level. When you apply at entry level, companies will be more willing to hire and train you on the job – that’s the purpose of an entry level role.

How to make a CV/Resume stand out

Target your CV and Cover Letter for the roles you are applying. And make sure that it’s crisp; 1-2 pages should do. If you have a lot of publications that you want to list, you could add it as a separate attachment or at the end of your CV.

The first half of your first page of CV is critical. It should hold all the key points that you want to highlight with respect to the job you are applying for. Most recruiters will decide about the relevancy of the candidate from this first half itself.

Should you put a photo in a CV?

We remove pictures from CV, because we believe in removing bias from the selection process. It also takes up a lot of space. I believe that your key skills and experience section adds more value to your CV than a picture would.

What are some common red flags you would observe in a CV?

Inconsistencies like dates not matching up is certainly a red flag. Then you have basic silly mistakes like spelling and grammar errors, that really glare out when you look at a CV and create a poor impression and attention to detail.

Also, I want to emphasize again that your CV should tell me you are targeting the same job that you have applied for. Don’t apply for a role in regulatory and have the Objective section on your CV say: Looking for a role in R&D. This gives the impression that you are spamming your CV to every role.

Tips about cover letters

This is a very interesting question! I’ve conducted a personal survey and found that 70% of Hiring managers and recruiters look at a candidate’s CV first. This should tell you that you must make all your key arguments in your CV.

This makes your cover letter the closing argument to seal that deal. Try to make sure that you can answer these three questions here –

    • Why this company?
    • Why this specific role?
    • Why you?

You need to express what value you are going to bring to the table, rather than what you are expecting to get from the company.

How to impress a recruiter during an interview?

The crux lies in a clear understanding of your selling points and your value. Do you have a clear 2 minute introduction?

Lot of people in academia are under the impression that having a network would lead to finding jobs more successfully, than through the traditional approach of sending out applications. Do you think this is true?

Also, could you tell us how we can use social media when we are job hunting?

Networking is critical in that it allows you to explore and uncover opportunities that are not advertised. The connection gives you the benefit of facing less competition, and moreover, the trust factor helps you get your foot through the door!

You can develop your network by participating in industry/academic related events, or even through social media today, which has so much potential!

To milk the maximum potential out of social media platforms like LinkedIn to find a job you can try to:
Connect with people with a purpose in mind – You can use personalized invitations while reaching out, but don’t immediately ask for something. You wouldn’t do this in real life, why do it digitally?

What are the odds of someone landing a job in industry with limited or no knowledge of the local language?

It depends on the role they are applying for. Some roles would require the candidate to interact more commonly in the local language – for example, roles in production. But in areas like Regulatory Affairs, medical writing, a lot of emphasis is put on having fluency in English.

Elena, a lot of my followers are Post Doctorates or doing their PhD. and they’re really worried about finding a job in the industry once they obtain their degrees, as they don’t have any industry experience. But they are looking to make a transition to the industry within 2-3 months. What would your suggestion be for these kinds of candidates?

I’d advise that they be realistic about finding a job. It’s not easily done in 2-3 months if you don’t have experience.

What I would recommend is to be proactive and reach out to CEOs or Founders of smaller companies, pitch yourself to them, and ask for an opportunity for a “working experience” – it might be an unpaid internship. Then, you can leverage that experience to progress further in your career.

Do you feel that doing a PhD would make someone over-qualified?

In my experience, a lot of times when companies say that you’re overqualified, they really mean that you’re too expensive or your salary expectations are too high for the role you have applied for.

Should you do more online courses after your PHD to get a job?

As I understand most of your followers are already highly qualified. Doing a couple of more certifications or courses will have less of an impact than if they get out there and try to get some practical experience.

What I would strongly suggest is that instead of spending 6 weeks on an online training course, they should try to get 6 weeks industry experience with a small company. That would be more beneficial.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.” Let’s take charge and start preparing our seeds and sowing them today!

Robert L Stevenson

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