How to get a job in industry – A personal perspective

Two weeks ago, I received a wonderful news. I passed my six month-probation and I have a permanent contract as reserach scientist in industry now. Considering the global pandemic and the economic recession, I feel like my permanent contract is worth 10 times more than it would have last year. DISCLAIMER: This article was originally pusblished on Sep 2020 and it’s revised on 20th Feb 2023.

How did I get there? Although I pretty much followed a traditional path for graduate students in chemistry (master’s degree – PhD in organic chemistry – job in pharma), the way I made it was totally different and very unusual. I knew pretty much from the early stage of my PhD that I didn’t want to continue with a postdoc and my research wouldn’t have produced any publication. Since publishing is the most straightforward way to get recognition in academia and that wasn’t accessible to me, I came up with a different strategy. I started my blog and Instagram page for science communication. I started connecting with STEM professionals on LinkedIn and made thoughtful interactions with them.

That was extremely helpful because:

  1. It opened my mind about alternatives and possible ways out from academia
  2. I gained a ton of soft skills that made my CV stand out.

After a PhD in any discipline, meaning that you study a subject for 10 years, your technical knowledge is probably just fine. You know how to solve problems, how to design experiments and the outcome of mixing A and B in the same pot. A job in industry is a lot more than that. While doing research in academia is an indipendent endeavour, in industry, you work as part of a team and the work you do is important to you and everyone else in the team. The piece of research you produce will be picked up by your work colleagues, by the client who need it to move forward with their own piece of work and research.

Being an effective team member is key to land a job in industry!

The work you produce has to be communicated to your line manager or the client, on a daily basis, not with a publication once in a lifetime or to an international meeting every year. All the science communication I did during my PhD proved that I was able to do that and, at the moment, keeping positive communication with work collegues is one of my strong assets.

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I often hear academic talking about their research as “my baby”, they get emotionally attacked to it, get defensive when they receive a negative feedback and don’t tolerate the peer-review process because “how dare you saying that my piece of research isn’t good enough?” The sooner you leave behind the academic persona and the academic mindset of elitism and superiority, the quicker you nail a job. No one likes to work with people who feel superior, can’t take a negative feedback and get defensive when others are genuinely trying to help. Your work collegues are your peers and know as much as you do how to conduct research and design experiments.

Companies hire young professionals not students and academics!

I deeply appreciate the personal evaluation and all the feedback I receive from my line manager right now. I feel like I progressed and learned more in the last six months than during my entire PhD. Having this guidance is incredibly valuable for professional development. I don’t have to figure out this on my own anymore because someone else with more experience than I do tells me. It makes my professional progress 10 times faster.

My personal advice to everyone who has finished school in these tragic circumstances and feels trapped or like there’s no way out: use this time to plan your next move and invest in career development training. Learn what companies look for (I hope I gave an insight), how your CV matches the job description, how you can sell your skills to the job market and what’s the added value, outside your technical knowledge, you bring to a company. It might feel daunting and there’s nothing wrong if you feel like you need extra support like a career coach or getting in touch with a recruiter. Landing your first job outside school (or academia) is extremely difficult in normal circumstances, it might feel like an impossible task at the moment.

Untimately, one of the best decision I made last year was to put my PhD to an end and move outside academia. It costed me time and a lot of money, but looking back, I have a permanent contract, financial stability, my mental health is a lot better and soon enough I will have enough savings to pay for a deposit and make a mortgage to buy a house. Academia is just an old and archaic system which can no longer compete with the training, support, work-life balance and stability you get with an industry job.

If you need help, please get in touch by dropping an email using the form below. The first 15 min are free of charge

I wrote many articles about job hunting in the past. This article offers a new perspective considering that, over the last 6 months, a lot has changed and I have a totally brand new mindset on all things about career transition, development, writing CV and nailing that job. On request, I offer consultation and you can hire me to help you with this professional transition.

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