Liam Whelan

PhD...what next?: Working outside academia

A Scientific PhD is a recognised award demonstrating your intelligence, academic prowess, research competence and knowledge. Having a PhD immediately flags to prospective employers that you will bring a distinctive skill set to their organisation and have a level of kudos and gravitas when liaising with their clients on your subject-matter. But, as we know, there is always a But! Being a PhD graduate does not always tag you as ready and capable to commence a career in the commercial scientific sector whether it would be a technical sales role or as an applications specialist. A PhD, plus a fully-rounded set of competencies that slot-easily in the world of commerce is quite often what gets the job. Less qualified candidates who are hungrier for the role and who score more highly on the core-competencies needed for the job can pip the PhD-holder at the post.

Roles for which holding a PhD is a prerequisite offer a relatively high starting salary to reflect the level of expertise required, however, this is not always the case. Inevitably there are positions which are open to both 2.1 or better degree-graduates and PhD graduates and they typically have the same starting salary for new-starters. Once safely past the probation period, there is usually scope for PhD graduates to progress to management and senior management positions.

“A Scientific PhD is a recognised award demonstrating your intelligence, academic prowess, research competence and knowledge. Having a PhD immediately flags to prospective employers that you will bring a distinctive skill set to their organisation and have a level of kudos and gravitas when liaising with their clients on your subject-matter. But, as we know, there is always a But! Being a PhD graduate does not always tag you as ready and capable to commence a career in the commercial scientific sector whether it would be a technical sales role or as an applications specialist. A PhD, plus a fully-rounded set of competencies that slot-easily in the world of commerce is quite often what gets the job. Less qualified candidates who are hungrier for the role and who score more highly on the core-competencies needed for the job can pip the PhD-holder at the post.“

So – what competencies can you prepare for that will be assessed at interview?

Companies will seek for evidence, by way of real-life examples, that you can demonstrate competency and achievement in the skill areas relevant to the job, for example:

·                        analytical thinking

·                        ability to bring new ideas, curiosity and be innovative

·                        ability to solve complex problems

·                        project management and organisation skills

·                        leadership potential

·                        ability to work independently and in a team

·                        excellent communication and client facing skills;

·                        motivation and the ability to meet deadlines.

·                        and importantly, for sales roles, ability to shape events, outcomes, persuasiveness and the ability to negotiate effectively.

Improving your chances

·                        Work experience, internships and placements - Employers will want to see that you have had experience in environments outside of academia; and have an understanding of the commercial sector and can adapt to it readily.

·                        Mentoring / Shadowing - find yourself a mentor, ideally someone who is working in the field you are interested in. and someone who will let you shadow them doing the job that you aspire to. They will talk through your options, and provide you with an insight into their work – you will then be prepared to deal with interview questions designed to ‘put you off the role’ by stressing the downside of the job. Hopefully, your mentor will already have discussed the highs and lows of the role.

·                        Taking on leadership roles and other responsibilities - whether it is captain of a sports team or heading up a committee, being a proactive member of a society or extra-curricular club; these activities will give you with concrete evidence that you have achieved in a leadership roles. Take every opportunity to accept additional responsibilities eg. becoming a mentor for an undergraduate who is considering doing a PhD.

·                        Get a Profile and Network- consider how to get yourself known in circles outside of academia through, for example, creating a linked-in account, setting up a blog or presenting at conferences relevant to the sectors you wish to work in. The old adage of ‘it’s who you know’ has some validity, and a whole wealth of opportunities can arise from simply networking either virtually or ideally face-to-face. Keep records and keep in regular touch with those individuals who are movers and shakers in your sector.

 

Liam is our Account Manager in our Scientific Division for Scientific Sales Jobs, Scientific Sales Manager Jobs, Laboratory Sales Jobs, Scientific Marketing Manager Jobs, Field Service Engineer Jobs and Applications Specialist Jobs. Whether you're looking to explore your career options or expand your team contact Liam now to discuss your recruitment aspirations.

 

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