number of the bloggers here have noticed, one of the biggest obstacles that
postdocs face in moving into the commercial world is the dreaded “3-5 years of
business experience” requirement seen in so many ads. Many times, it seems as if there are no entry-level
positions at all! Just like the Great
Wall of China was built to keep enemies out, it seems like companies use
experience to keep away potentially great employees. So how do you get around this obstacle? Well, I’ll use my own transition as an
example of what NOT to do.
made the decision to move to the commercial side, I had already finished one
postdoc and had taken another as a way of keeping a job. Like many of you, I scanned the pages of Science and Nature and pretty much every other job posting site I could
find. And off into oblivion went dozens
upon dozens of my resumes. The silence
from all this effort was deafening, and depressing.
sure many of you do as well, I applied for a number of positions that,
scientifically speaking, I was overqualified for. As it turned out, one of those applications
just happened to land on the desk of a former classmate of mine. While I was overqualified for the job she was
trying to fill, she did know of another manager in the company who wanted
someone with my skills, so she passed my resume along. Since my application now had the
recommendation from someone inside the company, I got an interview and
eventually landed the job.
back, there were a number of things that I should have done differently and my
experience highlights a number of holes in the “Great Wall of Experience”:
is king. The bottom line is that in
industry, the vast majority of jobs are never advertised and unless you have a
network of people who you can tell about and who can help you in your search,
you’ll never hear about those jobs. What
is great about these positions is that the requirements tend to be more
flexible, and if your resume is the one that comes with a recommendation from
someone the hiring manager knows, requirements like “3-5 years of experience”
are more easily thrown out the window.
Experience is used as a filter when jobs are posted out in the wild
because they know that they are going to get a huge volume of resumes. If you haven’t done some networking this
week, you’re blowing a chance at a job.
aren’t CVs. Looking back at the resume I
sent out when I was first job hunting, I’m now horrified by it. It was all about the science and nothing
about other skills that businesses find attractive. If you really look at the advertised
positions, you’ll see a lot of skills listed that aren’t scientific. My colleague, Randy Ribaudo, has developed a
talk called “Introduction to Industry Careers,” that covers how to look
at an advertised position and how to frame your skills. You can find it at the
SciPhD.com website (http://www.sciphd.com).
be afraid to take a less-than-optimal position.
Once you actually have that valuable business experience, you never have
to worry about that requirement again. Also, a first job typically lasts only a
couple of years, so it isn’t like you’re making a life-long commitment.
I tackled my transition to the business world
the hard way, and the bottom line is that I just got lucky. Don’t make the same mistakes I did.