Thursday, December 4, 2014

SfN14 blogging: Careers Beyond the Bench: How to Promote Yourself in Different Job Sectors

Career Neuron by Dr. Immy Smith
“Your PhD can help you get a job anywhere!” Students and postdocs hear this often but their main focus in the lab is on day-to-day experiments. In that setting, it’s difficult to see how the skills developed during their academic career will help them in a completely different job setting. Dr. Pier Giorgio Pacifici is a Senior Account Manager and Senior Business Development Manager at Enzo Life Sciences, Inc.. He spoke about how to promote yourself in different job sectors and underscored the value of a PhD in the business world.

In academia, the CV (curriculum vitae) is how we portray our skills and work experience. CVs, even at the PhD or postdoc stage, can be several pages long. In the business world, the résumé is standard and is much shorter in length (2-3 pages). A cover letter is also crucial. Dr. Pacifici recommends finding a résumé mentor in the field in which you’re interested to help you understand what they’re are looking for. The résumé and cover letter should be tailored for each job, emphasizing your particular skills related to the position. When starting out, you may not meet all of the minimum experience requirements. Don’t be discouraged! Dr. Pacifici says to “present yourself as someone who is too good to pass up even though you don’t have the relevant experience yet.”

“Going into industry” always seems vague, and Dr. Pacifici mentioned several non-research career paths that PhD holders can take, such as technical writing, regulatory affairs, sales, marketing, and business development. Similar to the advice Dr. Nishi gave, Dr. Pacifici also emphasized the importance of knowing what you want before you start applying for positions. Informational interviews are a great way to get more information about a particular career. They can be done at any stage, even when not actively seeking a job. As long as one is respectful and does not present oneself as looking for a job or asking for one, an informational interview gives the interviewee an opportunity to disclose both the good and bad about the position. In a job interview context, on the other hand, they would highlight only the positive aspects to entice you to work there. And once the interview is over, don’t forget to follow-up with an email and connect with the person on LinkedIn. Business and industry use LinkedIn a lot. Also important: business cards!

Overall, Dr. Pacifici said to be persistent and not to feel discouraged during the job search, especially the very first time. Most of the résumés you send out will not be answered but you will be building contacts in a new field as you go, and in the end, you only need one positive reply to start a successful career in the industry.

Dr. Pacifici invites anyone interested in learning more about careers in industry to connect with him on LinkedIn. 

Other posts in this series:
Careers Beyond the Bench: The data with Sally Rockey (guest post by Bruce Felts)

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