You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: networking is very important for making the switch from academia to another career. Dr. Paul Calvo received his PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology and ended up as a patent attorney with Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein, and Fox in Washington DC. Regarding networking, he says, “You can never know too many people”. Dr. Calvo told a packed room how to start the job search when planning to leave the bench.
His first advice was to be patient because making the switch takes time. As with applying for postdocs, start preparing well ahead of time. One of the first steps is to join LinkedIn, if you haven’t already, and make a complete profile. Yeah, yeah, in academia we often joke about how useless LinkedIn is but it is serious business in other careers. You can use it to connect with people you have met, people already in the field you want to go into, and to search for jobs. You can also use LinkedIn and Google Alerts to notify you when jobs in your preferred area or company open up.
Using a recruiter/ headhunter is also an option but Dr. Calvo says to use caution in your interactions. Keep in mind that the company that’s hiring pays them and it is their job is to find the best person, which may not be you. Take the time to prepare so you can market yourself as the best person for the job.
Networking. Because you never know who the
people you know know. (Source)
Woven throughout Dr. Calvo’s talk were tips about how to get into patent law. He said to contact lawyers who were previously in academia to discuss how they made the change. Informational interviews can help give you an idea if law is the right choice for you. Some law firms will pay you to go to law school. Usually this means you will work for the firm during the day and go to law school at night. Difficult? Yes. But you worked hard to get a PhD and that was difficult too. If it helps, Dr. Calvo says that learning law after getting a PhD is easier than learning law as most law students do: with just a Bachelor’s degree in a discipline like English. The first step on this path would be to take the patent agent exam and begin networking with people at law firms.
Other posts in this series:
SfN14 blogging: Careers Beyond the Bench: The Importance of Face-to-Face Networking When Considering a Career Transition