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What to expect when moving from academia to industry

By: Roche Life Science

Posted: January 01, 2018 | Career & Lifestyle

We’ve compiled a list of factors to weigh when considering a major career move.

More money

Money isn’t everything, but there’s no denying that it plays an important role in our professional decision-making. Companies like have conducted salary surveys that will help you assess the regional market rates for someone with your specialization and skills.

Availability of jobs

While the number of postdoctoral researchers is growing, the number of tenure-track positions is not, limiting the advancement opportunities in academia. Yet despite this, we face a shortage of highly qualified research scientists in industry. The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the market for medical scientists will grow by 8% through 2024. This is good news for those who want to make a career change

Professional growth

But it’s not just about the availability of your first job in industry. Private sector jobs also come with paths for progress and growth.

Unlike academia, the private sector offers many opportunities for progressive responsibility, both for projects and people. This can lead to professional advancement within the lab, as well as lateral moves to related departments where you can put your technical skills to use in new and different ways.

In industry, you are part of a team. You and your team will be assigned projects that have measurable milestones and deliverables. You’ll be reporting to a manager who is responsible for the team’s progress, and its impact on the company’s bottom line. Everyone around you will be working towards the same goal. While you’ll have ample opportunity to work independently, you won’t be working in a vacuum.

Skills needed for private sector success

What skills are private sector companies looking for? You’ll have an easier transition if you can demonstrate the following:

Strategic thinking. Can you anticipate problems before they occur? Can you identify solutions that align with the group or company’s mid-term or long-term goals? Demonstrated examples of this type of thinking will make you an attractive candidate in the Human Resources department.

Initiative and innovation. Can you improve the workflow of a system? That’s a benefit to a private sector organization. Remember, for businesses, time is money. The more efficient you are, and the more effective you are, the more you will be rewarded.

Awareness of legal and regulatory trends. How are regulatory changes affecting the way the sector operates? Can you meet and maintain the standards for compliance that are necessary in a regulated industry? And are you able to help your company protect its intellectual property?

Financial savvy. Can you establish financial projections, manage budgets, and deliver on time? You’re ahead of the curve. Highlight these skills on your CV to set yourself apart from the crowd.

Attention to detail. Use your CV and interview to focus on your attention to detail, from your care with experimental design to the detailed statistical analysis of your results.

Teamwork. How well do you work with others? Have you mentored or trained junior members of your lab? Are you able to defuse conflicts when they arise? If you’re a collaborator with strong interpersonal skills, you’ll always be welcome in industry.

Communication. Yes, communication is a huge part of teamwork with peers, but it’s also critical for keeping management informed. The ability to clearly and effectively present information to a higher-level audience will go a long way toward private sector success. This includes both written communication (reports and emails) as well as verbal communication (meetings and presentations).


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