What’s the timeline for shifting from academia to industry?

What should you be thinking about, depending on what stage of your research training that you’re in?  Let’s take a look!

Best Case Scenario

Early in your PhD career, yrs 2–4

  • Get to know, or explore some organizations or groups doing something you find interesting (non research related) and contribute in a tangible way.  If you start early, you can have an impressive track record (multiple years) of additional skills and experiences alongside your research with which to navigate job options with.  In addition, you will have enough time to earn the respect and trust of people outside your lab network; these are people who may be able to help you find awesome opportunities down the line.
  • Find and join an organization doing something research related, and contribute in a tangible way.  Easy options include your university graduate student or postdoc association; societies in your field of study, or other groups that directly relate to where you are now.
  • Find and do several volunteering and internships outside of your research field, and focus in on things you find most interesting as an option for your future career.  If you start early, you have the luxury of trying many things and rejecting some.
  • Communicate with people outside academia and develop additional skills which may be beneficial in your next step.  Do some teaching in local high schools.  Tutor.  Organize for your favorite politician.  Everything you do that puts you in contact with people, puts you in contact with potential future career paths and networks.
  • Use the network you developed in the previous activities to assist with your job search.

Better Late than Never Scenario

Late in your PhD career, yrs 4–6

  • Find an organization or group doing something you find interesting (non research related) and contribute in a tangible way.  You will have limited time now, so you will want to be more focused on getting on a project where you can show that your work make an impact.
  • Find and join an organization doing something research related, and contribute in a tangible way.  Short term projects or events can be a great way to get into a project after it’s already on its way towards completion.
  • Find and do whatever internship you can find outside of academia that relates to what you might want to do outside academia; at this time, you may need to take on more piecemeal or busy-work given your time constraints, but this is still better than nothing.
  • Communicate with people outside academia and develop additional skills which may be beneficial in your next step.  Here, you’ll want to ramp up communication in particular alongside the work that you’re doing in volunteer or other gigs. No one can help you if they don’t know what you need help with!
  • Use the network you developed in the previous activities to assist with your job search.

Impending Desperation Scenario

At the end of your PhD years/postdoc

  • Communicate with people outside academia and understand what next steps are easiest to move into given your current skillsets.  You will be limited by the skills and experiences you’ve already acquired, and you will be competing with people who may have already completed internships or volunteer projects, demonstrating their abilities tangibly, whereas you will have to fight and justify yourself every step of the way.
  • Use the network you have to assist with your job search.
  • If you are not able to find a job you want outside academia, find and take a postdoc or other employment situation which will provide you with time to explore next steps, and/or go back to accomplish the things listed in the above sections to make a more desirable next move.  This isn’t the easiest option to take, but it is practical.
  • Don’t despair – there is always room for failure on the road to success.  Put in the purposeful effort to be more prepared, and your next transition might come sooner than you expect!

“Next transition??”

There will likely always be a next transition, so be mentally – and actually – prepared!

Everyone has to deal with this cycle of progression within any particular type of career, but it’s clear that the earlier you start exploring your options, the better off and less stressful things will be for you when you need to make a move.  No matter what you decide to do with your PhD, open yourself up to options early.

“The professional progression is a cycle of preparation to build a convincing case for your next move.  Jump in as early as you can!” – Free the PhD

Ask me your PhD, career or other questions!

 

Adapted from my Quora response.

2017-08-08T16:51:47+00:00 By |Categories: AMA|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments

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