SciPhD designed this 4-Day Business of Science Bootcamp at the request of a client to provide an intermediate deeper dive into learning, practicing and refining the business and social skills required to land your first job.  This program takes the 3-day webinar program and adds Project Manatgement, Negotiations and Advanced Communications to help you hit the ground running in your new job.  As with the other series, this five article series below looks at our Bootcamp program and how it will impact you while you are still a graduate student/postdoc and beyond.

Day 1: Pragmatic Training for Getting That Job

There are two approaches to preparing for your transition from academia to business: one is the “ultimate technical and business knowledge” approach and the other is the “pragmatic get and keep a job” approach.

The “ultimate technical and business knowledge” approach acknowledges your expertise in your field of scientific study. Congratulations. But what about all those “soft skills” that are supposed to be so important? Should you now build your knowledge of business so you are prepared for any career in industry. You could do that MBA, or take that Project Management Certification, or Finance Course, or the Leadership training, and the Six Sigma Qualification. Do you need that communications and team building training?

The “pragmatic get and keep a job” approach takes a different tack.  The reality is, that in doing your PhD, you have actually gained many of these business and social “soft skills” so coveted by hiring organizations, and have accomplishments to prove it! You absolutely need to be fully capable of completing the technical requirements of a desired job. You also need to give a descriptive story that shows your ability to get work done, to drive for high standards and to set priorities.    In addition, you can use that same story to share how you have worked with other professionals, come to agreements, accepted common goals, and shared in success.  In completing one of the most difficult academic degrees, your PhD, you have already demonstrated the skills necessary to work in business. The challenge is how you communicate your experiences through your resume, your interviews, and your new business work environment.  And you can, and must demonstrate these skills with actual experiences and accomplishments.

There is a trade-off with the pragmatic approach. In preparing your targeted resume, when you discover your business and social skill experiences that qualify you for a job, your approach cannot be a “one-way tell my story lecture.” Your challenge is in how to engage the resume reader so that in 5 to 7 seconds they see that you meet the key technical, business, and social skills and deserve additional consideration.  And when you are invited and participate in the interviews, you engage in a two-way communications that is unique and targeted for each interviewer.  Use social intelligence to address three questions:

1) Who am I speaking with

2) What is their role

3) how do I make their job easier

Use the answer to those three questions to frame your responses.

When they ask about your salary requirements, you have done your homework and are prepared to negotiate a “fair value” for both you and the company.

The pragmatic trade-off is that knowing about the communication techniques that enable you to accomplish landing the job is not enough.  Success in using the pragmatic approach is grounded in a few hours of practicing basic communication techniques that are designed to enable your success in landing that job.  Our experience is that it requires about 12 to 15 hours to learn, practice and gain the confidence necessary to master the “pragmatic approach to landing my job.”

Day 2: Q&A: How to be Competitive

A key instructional design feature of SciPhD programs is a focus on one behavioral outcome: how does the PhD candidate compete with an advantage for a desired job?  All SciPhD candidates are new PhD’s, soon to be PhD’s or Postdocs.  All have run or are running the “PhD Life Cycle” which has numerous parallel performance requirements that are similar to work in industry: the high standard of performance and “testing” to ensure mastery of technical content, and successful publication in a peer-reviewed publication. This standard of performance is no easy task, yet most PhD’s fail to represent that experience in their job search. Most PhD candidates only focus on the success of mastery of content -what they know – and fail to share their experience of the business (how they mastered content) and social (how they worked with others to attain mastery) competencies.

As such, our instructional design is a discovery process using basic business and social techniques that uncover valuable work experiences complementary to the mastery of knowledge.  And then we practice communication and negotiation techniques to hone the candidate’s responses that builds confidence in their engaging the job search process with emphasis on the interviewers specific interests and needs, and salary negotiations: a competitive advantage!

We still get questions from our candidates and here are a few with answers:

Q.    The flipside to the postdoc question… can doing a 3-6 year postdoc hurt your job prospects outside of academia?

A.     Depends on job you are seeking. If highly technical and Postdoc is leading edge in same field – then it may help you for a higher level entry position. If seeking a more general job – then its probably not helpful.

Q.    In the last session you mentioned that the purpose of PostDoc is to gain skills so that you are more hirable in the industry. If you get a job offer after finishing your PhD, would you start at a level lower than the one that will be offered to the PostDoc? In the long run will it count against you that you did not do a postdoc?

A.  If the Postdoc experience meets a job requirement that you cannot meet with the PhD alone, then it adds value. Your Postdoc experience is evaluated relative to the job you seek.  By itself, it may have little if any value except in career academic job requirements.  Unfortunately, it just depends on the job!

Q.  My question is how to develop your brand while not making it seem like you have strong sense of self?

A. It is important to have a presence of self-confidence AND a willingness to learn about the company, the job, other team members, how to help your peers …  You are a cog on the wheel and not the wheel.  What is not OK is if you convey a sense of self that says “I have all the answers, you need only come to me.  I’m the expert.”  That is the kiss of death!

Day 3: Case Study in Stages of Preparation to Improve Chances of the Job Offer!

We invite your feedback on this exercise in sequencing preparation stages that increasingly improve your chances at being a final candidate for a job offer.  We will initiate the first stage at finding a job ad and responding with no preparation and then add preparation stages that are additive and improve the efficacy of the job hunting.

NOTE: the estimates of success are expressed as a % and have a wide range of variation. These are qualitative estimates and are based on the basic logic that the preparation steps enhance the candidate’s selection chances.

Find Stage with Generic Response:  The candidate has found a desired job in an acceptable company.  They send off their generic resume/CV 95% loaded with technical qualifications and await a call for an interview.  Chance of a call is about 1%.

Analytical Stage: The candidate has found a desired job in an acceptable company.  They conduct a job ad analysis and know the key technical, business (how you do good science) and social (how you work with other people) requirements.  They tailor the 2 page resume only to the job requirements which is now 1/3 technical, 1/3 business, and 1/3 social.  They send off and await call. Chance of call is about 15%.

Network Referral Stage: The candidate takes the Analytical Stage resume, searches, and finds a second level networking contact in the company that is an alumnus who agrees to review the resume.  The networking contact has suggested changes to the resume that are completed. The alumnus contact then personally refers the resume to the hiring manager for consideration.  Chance of a call is about 60%. Interview scoring as top candidate is about 50%. Resume is also submitted via company website.

Mock Interview and Negotiation Training Stage: In addition to the Network Referral stage, the candidate completed 4 hours of “inclusive communication techniques” that are techniques to answer interview questions tailored to the business role and interest of the interviewer: be authentic, not go defensive, and build rapport. Three sets of mock interviews are conducted using behavioral questions relevant to the Analytical Stage results.  Additional preparation on salary negotiations is practiced based on company research and networking data.  Interview scoring as top candidate is about 80%.

Over the Top Stage: Additional coaching and training on using Project Management language to describe one’s research, using six sigma or continuous improvement language to describe team productivity projects in the lab, using very basic financial literacy language to describe lab operations, and the language of SWOT analysis to provide context to answers – each will contribute a fundamental understanding of business that is highly desirable in a scientific / technical professional. Interview scoring is about 125%.