Day 2: Student Questions: SciPhD Critical Skills- I Don’t Have Them!

Student question: “I have no industry experience, so I don’t have any business skills. How can I get a job?”

One of the biggest misconceptions we encounter is the notion by academic scientists that they don’t have any “business skills”, and therefore aren’t qualified for many industry jobs. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is, the scientific process and the business life cycle are virtually superimposable.

similarities between the scientific process (left) and business process (right)

Throughout your research career,

  1. you are developing hypotheses to test (aka Creating the Vision)
  2. you are identifying the various people who will help you do the work and making sure they are a coordinated team (aka Developing Your People)
  3. you design your experiments with appropriate controls, time courses, variables, and risk assessments and management strategies (aka Execution)
  4. you generate the data while always striving for excellent performance (aka Achieving Results)
  5. you publish or otherwise share your results (aka Communications)
  6. you determine the return on investment that could be in the form of grant awards, publications, getting your degree, or even a job (aka Financial acumen).

So the key is to learn the business life cycle language, and translate your research activities into that language. For example, when describing your planning of experiments in an interview with the head of the project management office, rather than

“…I purified the protein using gel filtration, alcohol precipitation and ion exchange chromatography, and evaluated the final product for endotoxin contamination…”,

try “… we evaluated a number of established protocols and applied performance metrics to identify an approach that had the lowest risk, and reasonable risk mitigation strategies. We determined our milestones to make sure we stayed on schedule, and met all deliverables on on time and on budget.”

Whether it is developing and executing science process, mentoring your colleagues, motivating others, empathetically providing constructive criticism, or brainstorming new ideas with a strategic mindset, and an eye on likelihood of success, scientists are consistently building an arsenal of business and social skills and accomplishments. You just have to learn the language and recognize which language to use with a given audience. Master that, and you can convince any interviewer that you do indeed have the business and social skills required. Now go out and get that job!

Want to learn more about how to get a leg up on your first job? Our three-webinar series on how to get your first job is offered the first full week of every month. For the rest of 2020, this also includes a permanent license for our web-application Flamingo® that will help you analyze job ads, create a targeted resume, and prepare for your interview. Check it out and sign up here.

Leave a Reply