The following is a transcript from I talk I gave at the Mentor Celebration Event, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston, MA) on May 23, 2016.
Due to length, I have broken the talk up into three parts:
- Part 1: Academe and industry are not your only career choices as a life sciences scholar
- Part 2: Science careers outside of academe
Part 3: Your Next Steps
Most of you won’t have come in contact with or feel like you have any way of accessing the above of these career trajectories… Neither will your academic mentors, which is inherently the problem. Instead of looking in, the next step is to look out.
The first step to finding a job that leverages what you love most about science is by seeking out a single contact – preferably someone connected to an industry you are interested in exploring. Begin by taking them out for a coffee, buy them a drink, ask them to tell you about their experiences and let them introduce you to people they think you should talk to. These are called “informational meetings.” The goal of these meetings should be to learn a little more about an industry and be introduced to great, well-connected people, who can tell you what it’s like and can think of at least one other person you should talk to. Follow up on these introductions, and offer to take those people out for coffee to do the same. Soon enough you should know exactly what the industry is like, who is hiring, what they’re looking for, and what neighboring professions you might like better or worse. LinkedIn is a great resource to leverage in facilitating these introductions and learning more about your contacts, and you should take your time to build a network of your own. Offer to connect others as well – soon enough you should notice opportunities materializing.
Another great option is to join a startup – you’ll find them through your network. Startups are great opportunities to work with small dynamic teams that are doing cutting edge science. They will expose you to just about every career out there, offer a substantial amount of flexibility for both horizontal and vertical career progression, and will build your network in a very accelerated way. If you are interested in this opportunity – reach out to me! Our company is always looking for ambitious talented young scientists to push the envelope (as are other biotech startups), and we would love to hear from you!
The important thing is to start branching out. As topics begin to pique your interest, start focusing your meetings. Learn who the players are in this space and what they need. By the time you’re ready to submit a CV you’ll already know the decision makers and they’ll know you. Fit should be obvious to both of you. There is not too much more to it than that.
In summary – a PhD and postdoctoral fellowship provide phenomenal training, preparation, and potential exposure to quite possibly the broadest spectrum of career options available. Leverage it. The idea that your future needs to be dictated in binary, amongst two of the least attractive career trajectories out there (industry and academia) is ridiculous and it subverts our social contract.
The problem is not with your training or options – it’s with your exposure to them. The Ivory Tower is a dark and increasingly crowded space. Hopefully this series of posts will have helped open some windows.