Welcome to the spotlight on the Secrets to Success in PhD. I had the great opportunity to attend a few career and industry focused panels this week (shout out to the SAHMRI Student Association for assembling a quality line up!). There seems to be a groundswell of student interest in exploring the industry side of science. I think this is a super exciting prospect for two main reasons: 1) As young scientists coming up, we aren’t viewing the industry space so much as the “dark side of science” (haha); 2) As young scientists, we are finding ways to mobilise our experience from PhD in a science field (even if its not in academic/post doctoral research). As graduate students (in the medical research space) we are highly intellectual people that have a lot to offer back to the world to create new knowledge and change, so its brilliant to see and hear people wanting to stay in science and contribute their skills, big up! However, I think the program has dropped the ball a little on enabling us with the tools to make the transition...
“Enthusiasm, charisma and personality have commercial value. It would be smart for universities to spend some time on those sorts of behaviours"
I was in discussion with my good friend Reuben about his time in successfully making the direct transition from doing PhD research to Business Development in the industry sector. The academic process is taught/implied as such a straight line hustle that it somewhat gets ingrained in us that a pathway can be applied in our transition to industry. However, there is no set framework, and the secret to a successful transition lies in seeking opportunity by actively engaging “soft skills”. ("Soft skills are a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, character traits, attitudes, career attribute, social intelligence and emotional intelligence quotients among others that enable people to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals with complementing hard skills.” Definition from Wikipedia of course haha)
“People are looking for a pathway, instead of learning to explore"
The key aspect of industry is that it is an interdisciplinary space, its both business and science (B and S, Just BS right? HAHA). So how as students of science, do we shift into a space that requires “business” awareness also. I think the secret lies in credibility. This was one of the questions posed to Dr. Michelle Perrugini at the SAHMRI meet, “As students we are building our credibility in science through doing laboratory research and publishing outcomes, but do you have advice on how we can start to build credibility on the “business” side?”. I really liked her straight point answer: “It has to be from something within”. You have to have the enthusiasm to want it, and go out and talk to people and engage in events/networking outside of what you normally do. (Click here for the previous articles on HOW TO BE THE BEST PhD, here for NETWORKING IN SCIENCE, and here for SOCIAL MEDIA IN SCIENCE).
“Make sure you have goals that are really defined because if you want something in life, theres no limit"
So what are some things we can do and where should explore opportunities to best equip our transition?
Plan early: There are many different careers within industry (technology transfer/commercialisation office/business development/consultant/sales/field application specialist/venture capital etc.), so take time to read into what is available, the active companies, and what aligns with your interests. Start early and define where you what to take things, this will give you clarity in the steps you then need to take/people you need to meet to get your chosen career.
Personal brand: Who are you, what do you do, and what are your current/future career interests. Keep an up to date presence through social channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter.
Networking: The major key. Once you have an idea of what you want and your personal brand its time to act. Get out there and talk to people (both in person and email) to create opportunity. Networking is an art in itself, and initially its hard/awkward but the more you engage and practice the more comfortable it gets. Attend conferences/activities/events to broaden your perspectives and be precise in speaking to people in your chosen industry space and tell them about yourself and what you want to do. Connecting with key people can guide and help you reach your chosen industry career through emotional, intellectual and practical support. Be memorable through your personal brand so they remember you and can refer you if opportunities arise through their network to leverage.
Check out places such as AusBiotech/TechInSA/BrightArena/Adelaide Enterprise/Government of SA/SAHMRI Student Association/Adelaide University Health Sciences Postgraduate Association (HeSPA)/Adelaide, UniSA, Flinders University websites and Eventbrite for current events to attend, grow perspective, and network, network, network!
“Networking can be extremely beneficial when done well… Continue to do the work and put yourself out there, and doors you didn’t even know existed will begin to open"
Best of luck with making transition to your industry career of interest, and happy networking! You CAN do it! :)
You can take it as insight, or you can take it as Just BS!
[Post inspired by the thoughts of Vinh Giang, Reuben Jacob, Dr. Michelle Perugini, Louis Spagnuolo and Ashley Stahl]