I am very excited to be writing blog posts for the Bio Careers community and hope that my experiences can help other PhD scientists discover their own career path. In this first introductory blog, I want to tell you all a little bit about myself and also address an issue that I think a lot of science PhDs come face to face with when they graduate: Now what?
Most science programs in the US are focused on producing scientists for Academia. Rarely are other paths even discussed, and many PhD students don’t really know what the options are if they don’t want to stay in Academia.
Many would find my career path confusing. I knew after I finished my PhD that I did not want to stay in Academia. I applied for several industry positions but never got any responses so I took the traditional route and did a postdoc at one of the top universities in the country. And then I got a real job… as a recruiter! When I made that transition, mostly the reactions I got were “Why would you waste your PhD and become a recruiter?” or just a simple “I am so sorry!” The thing is, I didn’t feel like I was wasting my PhD, and I didn’t take the job just because there was nothing else out there. I was excited to be a recruiter. The recruiting job would allow me to help other PhDs find jobs in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry! Instead of being in the lab and have my main goal be getting another publication, I would now actually be helping people!
What I didn’t realize was that as a recruiter, you can only help a small portion of the people you talk to. Recruiters get hired by companies to find the ideal match for the position they have available – and therefore, only a small fraction of scientists will fit into any of the positions that a recruiter has available at any given time. For a company, recruiters are often their last resort. They don’t want to pay money for a recruiter to send them a resume of someone who is a reasonable fit – they can find those candidates themselves – they want the perfect fit!
This is one of the reasons I left recruiting. I loved talking to my candidates, and I loved being able to help someone, but turning people down that I couldn’t help or leaving them hanging because we may down the road potentially have a position that match their skills – that was a part of the job that I didn’t enjoy. Especially since those people were often the ones that needed the most help.
That is mainly how the idea of starting my own company, Science-RX, came to fruition. Going through graduate school and a postdoc as well as working as a recruiter made me realize two things:
1. Transitioning from Academia to Industry for Science PhD students and postdocs tends to be very involved and more complicated than for most other professions. This is mainly because scientists are so incredibly specialized and hiring managers in industry are looking for very specific skills.
2. Science PhDs generally have very little exposure to industry during their Academic years, which makes it difficult to figure out what is the best career choice for you. It is hard to make a decision if you are not aware of all your choices.
Postdoctoral Associations and services like Bio Careers are definitely a step in the right direction! Still, many PhD students and postdocs don’t know where to start. And unfortunately, with the current funding situation in Academia, more and more scientists are forced to look for alternative careers – whether that has been their goal from the beginning or not.
I have very recently joined DAVA oncology as a Medical Writer. Since I am just one week in so far, it is hard for me to really explain in depth the ins and outs of the job itself. However, the transition itself and using transferable skills to change your career path – that is something that I will be addressing in the next blog.