In May this year, Vitae (a career development service for researchers) and Naturejobs co-launched a survey: What do research staff do next? The goal of this survey, according to Dr Janet Metcalfe, Chair and Head of Vitae, is to: “create a range of career stories of former research staff that reveals their career journeys and explores what were the tipping points in their careers.”
There have been 1500 responses to this survey so far, but we’re hoping to have more input from those who have transitioned from academia into industry. This is an on-going survey, and the initial results will be announced at the Vitae Researcher Development International Conference in September this year.
Advice to transitioning scientists
Imagine you are your younger self: an academic, unsure of your future prospects as funding bodies chop and change their budgets and the number of postdoc positions dwindle. You’ve decided you would like to leave academia. But what now? It can be a daunting position to be in, and one that would welcome some advice from someone who has been through this before.
Fast forward to your present self: Would you agree with the advice that others presented in the survey? What would you add?
“Try and identify which kind of skills you acquire while doing research, there are many such as management skills, analytical skills, organizational skills, etc. that will be useful in many jobs.”
“To nurture a strong ethic of self-care when making the transition, as sloughing off one’s academic identity is no small feat. Also, be patient; your first job is unlikely to be your dream job. Try to use your first job as a means of figuring out what you’d really like to do.”
“If your passion isn’t in bench research, do something else. There is tons of stuff out there for life scientists that leverages your existing skills.”
“If you’re not ready to let HE go completely, look for support roles. Often the work is similar to research, and there is less focus on profit margins and overzealous management than in industry. Your employer is also more likely to support future professional training because they understand your need to learn and develop intellectually.”
“Go for it! It may seem daunting but if you never try, you’ll never know. And if you decide that a career outside of research is not for you, there’s nothing to stop you from going back.”
Insight into transitions
By taking part in this survey, you’re providing an insight into the transition between the two. “Through the survey results we will also start to understand the motivations for researchers leaving higher education,” says Metcalfe, “and how their competencies and experiences are transferable into other employment options.” This insight could help careers advisers and others understand how to provide better advice to those wishing to move from academia to industry. Several of the researchers highlighted areas of difficulty during their transition when they were asked about their reasons for leaving academia.
“When I failed to secure further research funding or teaching posts, I fell back on my transferable skills and found myself immediately short-listed for two jobs I applied for.”
Some transitions are harder than others. A few of those who have shared their stories have mentioned that they chose to leave because they wanted to and a great opportunity came up.
“I had a good opportunity at the right time: permanent and interesting employment that fitted with my desire to continue to do research for the benefit of society.”
Others weren’t so fortunate.
“Organisational restructuring led to a loss of my department and insufficient alternative posts to accommodate everyone.”
Whatever your story, whether you left academia to pursue your dream career, or because you had to leave, please share it and take part in the survey by following this link.
You can share this survey with colleagues, friends and family – anyone who has transitioned from academia into another career. You can also follow the action on Twitter by using the hashtag #PostAcStory, where you will find those who have blogged about their experience, including Dr Beeton (@Shackleford_LB) and you can watch the #PostAcStory Vitae Google Hangout.
You can also share this flyer to help spread the word.