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    Ganesh Natrajan said:

    Unfortunately, most of those jobs cannot be got by using one’s academic credentials alone.

    The problem with transition to the industry is that most companies want people who already have industrial experience. It is a catch-20 situation, where one cannot get industry experience unless hired by a company, while no company wants to hire someone with no prior industry experience.

    As for teaching, most countries require an addition certification to be able to teach at the high school level.

    Most of the commercial and management oriented jobs require an MBA. This is an expensive, additional qualification that post-docs or PhD students, most of whom are already under financial pressure, will find difficult to consider taking up.

    As for the communication or medical writing jobs, most companies seem to want people with specific experience in the type of writing involved. For example, having experience with preparing scientific manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed journals is not considered enough for a medical writing or a regulatory writing job that involves writing CSRs or regulatory submissions. Again the catch-20 with regard to experience comes into play here.

    The biggest problem is that there are too many life sciences PhDs out there, and for most jobs outside of academia, a PhD is considered too much of a qualification. Even leading pharma companies are now recruiting candidates with Masters degrees for R&D roles.

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      Sarah Blackford said:

      Dear Ganesh,
      Many thanks for your comment. I take on board what you say and am sorry to hear you have had such negative experiences. I have spoken to employers who are happy to accept applications from doctoral graduates and postdoctoral researchers, but who advise that CVs must demonstrate that they have well developed communication and management skills on top of their specialist knowledge and expertise. I think one difficulty for employers is when researchers still present themselves as academics, rather than promoting their ‘transferable’ skills. Ordinarily they employ researchers into research posts, after which there is progression to team leader or into other areas of the company, such as regulatory affairs and marketing. I wrote a blog on this recently which may be of interest to you:
      For management and consultancy, I agree with you that an MBA is definitely an asset to those who wish to get into these professions, however there are graduate schemes which will allow new graduates, including doctoral graduates, to apply via a quite rigorous application process. They are looking for particular skills and competencies, regardless of degree subject. With regard to medical writing, you may find this link useful It shows how you can make a start in medical communications. Agencies recruit PhD students who demonstrate excellent writing skills, as do other communication organisations.
      It is true that the situation for PhD students and postdoctoral researchers is challenging nowadays, with an over-supply of researchers chasing very limited permanent academic positions. The situation will not change anytime soon, so it’s advisable to try to ensure that you take a proactive approach to your career and seek ways to further develop your skills or even gain extra professional qualifications. Reflect each year on your achievements and try to keep learning and adding to your current experiences, within and around your core research. There is no one easy answer, I wish there was! Please refer to my blog which offers more advice on how to address career issues, as well as Naturejobs’ blogs and career profiles, which give you insights into other people’s career experiences.

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    ritu raj said:

    Being a PhD student, it is always a dilemma to choose between job and PDF after PhD. Which one would you suggest after PhD. Should we go for Job or look for a PDF in a foreign land. As you know age is an important factor for us.

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      Sarah Blackford said:

      Dear Ritu Raj,
      It is difficult to answer your question since I’m not sure of your career aspirations. Obviously, if you are aiming for an academic career, a postdoctoral research post or fellowship is the career path to lead you in that direction. If you are unsure, you could do one postdoctoral post to gain further research and technical experience, whilst developing associated skills such as teaching, supervisory responsibilities, writing, project management, etc. However, if you have no intention of pursuing an academic career, these extra years may be betters spent in a different role and work environment. In the UK, statistics show that over 50% of PhD students leave science after they graduate so you too may be better served looking at entry into non-academic careers directly after your PhD.

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    Colleen Stoyas said:

    The problem both PhD students and Posdocs face is breaking into these fields. I understand the importance of a network, but what other advice to you have for people looking to transition into industry (research, scientific services, or associated commercial careers). In other words, how do we “break in” to industry and out of academia?

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      Sarah Blackford said:

      Hi Colleen,
      Your question is well timed. I was just talking to a head hunter and recruitment expert this week and she recommends that signing up with a recruitment company is a great way to enter industry. But you do need to build up a good relationship with your recruitment consultant as well as promoting yourself on social media such as LinkedIn and having a targeted CV. For more information contact Tina Persson: