The prospect of securing a job in industry can seem daunting. The process can be nuanced and non-linear, full of barriers and setbacks. Before embarking upon the journey, be prepared for some rejection and try to accept that it might take some time!
Over the last eight years, I have watched a considerable number of researchers secure roles in industry. Here are some tips, based on my observations.
Explore all industry sectors and roles
Look at the range of functions and roles within pharmaceuticals, biotechnology companies and contract research organisations. See below for a list of organisations:
- UK-based Pharmaceutical Companies – ABPI Members List
- UK-based Biotechnology Companies – UK Biotech Database, searchable by sector and specialism and BioPharmGuy, searchable by business type and region
- UK-based Contract Research Organisations – Contract Research Map, searchable by region and the CCRA Members List
Research and development is the typical area that attracts PhDs and postdocs; within this falls drug discovery, preclinical, clinical research and process development. Drug discovery and preclinical research jobs are typical jobs for PhDs and postdocs; job titles within this area usually contain the word ‘scientist.’
Other roles include business development managers, regulatory affairs specialists, medical scientific liaison (MSL) specialists, medical writers and life science consultants/analysts. Search for roles using a variety of terms and then read the job descriptions to see if you fulfil the criteria.
Let everyone know that you are looking for work
It is easy to keep talking to other PhD students, postdocs and academics about job opportunities but this is not going to work if you want to find a job in industry! It is vital, and common practice, to let people outside your network know you are looking for a job.
Sign up to two or three specialist recruitment companies and go in with your eyes open! Many life science companies use recruiters, especially if they want to advertise roles without people knowing they are recruiting/relocating staff. Use the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) members list to find reputable companies. The University of Kent also has a list of science recruitment agencies on their website.
Set up a LinkedIn account and write your profile in a way that will attract industry professionals and recruiters. Emphasise your area of expertise, your research techniques and soft skills such as time management and leadership skills. Illustrate your skills with evidence such as supervising undergraduates or PhD students if you are demonstrating leadership.
Know what is happening in the pharmaceutical and biotech sector
It is easier to have conversations with people if you know what’s happening in their sector. It provides you with topics of conversation and demonstrates that you are serious about making a transition into industry. Start developing what employers refer to as commercial awareness. Look at industry blogs such as The Guardian’s Pharmaceuticals Industry or the the BBSRC’s Business Magazine to stay informed about ‘all things industry.’ You can also follow relevant Twitter feeds such as @BiotechNews and @Biotechnology. Deloitte also recently published a comprehensive article on the life science industry called 2016 Global Life Sciences Outlook. Worth a read before talking to industry people.
Meet people from industry
It is crucial to get out and meet people from the sectors in which you would like to work. This can be an overwhelming thought for ‘more introverted’ scientists. Try to develop a curious outlook, asking intelligent questions and finding out about people’s work. Approach networking in the way you approach science, making your research topic people and their careers! Be curious, listen and think about how your work and experience might fit with the work that people are doing. When you first start networking, try not to feel the pressure of trying to impress – listening and being curious can go a long way.
One way to begin networking is to set up some information interviews. This is a one-to-one meeting with someone who has a role or career in which you are interested. It’s a chance for you to ask questions, gather information, learn about job options and career paths, and ask people for help to identify opportunities in their fields. Start off by approaching ‘warm’ contacts i.e. people that you know first or second hand or people you have something in common with such as PhD/postdoc alumni from Kings. Look at the LinkedIn pages of postdocs in your group to see if they know people that have moved into industry or ask your supervisor for their contacts, if appropriate. Then approach contacts on LinkedIn or by email and ask for 15 minutes of their time to have a chat about their role and company. Book an appointment with the PhD/postdoc Careers Consultant if you need some support with this as it can be tricky if you have not used this approach before.
Look out for events that may bring you into contact with potential employers e.g. One Nucleus and OBN host various seminars, events and training for people working in the life science sector. FirstMedCommsJob.com also run networking events for people wanting to work in medical communications. YES (Young Entrepreneurs Scheme) competitions, in a range of disciplines, can give you the opportunity to gain business mentoring, meet industry experts and develop commercial awareness.
Dr. Tracy Bussoli, Freelance Careers Consultant