Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Finding employment outside of academia

Recently, I interviewed Samuel Oduneye, after his comment on "Getting a Job, after the PhD".

Samuel was awarded his PhD in Medical Biophysics from the University of Toronto, and just starting working in management consulting (as a healthcare consultant). You can follow him on Twitter @Samuel_ITL .

As I got curious about the many opportunities freshly graduated doctors have in industry, that rely on the generic skills you learned during your PhD, I invited Samuel for an interview.

I've summarized some of the main points that Samuel taught me during the interview.

First of all, there are 3 things to consider for your post-PhD career:
1. Your title is important. It shows your credentials and it can count as a guarantee for a certain level that can be expected from you.
2. Your degree and your title can help you to get a foot in the door and build an audience, but they won't make your career. You'll need to show that you have something to bring to the table.
3. You need a plan!

Regardless of the career you choose after getting your PhD, there are 3 important skills that you learned in graduate school and that you can use as a selling point when you are applying for positions:
1. Communication: all this writing and presenting we did in the past years make us quite experienced communicators.
2. Teamwork: no PhD is a completely solitary experience. You might be working with lab technicians, other scientists, students or senior faculty, and this all teaches you how to perform in a team.
3. Analytical and problem-solving skills: besides solving riddles that were part of our PhD, we are suited for cracking tough nuts regardless of their field of application.

Finally, there is a number of common professions and career paths that are suitable for young doctors. CaleD wrote a series of posts on the blog of Medical Biophysics at University of Toronto, titled "The Inevitable Career Search". These blog posts help us think out of the box and off the well trodden path of academia. The following are careers that might appeal to you:
1. Management Consultancy: This is the career path Samuel chose, and you can hear his description in the interview.
2. Patent Lawyer or Patent Agent: Intellectual property is a buzzword these days, and your technical understanding can be required in a patent office.
3. Financial Services: The banks need people with strong analytical skills for data analysis.
4. Technical Writer: This career path lies relatively close to all the writing you did during the 4 to 5 years of your PhD.
5. Policy Analyst: Both in the public and private sector, your analytical skills will come in handy to weigh qualitative and/or quantitative data to help make informed decisions.
6. Technology Transfer and Business Development: Working at the intersection of industry, academia and law, you can use your communication skills and analytical skills to find a market for a research proposal.

If you have more questions on the possible career paths after your PhD, or management consultancy in particular, you can contact Samuel on Twitter.

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