The industry career path can be incredibly rewarding, challenging, and fun, but how do we get started? How do we break into industry after graduating with our PhD or completing our postdoc? Making the move to industry can sometimes be a challenge, and this question of how is a big one. In this blog post we will build off of our previous post (career trajectory within industry) and discuss some ways to get started with pursuing a career in industry.
Working On Networking
Many people would probably agree that networking can be really important when trying to start a career in industry. Asking questions to a network of colleagues can be valuable for understanding what industry is like, as well as when asking around to find open positions, getting a clearer perspective on what it’s like to work for a prospective team or company, and even asking for feedback on resumes and applications. But if we are in grad school or a postdoc, how do we start meeting people in industry?
One place I like to start with networking is Meetup. Meetup is a popular online community of groups and events, and this can be a great place to meet colleagues in industry (and of course beyond industry too). Things are more virtual these days (considering the pandemic) but generally it’s pretty easy to show up to events, meet people, and learn. In the Boston area we have a few great Meetup groups based around programming languages (there is a Python group and an R group, for example). There is a really great group of computational biologists in the Boston area, and I actually help organize a microbiome meetup for the area too. Events are free and it’s a great way to start meeting people in the community.
Another great way to learn about industry while also networking is through informational interviews. Informational interviews are simply chats with industry members to discuss topics like we discuss in this blog series (life in industry, careers, day-to-day experiences, etc). When I was exploring potential career paths during my postdoc, I did informational interviews (with friends of friends, etc) and I felt like I gained a lot of perspective. As part of the informational interview, I was able to ask for advice on moving into industry and get insights on any job leads. In an effort to try paying that generosity of others forward, I always make time for informational interviews with trainees and if I know of a cool, relevant open position I always pass that along.
Postdocs & Internships
Networking is one approach to learning about, and finding positions in, industry. Another great approach is to pursue internships and industry postdocs. Let’s start with internships. Many graduate programs offer internship opportunities for their students, in which students spend a few months working in a company. I’ve known many students who spent time interning at companies and it has generally seemed like a great experience. Not only does it provide key insights into what it’s like to do research at a company (like a pharmaceutical or biotech company), but it also helps to network experienced people to ask questions like how to prepare for interviews, etc.
Another great way to get started in industry is by getting an industry postdoc. These programs can be really nice because they are focused on training and publication (at least in my experience). The programs usually last 2-3 years and provide support for postdocs to learn and get a “full time” position. The majority of industry postdocs I have known went on to transition into a permanent role in their company, usually after 2 years. Many others go on to find cool positions at other companies. Generally this can be a great way to gain experience doing research at a company and also get support for finding the next great role.
It can be hard to transition from academia to industry. The path is not always clear, it can be hard to meet people, and it can be difficult to find a fitting open position. As we discussed here, networking can be a great way to get started with both making an informed decision about industry, as well as getting into that first position. Informational interviews are a specific way to learn more and to meet people in industry. Beyond networking, doing internships or industry postdocs can be other great way to start the industry journey.
Thanks for reading. Did I miss something or do you have a question? Let me know in the comments below.comments powered by Disqus