In addition to the classical academic career, PhD and postdoc training can lead to a diverse range of career paths. However, while working within academia, it can be hard to gain an oversight of the other career options and how to transition into these roles. EMBL organizes an annual career day, to help fellows explore these questions by listening to and, more importantly, interacting with scientists who have already made this transition.
“Job fairs and career talks are a great platform not just to learn about the jobs, but also to network with people and create contacts. This is how I actually understood the jobs I later went on to apply to”. Jelena Tica – EMBL alumna & career day speaker
This year’s career day had the theme change and innovation. Ten speakers from a range of life science career areas – including innovation – shared their experience of career change with over 120 participants from EMBL and other local institutes. The talks revealed the daily life of R&D scientists, scientific editors, project managers, medical writers, patent agents, institute management, and other related careers. Participants also had the chance to interact and ask questions in an informal and interactive event.
“The skills and the values and aptitudes you develop over [your academic training] are so valuable to other employers. And there are many options out there.” Gary Male – EMBL alumnus & career day speaker
A key theme from the talks was that industry values the skills and experience of PhDs and postdocs; and that roles outside of academia can be incredibly rewarding. Many speakers spoke of their satisfaction with the wider variety and faster pace of projects in non-academic roles. However, the transition wasn’t always easy and finding the first non-academic role sometimes took a year or more.
In the early afternoon session, five recent alumni explained how they made the transition and shared tips with the participants. A key recommendation was to take the time to think about what you want from your career, to attend career events, and to network during the PhD and postdoc. Both targeted networking with people in careers that interest you and wider interactions to help you build a network were thought to be important. On the other hand, some alumni recommended simply applying to positions as a way to understand the career landscape and your market worth. Getting feedback on your CV, learning to communicate your skills, and having additional experience such as helping to organize a conference, were mentioned as ways help you stand-out when you apply.
“Take time to think about what you want. […] This is really an investment” Anna Berteotti – EMBL alumna & career day speaker
If you were inspired by the career day to take charge of your career planning, you can find some relevant resources below. Keep tuned to this blog for a range of career-related topics, as well as profiles of life scientists working in different fields.
Thanks to all those who supported this year’s event, including EMBL photolab, design team, alumni relations office, catering and building maintenance. As well as to our speakers:
- Katie Ridd – Global Editorial Talent Manager, Springer Nature, UK
- Christoph Feest – Innovation Facilitator & Head of Science Management, Berlin-Brandenburg Centre for Regenerative Therapies, DE
- Guillermo Menéndez – Patent Adviser, ABG Patentes, Madrid, ES
- Birgit Rogell – Project Manager, BioRN, DE
- Alexander Pflug – Structural Biologist, AstraZeneca, UK
- Anna Berteotti – Computational Chemist, BASF AG, DE
- Jelena Tica – Junior Clinical R&D Lead – GSK, BE
- Gary Male – Communications Consultant, Oxford PharmaGenesis
- Darren Logan – Head of Research, Waltham at Mars Petcare, UK
- Johannes Mosbacher – Business Interface Officer, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Roche Innovation Centre, CH
We forward to organizing the 2019 career day, which will take place on 18th July 2019.
Relevant resources available to all:
- Searls, D. B. Ten simple rules for choosing between industry and academia. PLoS Comput Biol 5, e1000388 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000388
- MyIDP – an online tool to help you think about your skills interests and values; explore career possibilities and set goals.
- Video: The Fantasy, The Ideal, and The Reality of Career Exploration from USCF Mind Programme
Internal resources for EMBL fellows / staff:
- EMBL Fellows’ Career Service: handouts e.g. on Academic Applications | Non-Academic Applications and non-academic interviews and intranet pages with jobs board and list of internal & external career events
- Library of career talks, including previous career day talks.