Here at Smart Tribe, we are helping researchers transition from the academia to industry. We encourage PhD holders to find their dream jobs and work for companies they admire and wish to be involved with in devising solutions to their problems.
It is a big deal and a tremendous change for many academics who might find the transition overwhelming, or even scary. Looking for a job is a stressful and lengthy process for everyone. And the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced most of the world to go into lockdown, with many companies putting a halt on hiring, is certainly not helping.
However, this is indeed a good time to do your homework and prepare to secure your dream job. Many good companies are still hiring individuals with problem-solving skills, who will be needed now more than ever.
Find the company you want to work for.
Instead of looking for a job through endless posts on Linkedin or sending your CV to unknown recruiters and having it end up in a pile with hundreds of other CVs, you should take control of your job search.
Start with what you are the best at: Do some research. Ask yourself questions: Which industry am I interested in? What are the companies are there in that industry? Do I want to work for a corporate or a startup? For a commercial organisation or non-profit? Make a list of your choices with the pros and cons of working for that particular company.
What problems do you want to solve for the company?
Once you narrow down the industry and the companies you want to work with, research more about the industry and the companies you have chosen in particular.
Read not only the content that is on their website but also look at is the reviews written about them by other employees as Glassdoor as well as press releases for their projects and products. Note how they are helping their customers. Understanding their customer relations is crucial, as it will give you a very good idea about their pain points and the solutions they require.
It will become clear to you how you can fit in with your chosen organisation and which problem/project you would want to work on and which areas you could truly help them in with your expertise and experience.
In what capacity do you want to work in the industry?
R&D departments are not the only place for academics in the industry. There are dozens of positions in various parts of an organisation where the transferable skills you have acquired while completing your PhD will help you take on different roles.
Everything depends on your interest and how you present yourself in fron of your future employer. You need to emphasise the skills and expertise you bring to the table for the desired function.
At Smart Tribe, we publish a long list of positions that PhD holders are capable of fulfilling, from working as a data scientist to even becoming a legal advisor! If you like to translate great volumes of data into strategic action, then the choice is easy and you can become a fantastic data scientist with or without a background in computer science.
If you care about ethics in the domain of AI, you could perhaps consider joining legal and compliance departments in companies or take on public policy advisor roles.
Does the idea of transforming scientific research into commercial success intrigue you? Then, working as an IP manager or in business development could be your thing. There are so many options for you!
Assess your skills, strengths and weaknesses in order to get your dream job
Once you decide on what you want to do and which company you want to join, it is time to assess if you have all the skills you need to get that job. I stand corrected: you do not need to have ALL the skills.
The most important thing is to be able to do the job. It really is OK not to be perfect, and you most certainly do not need to apologise for it. I see too many PhD holders’ responses to companies being too apologetic and undervaluing of themselves. Be honest about your skills, but avoid emphasising your weaknesses.
In the industry world, you are perfect. Even if you lack some basic skills that are essential for the job, you can always learn. For example, if you do not know how to code but want to work as a data scientist, you can simply take a coding course.
Start networking with people who work in the company you wish to work with. Start with friends and their friends. Connect with people you find on Linkedin, Medium, Twitter and other professional networks by commenting on their posts to start drawing their attention.
Attend company webinars or other events, especially online and ask relevant questions during those events. It will often push you to go out of your comfort zone and widen your existing network of people.
This is your first test if you truly wish to work for the company, interact with its people and acquaint yourself with its culture.
Just ask for advice. Others want to help!
You will be really surprised at how helpful strangers can be. I know that the thought of asking a random person for help appears scary, but there are people who are really friendly and want to help. Just ask for advice or help if you face difficulty in understanding something.
Do not ask for a job directly. Rather, be proactive about how you can position yourself in order to indirectly ask for a position with the company. Mention that you can work on the same problems but come up with different solutions.
Mention clearly that you are excited about their work, as you have done so much research about their company. Compliment them for coming up with a great product. Ask other people already holding similar positions as the one you want about how it is like to work for that company and if they find their job difficult, challenging or exciting.
Once you begin networking with your future colleagues, they can even recommend you to their boss.
Walk the extra step, and always follow up promptly
Now that you know where, with whom and in what position you want to work as well as what problems you want to solve, and have already networked with people who can be your future bosses and colleagues, you are ready.
Looking for available positions on the company website is one way to do it, but it is better to directly approach the decision-makers who need people like you. Simply tell them that it is your dream to work for them and help them become more successful. Unless companies have undergone a hiring freeze, they are always looking for talented employees, even when they do not advertise for it.
Tell them why you want to work for them and what makes you perfect for the company. You can even prepare something extra to share with them, for example, a presentation, blog, simple tech solution, or something similar. Ask for their email or find it yourself. You can easily figure out corporate email addresses online or simply use VoilaNorbert.
Do not be shy. Show some excitement, and they too will soon be excited to talk about you with their colleagues and bosses. Once you get a response, respond promptly and keep following up with them. In case they go silent for a while, send them a reminder. People get busy and forget sometimes, but you are on a mission to get your dream job!