When many people finish their Ph.D. in science, they often end up in their university labs as researchers. It’s the start of a long career in academia, and almost half of all Ph.D. holders stick around. However, what if the academic life isn’t for you? How can you take your Ph.D. skills into the commercial and private sectors? Read on to find out more in our concise guide.
Use your Ph.D. time wisely
First of all, it’s important to think beyond your Ph.D. while you are taking it. Of course, this can be tricky – it’s a tough qualification, and it requires all your focus. But, you will need downtime while studying – and this is the best time to start thinking about your future career. Consider the specialist skills you now know – and where they have value in the industry. You might have a few business ideas swimming around your head, too. The earlier you focus on the right choice, the more likely it is to happen.
Translate your skills
There is a big difference between working in academia and the commercial world. And, all the knowledge you have under your belt will need to be translated into sellable skills. For example, an academic interview might accept that your 60,000-word thesis is enough to give you a job there and then. But, a commercial employer will want to know more. Instead, tell them about the skills you know. So, instead of a thesis, show them you can present significant amounts of information in a clear, concise way. And, that you also have fluency in word processing packages. If you finished your Ph.D. in two years, tell them you can plan and deliver a project within set time frames.
There are many different jobs out there that will suit you, depending on your specialism. For example, if you have a Ph.D. in Biology, you could become a scientific writer. Or, if you have a Ph.D. in Geology, you could look into getting work with an oil company. Try to think outside the box a little. It shouldn’t be too hard – you are a scientist, after all! Your best bet is to use science-based job sites – Hyperec, for example. Doing this will help you see the type of career opportunities that are out there. The earlier you find something that catches your eye, the better. It might even give you some inspiration for your Ph.D. Nothing impresses a potential employer more than an employee who already has the answers they are looking for!
Understand the commercial world
If you have been in education all your life up until now, you might find the commercial world a little strange. Many academics struggle with their new environment. For example, someone with a bit more experience but fewer qualifications might be in a higher position to you. And, you won’t necessarily receive a higher salary just because you have a Ph.D. There is always the chance that you miss the lifestyle of the academic – but as long as you don’t burn bridges, you can always go back.
Good luck out there in the commercial world – we wish you every success!