To increase your chances of an interview, Jacobs emphasized the importance of networking. “Prepare a professional-looking business card and introduce yourself to other delegates at conferences, workshops and industry exhibitions. Be proactive.”
When Jacobs was headhunted for his current position, a recruiter contacted him after reading his resume on LinkedIn. “My qualifications and experience matched what was required for a position at MedImmune,” explained Jacobs. “It’s a good strategy to post your experience and qualifications online using sites such as LinkedIn. Recruiters check these sites constantly. I had set up my LinkedIn page while a postdoc. Once it’s set up, it simply works in the background for you.” When asked what he placed on the LinkedIn page, he replied that it was basically his CV, minus his publications list, but with an emphasis on his technical experience and knowledge.
Starting a career in private industry can seem somewhat overwhelming without some structured guidance, but many universities and research institutions offer career and training resources.
“We alert our fellows as early as possible, at orientation, to the career training and counseling options available to them at the National Institutes of Health,” says Lori Conlan, director of postdoctoral services at the NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education. “We develop new training packages and rotate our program from year to year. The workshops cover a variety of career related questions and are videocast and archived at www.training.nih.gov for the public to view. Many other academic institutions also will have career training and counseling programs, so look at your home institution as well.
“Our annual highlight is the NIH Career Symposium that offers a series of panel discussions on a variety of careers in science,” says Conlan. “More than 1,000 people attended this year’s symposium on the Bethesda campus in April. Also, every two months we bring a representative from a different company onto the campus to talk about recruitment opportunities with that company. These sessions are split between a 45-minute information session and a 45-minute networking session. This is a more intimate setting than at a career fair and gives postdocs an opportunity to ask specific questions about the company and careers there.”
With only about 8 percent of today’s postdoctoral scientists attaining tenure track academic positions, and with federal agencies now relying more on contract labor, private industry represents the future for many young scientists-in-training. Early career scientists seeking industry positions need to market themselves appropriately and highlight any professional competencies they posses that are desired by industry.
Tertius de Kluyver (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an adjunct professor of biology and environmental science at Hood College.