Guest blog post by PhD-student Tyra Lagerberg and the team from the MF Business Committee. They hosted a career event late April 2018, supported by Career Service and KI Alumni.
It was a night to remember! KI students and alumni came together on Tuesday the 24th of April to discuss careers beyond academia. Alumni from different sectors – pharmaceuticals, finance, consulting, health informatics, and marketing – rotated around students in sets of 10 minutes, during an event inspired by the concept of speed dating. The result was a lecture hall buzzing with conversation. Here is a distillation of some of the themes that cropped up.
Should I make the transition from academia to industry?
A big question a lot of the students had was whether a transition from academia to industry is a good move. This can be a tough call, and no answer is right for everyone. Still, the alumni highlighted that industry does have some advantages over academia. Salaries can be higher and the mentality is still focused on problem-solving. It can also be very fast paced, which might not be attractive to everyone. Your training as a scientist can be put to good use outside academia, but it’s a matter of deciding whether industry would suit you better!
How do I figure out what I want?
This is perhaps the hardest part of any career journey. The alumni had some specific tips:
- Ask yourself who you are and what you want to do. Are you a generalist or specialist, a lab scientist or strategist? This may take some introspection, but you will usually already know what your passions are. Can you incorporate them into a career? If so, follow that path!
- Make use of internships – actually trying out different jobs could also help you discover what you want to do outside academia. KI has some tips and opportunities available for students, PhD students and postdocs.
How do I develop the skills I need to do what I want?
Once you know what you want to do, you need to develop the tools to do it. The alumni gave some solid advice here, too:
- Complement your education – There are marketing, business, statistics, or communication courses that you can take part time – and the range of online course offering is huge (e.g. Coursera or edX). Ask people in different jobs what they do to learn more.
- Put together a toolbox of your skills – You probably already know more than you think. Remember the courses you have taken. Highlight your strengths and interests.
How do I network to get the opportunities I want?
Networking is hugely important to broaden your career opportunities – and just see what’s out there! The mantra “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is perhaps not 100% true, but it definitely is important to make connections in your field of interest.
- Take networking one step at a time. When you reach out to someone, take the angle “you have experience in a field I’m interested in, could you give me some advice about…?” This gives a proactive impression, and hopefully makes you a contact that can broaden your network.
- Be proactive – Call! Reach out. Show persistence.
There are no hard and fast rules around how to approach your career journey. You never know what opportunities will present themselves – the important thing is to be prepared and proactive. The latter has already been evidenced in the many students who attended the event. It was great to see such a high turn-out and level of interest! Keep your eyes open for future events of this kind as part of your networking efforts.