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Post doc?

PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 11:01 pm
by Melissa
I will be graduating in the next 6 months with my PhD and I would like to go into industry/biotech. I have two questions. First, does have anyone have any suggestions about whether to do a post-doc? And if so, is it better to post-doc in industry or academia? Secondly, everyone says it is best to 'network' to find a job in industry, what exactly does that mean? The large majority of my advisors disagree with going into industry, therefore they are being of little help. Thanks for your advice and suggestions.

Post doc?

PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 1:50 am
by Val

Melissa wrote:

> First, does have anyone have any suggestions about whether to do a post-doc?

In today's jobs market, there are more applicants for PhD-requiring jobs than available positions. "Postdoc" became a holding pattern for those who could not get a job straight after the graduate school. Nowdays, "postdoc" is used by young PhD-holders to obtain the experience in a different (to that of a graduate school) research area and to increase their publication list. They hope that this will increase their chances at impressing the selection board which looks for a new asst prof.

Industry is not worried about your credentials earned in the academia world.

> Secondly, everyone says it is best to 'network' to find a job in industry, what exactly does that mean?

"Networking" is most effectively done by going to a conference which is attended by the representatives of industry. You will strike conversation with them, find out what are their plans for R&D, tell them that you have exactly the same research experience, and they will give you their business card and will ask you to write to them. (This will happen if they need staff. If they do not need staff, they will be cold to your attepmts to strike conversation). Later you write email to them, and they will invite you for an interview.

The other type of "networking" (it is actually a mixture of cold calling and networking) is to write to the authors of the papers in the same research areas in the top-level journals, and ask them what are the trends in today's world, and if they now which companies are hiring etc. Be sure to mention your achievements described in a short crisp informative style.

One more opportunity to find a job (which is not exactly "networking") is to open up the local newspaper in the business section, and see the feature articles about companies. The newspaper publication will generate interest to that company among the potential investors, the share price will go up, the company administration will get the money to hire people and they will start hiring. You should send your application to the HR dept of that company, or even better -- identify some technical high-level person or technical manager, and send your inquiry about a job to him. It will better if in the opening of your email you mention someone's name who is a common acquaintance to you both.


Post doc?

PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 10:07 am
by TF

I am in a very similar position to you, as I am planning on graduating somewhere within the next 6 months. I can share with you my meager experience and hope that it might help you a little. I ended up applying for a post-doc postion at a fairly big pharm company. Because the technique that I know is not the most common and they were having a hard time filling the position they decided to give me an interview, knowing that it would be about half a year or so until I graduated.

It was a VERY interesting experience. This was my first interview and my first time in industry. There were a couple of things that stood out about the experience. First, a number of people who I interviewed with suggested that my FIRST post-doc be in academia. They said that if I was ABSOLUTELY sure that I didn't want to be in academia then doing an industry post-doc would be fine. Second the post-docs that I spoke with were all on their second post-doc! So I think you really need to make sure that you really want industry.

How to network? Well, as mentioned above, going to meetings is the best and easiest way. Just go up to someone's poster that you find interesting and start asking questions. I'm not sure of your skill set, but if you know an interesting technique, that may be enough to get you noticed, as it was for me. While I didn't end up getting the post-doc, I went and interviewed with 10 or so people at one company, all the way from post-doc up to section head. I now have a bunch of contacts. In fact, even though I didn't get the post-doc, there apparently are some other positions that they are considering me for, apparently. More details on this will be coming in the next few days.

The other thing to do at meetings is to look for opportunities to meet people outside of poster presentations. I am a neuro person and there is a HUGE neuro meeting every year. It attracts like 25k people from all areas of neuro. There are always special side meetings. That could be one avenue. They have a career section as well, where there are on-site interviews. Sign up for that and see how it works. Finally, this particular meeting had something called a mentoring program, where a senior researcher meets up with you and guides you through the meeting. Now I didn't need this as I have already been to this meeting before, but I did it anyway and requested someone from industry, as a networking experience. So before the meeting I chatted with this person on email and even sent him my CV. So there is another connection, at another company.

If you frequent any other web boards, even those unrelated to science, that is another source. I am a huge car enthusiast and frequent a number of sites. It just so happened that I ran into someone who does reg. affairs for the pharm industry and he knows lots of people. And we have a common interest outside of work. Sent him my CV and he sent it all over the place.

You never know who does what. I am always looking for something somewhere. Does your school have either a career day type thing or a good career center where you can be hooked up with alumni? All good places to start. Do I have a job, currently, no. But I have made a few contacts. Hopefully as time progresses these contacts will help me.

Post doc?

PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 11:25 am
by Dave Jensen
Hi Melissa,

Val's advice about networking is good, but there is a lot more to it than he describes. Actually, no one can do justice to the subject in the average response to a forum query. You'll need to experience it yourself. Basically, the process is just gathering information on how other people broke through the barriers and got their jobs. Concentrate on people who are just a couple of years ahead of you . . . They'll still have empathy for your situation.

Here's an article from Contract Pharma Magazine about networking that describes a lot of what you ought to know about,

Up Your Network!

Dave Jensen, Moderator

Post doc?

PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 1:28 pm
by Matt
What are some thoughts on the first part of Melissa?s question, about whether or not to do a post doc if you are heading into biotech/pharmaceuticals? I?ve talked to several different people in industry and have gotten a wide range of responses from ?you absolutely should? to ?don?t waste your time?. And a quick follow up, what generally are the consequences of not doing a post doc, say after 4 successful years as an entry level scientist?


Post doc?

PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 2:19 pm
by Alfred
It is interesting to see opposing viewpoints. I would say that, in general, a good post-doc would be in the best interest of a life scientist Ph.D. From my experience, someone with a post-doc under his or her belt will be given a more senior role off the bat.

Now, the question remains whether the post-doc or the equivalent amount of time working in industry is more valuable. Personally, I feel that doing a post-doctoral fellowship was a good career decision, even for my move to industry.


Post doc?

PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 2:25 pm
by TF
I think doing a post-doc for industry depends on the company and the position. The company I looked at was big on hiring full-time scientists with some form of post-doc experience. There was one person I interviewed with who got lucky (according to him) and was accepted as a full-on scientist in charge of his own lab.

I think you should be looking at both.

Post doc?

PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 2:30 pm
by Dave Jensen
Hi Matt (and Melissa!)

Sometimes when posting a response to a forum message, it is very easy to gloss over certain parts of the question and focus on what you think is most important. I'm always on the run . . . That's why its good to bring it back to the main point so that we can address it again.

I am in the business of helping companies find scientists (senior people, generally Managers/Directors and above). I can't imagine any company saying that they want to hire a person who had no postdoc. Almost universally, hiring managers expect (for RESEARCH POSITIONS) at least one good postdoc. They had one themselves, and they expect that their hires are going to have one as well.

That said, if someone is lucky enough to be hired without a postdoc in a biotech company (perhaps a smaller, aggressive startup or a company in the supplier side selling reagents and instruments), once you've had three or four years of industry experience, the absolute need for the postdoc gets dimmed by the industry experience. Fewer questions arise -- you are, at that point, hired for your expertise.

So, the long and the short of it is that a postdoc, for research positions, is almost an essential. 85% of the tme. Some 15% or so of PhD's intending a research background find a way, through persistence or luck, to get a job without one.

Dave Jensen, Moderator