Marketing yourself for an industry post-doc

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Marketing yourself for an industry post-doc

Postby TJ » Tue Feb 22, 2005 12:18 pm

Hello everyone,

I'm currently in my 6th year of graduate school and seriously considering taking the biotech route, with an eye towards moving away from the bench and into the business side of science once I'm done here. My degree will be from a biochemistry/developmental biology lab working on basic science types of questions on Xenopus oocytes. As a first step into the biotech world, I've been considering taking an industry post-doc. Here are my questions:

As someone with a background asking basic science questions and having little experience outside of working with xenopus oocytes, how difficult will it be to sell myself to a biotech lab? How does competition for an industry post-doc compare to an academic post-doc?

Would a better route be to take an academic post-doc that would poise me for a step into industry?

Any feedback is greatly appreciated.
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Marketing yourself for an industry post-doc

Postby Ganesh » Tue Feb 22, 2005 1:56 pm

I read you, JTM. Even I'm in the same situation here.
From the chats I've had with few people, the general opinion seems to be that the only advantage in industry is the money. There is no freedom to choose projects in industry and one is always under a lot of deadline dictated presure.
An academic postdoc, on the other hand , offers much more freedom and flexibility, even though it usually pays less. And there is the added advantage of working in a university/ teaching lab setup, where one can constantly interact with students and ohers who have to be taught and teaching is a great thing to do.

But it is very difficult to generalize, though I guess , at the end of the day, it all depends on what you relly want.

Marketing yourself for an industry post-doc

Postby Ken » Tue Feb 22, 2005 5:14 pm

I've been in my industry postdoc for a bit over three months now. I don't know how they stack up in terms of competitiveness of entry. My guess would be they're a bit more competitive than your average postdoc simply because there aren't as many postdoc positions in industry. But, a great postdoc in academia isn't exactly easy to get either.

I have to disagree with the previous poster's assessment of industry postdocs. I find quite a few advantages in addition to salary.

But, first the warnings. Be very careful when choosing an industry postdoc. I was offered two positions (by small companies) that I'm pretty sure were simply attempts to hire a scientist at a postdoc's salary. Plus, you can never be sure that small companies will be around for the duration of your postdoc. Make sure that you will be able to publish as a postdoc. You can do this by insisting on talking to the other postdocs. If there are no other postdocs, run away. Choosing an industry postdoc is a riskier proposition than an academic one.

But, the good:

1) Freedom. I don't notice any difference with freedom. I'm only three months in, and changed fields dramatically, and I'm still trusted to make my own decisions with the project. In academia I kept hearing horror stories about how in industry you would be working on cancer one day, and diabetes the next. Pure urban legend. If the plug gets pulled on something, chances are it is pulled for good reason. I've seen many academic projects whose plugs should have been pulled, but somehow never were.
2) Deadlines are not bad. I wrote up my own one month, six month and one year goals. My manager signed off on them. This way, there is no complaining later on from either side that either I'm being asked to do too much, or accomplishing too little.
3) Money. I don't have to do a second rate experiment. We have the money to do the best experiment possible.
4) Time. Core facilities end up performing many of the more mundane tasks and also many of the highly specialized tasks; my time is freed up to do science.
5) Teamwork. The teamwork is phenomenal. I haven't noticed any of the ego clashes that I was seeing daily in academia.
6) Seminars. I used to think I was a great public speaker. But, oddly enough, the talks I go to in industry are orders of magnitude better. There don't seem to be any bad speakers. It seems that there is less of an urge to sound smart, and more of an urge to get the point across to the audience. I love that.

To market yourself, I would say the most important thing is to emphasize that you will fit into the team, and deliver a clear and understandable message. This should come across in your cover letter (which is of vital importance), your CV, and most importantly, your interviews.

Good luck.
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