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Why the prejudice against academics?

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Why the prejudice against academics?

Postby S. Banerji » Fri Jan 22, 2016 2:21 am

In many of the informational interviews I've conducted with people working outside of academia, I've repeatedly heard how much they hate hiring anyone with a long academic history.

They seem to believe that we are antisocial, incapable of teamwork, etc etc etc. Our accomplishments are held against us.

One manager in regulatory affairs actually told me to take all the science off my resume, and that she would rather hire someone fresh-out-of-undergrad than someone with a long history in academics. This person herself had a PhD (neuroscience) and postdoc.

What is the best way to get around this prejudice?
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Re: Why the prejudice against academics?

Postby K.B » Fri Jan 22, 2016 5:23 am

Selection depending on the skills required and candidate's track record is not technically 'prejudice'. You have probably mistaken what they are expecting. If the industry require social, team player and reject a person with a long academic track record doesn't mean that they coin the academic person as antisocial and incapable of teamwork. Having seen a bit of both academic and industrial working atmosphere, I could see a few differences in them and the mindset of people who work there.

Again, I should thank the forum to give me some insights. I had the privilege of working with my PhD supervisor's PhD supervisor during my second year of my doctoral studies. He spent quite a lot of time for both scientific and career oriented discussions. During those sessions, I should say he changed my view point on industry. I was thinking I am pretty much an academic person and sort of hated to work in industry, most of the academic people I met had the similar impression. He gave some insights on how things work in industry, and also suggested me to perform some experiments, which will make my profile a little interesting and facilitate me to step into industrial sector. He recommended to perform some animal experiments and utilize some animal surgery skills I acquired earlier.

After getting into industry, I was pretty much amazed how they could pick people with such a striking similarities to each other (as in their attitude towards work) though their expertise are so different to each other and a diverse background. I could understand why they prefer people with certain personality traits. Having an extended academic track record means they are more focused on a specific topic, but if they wanted to be in industry why they did not take efforts earlier? If they have taken, and couldn't succeed, there might be a reason.

While talking to some of my academic peers, who were either interested or they were interested but couldn't make into industry, I could sense that though they are very talented and experts in their fields, they sort of lack something. Recently, one of my friend who had very good publications and expertise that the job profile (and he shared what his, then his, future supervisor expected), I could sense it's quite possible for him to make it to. But when we were talking about how the interview went, his answers to certain questions made me to even think that he is not serious about the industry, or put it in the other way, he was sounding more like a very good academic person, and that's it. It took a while for me to convey and for him to get how exact he could have answered those questions. He has very good social skills, but that wasn't typically how an industrial person might have answered or behaved.

How to get around this expectation? Well, industry wants someone who takes no time to get into the matrix and achieve the set targets. If you're the one, they hire you, if not you still have academic position. If you want to be in the industry, acquire the skills.

All the above statements I have given are just from my personal experience, and having worked in one single company and having collaborated with three other industries, but always worked in the research sector. I could sense that the company philosophy differs to each other and people from different company are conditioned to see things from a certain view point. So, this might not be the whole case, there are experts here who could shed more light on this.
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Re: Why the prejudice against academics?

Postby D.X. » Fri Jan 22, 2016 5:32 am

Dear Banerji,

In General, you may not like to here it, but in the context of a Business Environment, the attributes fueling the prejudice against academics can be well founded.

Especially in the situation where the applicant has done nothing to show academic skill sets are transferable.

I haven't seen your resume, but I was given the same advice in Terms the Level of science of my resume back in the day. In true academic mentality, I was applying for many diverse corporate Jobs with a CV that had so much science sufficient to make one's head spin. Know I don't remember the science anymore so pardon the accuracy, but for example I had things in my CV like, "identified novel Alpha Bravo Tango 2 Protein using Western Blot and Sigma Tau Screen with Gamma ray microscopy within 50 Agnstroms of ATP binding Protein Beta". or "Ran multiple HiFi Florencent binding assays to Screen for 1,000 colony forming Units of Hungarian Death Virus 7H4T".

With stuff like that - of course I was as asking to be labeled as an academic. I deserved that prejudice.

So I was given the advice to Keep it simple - all that science went to something like "identified new pain target in the brain though a strategic investigation process leveraging divers technical solutions" - very top Level, not hiding the truth but bring up what I did to something that is understandable and highlighting those transferble skills.

Of course at your Level your accomplishments are scientic and in academia.

That's been your world - that's been your comfort and your strength. But as you noted, that academic mindset (i.e. putting that high science stuff in a CV) is not what employers are looking for and that Comes out in how you express and present yourself.

They are looking for your critical thinking, your ability to see the bigger picture, ablity to deliver, work effectively in objective-driven Teams, communicate professional, manage Projects, to see you have those tranferable skills. They will not doubt your science, that's the least of your concerns so no Need to dwell in it like an academic - the other areas I just mentioned, that's their concern.

The burden is on you - not them - to see you not as an academic - but a candidate with the skills they Need to do the Job.

And regarding the Person who gave you that Feedback with a PhD/postdoc,, that means nothing. After being out of the academic Environment for a while you won't dwell on that. One becomes the world one lives in - in other words they've well adapted and have left the lab a Long time ago. If that Person was in RA, then that Person "is" a RA Professional. They are more interested in hiring those have the mindset they already have, not what they once had.

Hope I'm not being harsh - but your accomplishments are not being held against you - rather its how your selling your self - that's whats being Held against you.

And this is nothing against academia at all - academia is all what I just said in skills employers are looking for - its just how you express them can lead to the label. You will Need to adapt to a non-academia world - so how you present yourself is one of the first indicators of such.

DX
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Re: Why the prejudice against academics?

Postby Dave Walker » Fri Jan 22, 2016 12:41 pm

Good topic of conversation, S. Banerji. One thing that jumps out at me is that this is not a new phenomenon. D.X. had the same problems when they started, and you are having this now. Seeing it this way, it is a fairly deeply-rooted phenomenon.

I think the great posts here have covered what you need to do: change your mindset to be the kind of person they are looking to hire. (This is, in fact, good advice for every career.) Academics do things a certain way, and the longer one is an academic the harder it might be to change. Consider those academics who have worked in the same type of environment their whole lives!

The comment you heard about stripping your CV of science brought to mind the first time I heard this advice, from one of Dave Jensen's columns on an "industry CV." A good read if you wanted to get further into why this is the way it is: http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2009/ ... ndustry-cv
"The single factor that differentiates Nobel laureates from other scientists is training with another Nobel laureate." -- Sol Snyder
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Re: Why the prejudice against academics?

Postby Rich Lemert » Fri Jan 22, 2016 1:48 pm

One example of something that will identify you immediately as an 'academic' and put you on the 'no thanks' pile - is 'credentials'.

In academics, it's usually all about who you worked for and what skills you have.

"Joe must really be good - he came out of Dr. Blowhard's lab."

Or, on a resume: "I know PCR, MRI, CDC, IBM, IOU, and sixteen other obscure and specialized techniques."

Companies don't care about what techniques you know; they hire technicians to run them. What they do care about is that you understand what the data from these techniques means.
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Re: Why the prejudice against academics?

Postby Nate W. » Sun Jan 24, 2016 9:42 pm

Rich Lemert wrote:One example of something that will identify you immediately as an 'academic' and put you on the 'no thanks' pile - is 'credentials'.



Rich, there are many scientists out there who have gone back to school to get additional degrees. Sometimes you must have the right academic credentials or certificates to compete. For example, a MD, PharmD, or PhD is an absolute requirement for a MSL position. In biotechnology, a premium is often placed on credentials, not experience, just to get any consideration. I don't think there is much satisficing in how candidates are considered for many alternative tracks.

Someone should address this issue on this forum and the costs associated with getting the right degrees to compete. Especially given the cost of higher education nowadays.

The nature of graduate training and the attributes one can acquire while working in a dysfunctional and hypercompetitive lab are at the heart of this prejudice.
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Re: Why the prejudice against academics?

Postby D.X. » Wed Jan 27, 2016 4:05 am

Nate W. wrote:
Rich Lemert wrote:One example of something that will identify you immediately as an 'academic' and put you on the 'no thanks' pile - is 'credentials'.



Rich, there are many scientists out there who have gone back to school to get additional degrees. Sometimes you must have the right academic credentials or certificates to compete. For example, a MD, PharmD, or PhD is an absolute requirement for a MSL position. In biotechnology, a premium is often placed on credentials, not experience, just to get any consideration. I don't think there is much satisficing in how candidates are considered for many alternative tracks.

Someone should address this issue on this forum and the costs associated with getting the right degrees to compete. Especially given the cost of higher education nowadays.

The nature of graduate training and the attributes one can acquire while working in a dysfunctional and hypercompetitive lab are at the heart of this prejudice.


I think what Rich is referring too here by the use of "credentials" is the listing of one's PI Name as an "accomplishment" as well as listing of skills such as PCR, Microscopy, Western Blotting etc. as what you bring to the table. The "academic" way where PI can be a meaningful (i.e. I came from Dr. Noble Prize Lab) and the techniques you know. Probably listing of publications falls into that catagory. So in Terms of credentials that's what Rich is refering to that can be perceived as "academic" Approach. What that doesn't do, as I alluded to in my prior post is the transferable skills you bring to the table. And if you're brining into those transferable skills - there is less risk of being perceived as academic and tossed into the pile - if non-academic Jobs are the target.

Different Story if one is in academia and looking to grow there, in that case, list away!

Cheers,

DX
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