So I’m currently in the process of trying to move my job transition into industry into a higher gear than what I’ve been doing for the past year. I’ve realized that I’ve allowed having a job to give me a little too much breathing room, and that I need to start acting like the job is going to be ending and kick things into high gear.

So one thing I’m going to be trying to do is write at least one weekly summary of some of the things I’ve been doing over the week in pushing the transition forward.

With being a member of the Cheeky Scientist Association, I’m lucky to have access to both a wonderful group of people who understand both why I want to leave academia for industry, and the frustrations of trying to get there. So this week I decided to go back and watch a set of webinars (that the association offers) on different aspects of the job search (from trying to setup the best strategy, troubleshooting said strategy, overcoming frustrations in the job search, and common pitfalls in the job search).

One of the key takeaway messages was to makes sure that I was “running/moving towards something and not away from something”. I had decided that I didn’t want to be on the tenure track fairly early, but wasn’t 100% convinced that I wanted to leave academia (I did and still do enjoy working with undergrads). I had initially thought that maybe getting the position of lab manager, or a senior scientist position within a lab would give decent pay (not great, but livable) and enjoyment of research & working with students. Well postdoc positions don’t really give either of those things really (or at least my first one didn’t and the second one was so-so), and the staff scientist positions I’ve taken since then haven’t been much better. I’ve come to the conclusion that being at the bench really isn’t for me, and therefore I need to turn and see if doing “research/data analysis” away from the bench is more of my style. So I’m not running away from research, but instead changing my direction with research.

The second big package takeaway message was “to figure out the professional lifestyle that I want to have”. Now this is a question that I have been struggling with on and off for over a year to find the answer to. I’ve realized that I don’t really want to be doing research at the bench, and if I have to do a lot of writing—I’d prefer to be writing for the general public and not necessarily the scientific community. This writing preference has to do mainly with the fact that no one has ever really sat down with me to give good reasons for the voice behind scientific writing. I’ve had so many clashes over the years about my writing style, that towards the end of whatever project I’d just throw my hands in the air and let my supervisor rewrite it to “their scientific voice”.

So if I had to define my professional lifestyle, it would be working for a company that dealt with healthcare related topics (either as a clinical data manager, an healthcare information technology specialist, or a communication specialist). The hours would be more of an 8 to 5 job, with the occasional late evening or weekend needed (I have become fond of not having to really go in and work on the weekends or late into the evenings). I would have found some enjoyment again in breaking down the information in scientific papers so the general public could understand it. This would allow me to still stay on top of research, but at somewhat of my own pace and not being tied to a bench. There would also be in theory somewhat limited travelling time (maybe one or two conferences a year, and maybe one or two site visits a year if I’m in a clinical data management position)—because while I want to travel more, I would like that to be my free time, and not job related.

So with having my professional lifestyle, somewhat described; I could then move to the next question—what would be the best career titles (or areas) to start pursuing? The best answer (after making a list) is to network with people (and companies) to be able to set up informational interviews to learn about those positions. This has probably been my biggest barrier—I’m wanting to move out of Oklahoma and get back to probably the east coast, so anyone I try to set up an informational interview with is going to be a time zone ahead of me (which to my thinking is going to make it difficult to find a good time that would work for both people to set up either a short phone call or Skype call). But this happens to be the most effective way of finding out about (1) the current job title that I’m interested in, (2) any possible new jobs within that company, and (3) other people that I should possibly be reaching out to. So this is one of the big hurdles I need to start working at overcoming.

With the advancement of technology, we’re in a time when things are done more on line and that includes having a professional persona online as well. I’m talking about having a linkedin account. My current linkedin account is basically set to help me find a position in research—the only problem is that I’ve decided that I want to step away from the bench and do a different form of research (data analysis). So now I’m going to work revamping my linkedin profile before reaching out to people within the different areas that I’m now thinking of pursuing.

So what do I need to change on my profile?

I need a better professional photo (I currently have one that is several years old; and probably is more research/academia based that an industry photo).

I need to rework my linkedin summary to where it could go for anything in an management (or data research) position within the scientific community.

The current job titles/areas that I’m looking into are diverse:

R&D Project Manager

Health Economist & Outcome Research

Clinical Data Management

Healthcare Information Technology (HIT) Specialist

Marking Communications Specialist

Market Research Analyst

Quantitative Data Analyst

Operation Research Analyst

Medical Copywriting

I need to update my skills section (remove some of the highly specific research based ones and add more transferable and some specific for some above positions)

Ask for professional recommendations from people I know and trust

Add Cheeky Scientist Association to both my profile & my resume

Updating my summary is probably going to take me at least two weeks (once I sit down and really start to work on it), mainly because that is how long it took me last year to write my current one (when I was in the position of job searching then). I’m also going to be asking for feedback on the summary as I work on it (so that the final draft will be the one posted).

In addition I need to start being more active on linkedin as well. This means commenting/liking people’s posts, sharing articles, and then writing my own posts (i.e. reviews of area(s) I want to get into) as well. This has been another area of difficulty for me, as I still haven’t determined “what I want to be known for (i.e. science outreach, biotech, and things like that). I’m taking a personal branding online course and hopefully that will help me determine what my personal/professional brand is so that I can start being more active on linkedin.

I’ve also realized that at times I’m overthinking things—namely on trying to decide the direction that I want to go next. Again, I was reminded that one of the best ways to help determine this is to set up informational interviews with people and based on how those talks go, reevaluate my options. I’ve also realized that probably my main sticking points have been trying to determine the direction that I want to go, and networking with people.

It was also suggested that one has a spreadsheet to keep track of the companies you are interested in, along with their current open jobs (plus any “hidden jobs” you might be able to apply to), and your connections with that company (and how often you are in contact with them). I have a spreadsheet, and while it is mostly research based (biomedical/pharma companies) I know that a lot of these companies would be needing marketing departments so I can in theory keep them on the list—I just have to look deeper to see if the other positions would also be within those companies.

So based on watching this series of webinars how am I planning my new job search strategy?

Get my linkedin profile updated (ensure that the summary can encompass at least four out of the eight or nine different job titles/positions that I’m currently interested in; update the skill section, and ask for some professional recommendations).

Determine my “personal/professional brand” so that I can start being more active on linkedin (liking/commenting on peoples posts, sharing articles, and writing my own).

Networking on linkedin (both adding value to current connections and growing my network). This will be done strategically (as it is difficult to try to add value to over 1400 people at the same time). Continue with this and hopefully set up some informational interviews by October or November.

Update my job search strategy spreadsheet (with new companies, jobs, and so forth). Also try to figure out the say top four or five cities that I would be willing to relocate to for a position.

I know that the transition is going to take time (especially since I’m working full time at the same time). But I also know that academia isn’t for me, and that there is a position within industry that is for me—I just have to the patience, trust in myself, and knowing that there is an entire community to whom I can ask questions during this journey and know that I will get feedback on those questions.

So a goal for September is to get list of prospective job titles/positions in a ranked order, and to at least have one draft of a new linkedin summary to share for constructive feedback done and hopefully a final linkedin summary posted by mid-October.