Lessons for job seekers from our career events

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Looking for jobs is a hard task, trying to switch career paths? - Even harder. When I first started looking for a non academic job, I realised that I wasn’t ready for it, my CV wasn’t ready for it, and I didn’t know how to write a cover letter. Like me, many other young researchers deciding to pursue careers outside of academia soon hit the “job application wall”: they just don’t know how CVs are structured for jobs in industry or administration, because nobody taught them. It is true that most academics have successfully applied for several academic positions. However, when it comes to non-academic positions…do we really have the experience and capability to be captivating applicants?

To conclude the funding period that saw us receiving financial support from the Gutenberg Nachwuchs Kolleg (GNK) of Mainz University for career events co-organised with the students’ representatives of the International PhD Programme (IPP) Mainz, we once again collaborated with Dr Prateek Mahalwar. A former scientist,  turned consultant, turned entrepreneur and co-founder of various start-ups, Prateek is an academic with  vast experience in screening job applications and interviewing candidates for non-academic positions.

How to succeed in your next job application

With a very insightful course split between 12 and 19 March, Prateek proved that we still have a lot to learn about non-academic applications. During this 2-day course, Prateek shared all the secrets, tips, and do’s and don’ts for succeeding in job applications. Through his experiences, successes and failures, the participants managed to get a complete picture about the interview procedure from the initial step of finding and applying until the very last stages of the interview procedure.

The course started with an overview of platforms and websites where applicants can find job positions and went all the way to  standard interview questions. In particular, participants benefited from personalised feedback on their CV and from interview practice within the group.

This course provided a change of perspective by giving insight into what recruiters in industry want from applicants. Of course, the more dynamic and drastic the progress of science is, the more expectations will arise in working positions. For those   dreaming of pursuing a non-academic career , it is important to be prepared and practice in order to succeed in this highly competitive job application game.  

From ideas to business

Prateek had been in Mainz in February 2020, about a month before the world went on  lockdown, for a course on entrepreneurship. Back then, he engaged with participants in a fruitful discussion about how to transform an idea into business, using practical exercises to help better understand the entrepreneurial tool box. Based on the success from the first workshop, we once again offered  a course on entrepreneurship on 26 March, which saw 12 eager participants joining online. Prateek took us on a journey which included  what steps you take to identify ideas with business potential, to  how to test ideas with potential customers.

There are various tools that entrepreneurs use to define the value of their ideas and products, and the practical examples he brought showed participants how to apply them to a specific situation. He also delved into how  to collect funding for developing a start-up, which is a delicate but fundamental part of creating a business. The most valuable tips he gave were the ones coming from his own experience as an entrepreneur and start-up co-founder.

Rather than talking about his most successful enterprise, he explained his successes  and his failures  in other start-ups he co-founded. Especially what led to failure. Because there is no better way to learn something than to try and fail, but all this comes with taking the first brave step of trying something new.


Written by Chiara Galante & Evrydiki Asimaki; Edited by Gabrielle Sant. Featured images: courtesy of Prateek Mahalwar.

We thank the Gutenberg Nachwuchs Kolleg from Mainz University for the financial support in organizing these events.

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