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Reports from…”How to be more employable in the private sector”, a career talk by David M. Giltner

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Monday afternoon, 16:00. The beginning of the week isn’t always easy, and yet a crowd of PhD students from various natural sciences sits in the auditorium of the Institute of Molecular Biology in Mainz. They have come to listen to a talk that David Giltner - the face, voice, pen and mind of Turning Science - is about to give. All in the hope of getting an answer to the vexing question of how to successfully make the great leap, the transition from academia to industry.

David has a PhD in physics and about two decades of experience in the private sector. He chose to leave academia and paved his way into industry. Nowadays, he helps scientists find their way outside of academia. He counsels them on their next career steps; gives talks about academia-to-industry transitions; trains scientists to improve their approach to the recruitment process; helps aspiring entrepreneurs to succeed with their ideas, and interviews former scientists who have successful careers in the private sector to provide inspiration to others trying to make a similar switch. He employs his experience gained in industry to outline career-development hacks for scientists.

His late afternoon talk is on “how to be more employable in the private sector”. In a nutshell, he mentions five essential habits successful scientists would benefit from. The foundation to these habits lies in the substantial differences between academia and industry:

  1. Firstly, money matters, and the prospect of profit will attract attention to your project/product.The scholar and their accompanying extensive knowledge of academics follows closely behind. .
  2. Aim for fast and efficient results, as results lead to profit. Much of that pursuit of a solid experimental design and a conclusive result won’t matter any longer.
  3. Build a team of experts! One of the most famous differences between academia and industry: team-work is the key to success. Have you ever noticed how company websites usually have a “meet the team” page?
  4. Make decisions (good decisions) with limited data. If you don’t make a decision...how can you reach progress?
  5. Learn how to sell/project yourself. You need to know how to sell your ideas. Especially to people who don’t speak your “language” and wouldn’t understand all that technical jargon scientists tend to use.

So, in one line: one must make timely decisions, which lead to progress, which lead to results, which then leads to profit. It is also important to project confidence, ensure that you can convince people that your idea is the best one, your project is the one to support, and you are the one to be hired!

Overall, these tips can help scientists get past the doors of industry and sustain a successful career within. These tips can also be applied to make life in academia smoother. What should I work on? Which of these habits do I definitely not have? Showing recruiters that you can already think in that way, that you value corporate strategies, or that you will do what is necessary to reach results in a fast and efficient way will give you that added value when applying for jobs outside of academia.

The audience of this late Monday afternoon is probably tired, possibly shy. Few attendants engage David in interactive chats. David’s lively and entertaining talk, filled with real-life examples taken from his own experiences, definitely held their attention as they laughed at his jokes and followed his narration of stories of a different world. He provided enough food for thought and a good peek into the life of a scientist/entrepreneur in the industry.

Now, how many of them will inculcate these habits? And you? Do you think you have what it takes for a successful career in industry?

Written by NGC/Chiara Galante; Edited by NGC/Radhika Menon.

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