Knowledge of the Business – take it where you can get it!

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In the last couple of weeks three of my contacts have sent me information about jobs they have on offer for Doctoral Graduates in Bioscience. See the post above if you’re keen to apply. I’m sure you’re thinking: great news – there are jobs for a doctoral graduate out there! However, it is worth being aware that something of a theme was apparent in the requirements when applying for these positions.

“We’re looking for someone to join our sales team therefore they would need to have a commercial mind set

“Desirable skills include, an understanding of sales best practices including pipeline management

“Previous experience in market access/health economics or consultancy would be an advantage”

Unsurprisingly the businesses would like prospective employees to have an understanding of the way in which their business works, in addition to bioscience knowledge. In my work to promote the professional development of doctoral students I am always keen to remind them and prospective employers that a PhD is more like work, than study for a taught course, and as such, doctoral graduates emerge with a fantastic array of transferrable skills built from their experience. However, an area lacking in many doctoral programmes is delivering an understanding of business. This came out clearly in a discussion I chaired at last the Vitae Conference last summer. Various luminaries of researcher development were in general agreement: ‘knowledge of the business’ is one attribute from a list of desirable characteristics that neither graduates or doctoral graduates are likely to gain automatically.

So where can researchers pick up this crucial understanding of the business behind the science?

The Careers Service provides plenty of opportunities for all students across the university.

Work experience or Internships are a great way for researchers to see how companies operate, providing the upper-hand against other prospective candidates in future job applications. The Careers Service run Newcastle Work Experience – a paid, flexible work experience programme providing undergraduate and postgraduate students with the opportunity to undertake challenging project-based placements within Newcastle University and North East businesses.

Within the Careers Service, the Rise Up Team support all Newcastle students with a specific interest in starting their own business, or building valuable enterprise skills through speaker and training events. They also run an annual competition for students – NCL Apprentice. Participants learn transferable business enterprise skills that would be desirable across a range of later job roles. The competition opens on 18th February 2015.

Enterprise Competitions can also provide a great crash course for those who can’t take the time out working requires. Additional examples include the Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme competition, which is mostly for the bioscience students I deal with, but it now has equivalents in Engineering as well as Environment.

The option to add some ‘knowledge of the business’ is out there. I’d encourage you to take the time to seek out opportunities to develop this, as it will not only broaden your capacity to undertake your research, but widen your skills and post-study options. Even if it only makes you work harder toward that Nature paper, it will still be a worthwhile experience.

Richy Hetherington


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