Donny Wong gained a Ph.D. in biological sciences in 2003. He is now senior director of metabolic disorders at Decision Resources. Below he shares his advice on how to navigate that move between a career in academia and a career in industry.
Management consultancy is often a popular choice for doctoral career changers, involving, as it does, good research, analytical and communication skills. There are also lots of opportunities to specialise in a particular sector that perhaps relates to your research – we know two biosciences postdocs who have recently moved into management consultancies that specialise in pharmaceuticals and in R&D, for example.
If you fancy finding out more about management consultancy, there are a few approaches to try. You can do some desk-based research through our occupational pages, to find out more about the facts of the role and the industry. You can do some desk-based networking through our Graduate Connections database, which contains profiles of graduates in different jobs (including 93 PhD graduates), who you can email to ask for advice and information. Or, you can go one step better and actually hear direct from consultants themselves. We’re holding an Insider’s Guide event next week, featuring two guest speakers from different consultancies. There will be opportunities to network with them afterwards (including the all-important tea and biccies), which I would highly recommend – it never hurts to network, even if you’re shy, and this is a great opportunity to practice (the presenters are here to talk to you too after all).
More details about how to sign up on our events pages.
Now I’m sure that you’re all familiar with Vitae, which “[champions] the personal, professional and career development of doctoral researchers and research staff in higher education institutions and research institutes”. We’ve got a link to their website on our resources page, because they have loads of information about issues affecting researchers, alongside resources such as sample CVs, and advice and tips.
They also hold regular events that are open to researchers around the country, so they’re good opportunities to meet and share experiences. One interesting looking upcoming event is about careers in medical communications, at Manchester University (details below). I have to admit I don’t check the website as often as I should, but I have become a big fan of RSS feeds of late, so found out about it that way instead (RSS feeds are a bit of a lifesaver for a busy person!).
Anyway, looks like a great event – well worth a look for those of you interested in communicating more about medicine.
In a recent article in the Times Higher Education Supplement academics were asked ‘what had they wished they had known at the start of their careers?’
Letters to a young academic are inspirational musings on what will help you make sense of, and survive the world of academia.
Advice ranges from the practical;
“If you’re not asked to take mad chances, manufacture them. Network, ask established academics to publish with you, suggest research proposals, organise team teaching and join at least one committee.”
to the more obscure,
“I’m a scientist. My regret is all the time I wasted working on a useless time machine. If only it worked; I could go back in time and not bother.”
Twitter followers were also asked what advice they would give to themselves given the opportunity. Find out here….fun, laughter and tears follow.
- for many postgraduates, undertaking a doctorate is an exploratory career stage, not a definite first step to a research career
- their choice to undertake doctoral research is overwhelmingly for intellectual curiosity and interest
- about half of final-year doctoral researchers are thinking about working in higher education, although the vast majority intend to pursue occupations or careers which relate to their research discipline
- doctoral researchers tend to seek work that is interesting and exciting rather than being driven by opportunities for high financial reward
- for most doctoral researchers, this aspirational mind-set is yet to be tempered by pragmatic thoughts, such as job availability.
More highlights available here.
Do you want to explore the many options that are available to doctoral graduates to assist with your career decision making?
is a new online resource on the career destinations of doctoral graduates from Vitae.
- Find out about the fifteen main employment sectors for doctoral graduates, including the current state of the industry, future projected trends, the roles that doctoral graduates have taken up in each sector in recent years and useful resources, including key employers within the sector
- Read profiles on sixty of the most common occupations for doctoral graduates, including numbers of doctoral graduates entering these jobs, a brief explanation of what the role entails, entry requirements, typical salaries and useful links
- Explore the career paths and destinations which researchers from individual disciplines and subjects have followed
- Get advice on using labour market information to assist with career planning
Just to introduce myself, I am currently a Research Assistant at Newcastle University Business School. I joined the world of academia in May 2011, having previously worked in commercial (public sector) research and consultancy for the last 10 years ish. More about that another time, but my experiences may be of interest to others, hence sharing through this blog.
Part one of my experience has been to quickly get reacquainted with academic literature, learn qualitative data management software (NVivo), and remember how time-consuming and slow the process of transcription is. Part two has been to understand the place of research in the university context, understand my place within it and figure out a new career path.
It’s this last element which has been much on my mind recently, and taken time to understand (not sure I’m there yet). Things I know for sure- 1) PhD is a must if I want to become a lecturer 2) getting work published is vitally important 3) getting work published in the right places is vitally important (3* and 4* journals). Things I still don’t know- 1) how to get PhD funding for a topic that both interests me and interests the funders 2) how to respond to multiple reviewers who may disagree 3) why some journals are considered a higher star rating than others and what difference this really makes.
My current position is managing a short term contract, hourly paid seminar work, and paying the bills. Despite this juggling, things are going well so far! More to follow, if you’re interested. Comments, advice, tough love welcome.