Changing your career path can be stressful, from deciding what changes you want to make, to deciphering how to show potential employers that you have the skills to excel in a role in their organisation. Often those who have developed their transferable skills as part of an academic career can feel their qualifications and expertise are highly specific and so translating their skill set to a career outside of academia can seem like a difficult and daunting experience. So here are my top tips to help along the way:
- Recognise the transferable skills you have: An academic career is challenging and utilises a wide range of transferable skills that are immensely desirable to many employers in a range of fields, yet often academics don’t take the time to recognise this! Many academics work both independently and as part of a research team, do a lot of problem solving, data collection, data analysis, managing people, making decisions, planning, presenting and using different forms of media to communicate their ideas. Being an academic is also quite a creative role, as not only do academics formulate research questions based on scientific knowledge, they also have to interpret results which may be unexpected! Such a diverse and comprehensive skill set is something many employers dream of!
- Think about how you can demonstrate your transferable skills in a relevant way: It is important to think about the type of job in industry you are applying for and what transferable skills would be most desirable to a potential employer in that industry. Then see how you can match up your experience in those skills using examples that are most relevant or transferable to a job role outside of academia. For example, if an industry role involves presenting information to shareholder, an academic could talk about their experience in presenting a range of diverse information to different audiences from fellow academics to school children.
- Don’t undersell yourself! In my own experience, many academics can be quite humble about their experience and skill set. Whilst this is a likeable quality, in an interview situation, it can sometimes mean that a potential employer does not get a sense of the capabilities of the person they are interviewing. This isn’t to say that arrogance or over-confidence is necessary, but an awareness of your suitability and an eagerness to explain this with palpable examples is required as the person who interviews you is likely to have never met you or worked with you before, so they don’t have that sense of what you can do or how good you are at doing it.
- Seek out industry contacts: During an academic career, you’ll inevitably work alongside a range of people who may move on to different places of work or make changes in their career direction. Have a look through your network of contacts to see if any of them have made a move similar to the one you are considering. Can you can gain some insight from their experience– do they have any advice on making the transition having experienced it? They might be able to offer you the opportunity to shadow them at work for a day or visit to see the facilities and meet a few colleagues. These types of activities can help to give you a better appreciation of what a job role in that industry would be like and what an employer in that area might require/expect from an employee.
- Just because you don’t fit all the job criteria doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply! Most positions now advertise a set of criteria required from any applicant. Whilst some criteria such as certain qualifications may be essential, other criteria are desirable but not always necessary. Many roles now offer training for candidates transitioning from other areas of work and regulations/operating procedures you may be unfamiliar with from an academic background can be assimilated quickly. After all, a key skill of an academic is the ability to take in lots of information and interpret and use it! If your attitude to learning and change is positive and you can convey this to a potential employer, they should have the same position attitude in return in helping you to adapt.