Career Tips for PhDs Transitioning into Industry

As a recruiter within the Life Science industry, I’ve spoken with thousands of people at various stages of their careers, from recent Bachelor’s graduates to C-suite and board-level executives. This has enabled me to gain insight into different career paths graduates are able to take, how best to explore them, and how to translate skills developed at university into valuable CVs/resumes any employer would be interested to see.

Any change, particularly career changes, can be daunting. You’ve spent the past few years researching in a field you’re passionate about achieving a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD, and you’re thinking – what’s next? You’re ready to apply your knowledge but you’re not sure what you want to do or what’s out there outside of academia. This is a common thought amongst graduates, and it can be stressful.

In this article, I want to provide you with tips not just from a recruiter’s perspective but also from the perspective of previous PhD graduates who have made the transition from academia to industry themselves – applying the extensive knowledge they have developed during their academic years.

Realising Your Value in the Industry

Graduates often underestimate the value they bring to the table when moving into the industry.

  • Diverse Skill Set: As a PhD, you would have developed a wide range of skills including critical thinking, problem-solving and the ability to gain a deep understanding of complex subjects. In addition, PhDs are fast learners of new topics and can effectively communicate with stakeholders. These skills are transferable and extremely sought after in the business world. The ability to approach problems from different perspectives and propose innovative solutions are tremendous assets to companies.
  • Research Expertise: Your experience in conducting research, analysing data, and drawing conclusions makes you an ideal candidate for positions that require data-driven decision-making. We are in an age where data, evidence, and the ability to critically analyse are highly sought after, which makes your expertise invaluable.
  • Adaptability: The journey to achieving a PhD has taught you how to adapt, persevere, and overcome challenges. This ability to thrive in constantly changing environments is an asset that many industries appreciate.

Career Paths and Goals

Before diving into the job market, it is important to take a step back and reflect on what your career goals may be. A good starting point would be asking yourself:

  • What Are Your Goals?: Consider the industries that genuinely excite and interest you – although this may change over time. If you can find work that covers your bills and provides you with fulfilment, then you are at the right place. Think about what sectors you would like to contribute to – tech, healthcare, sustainable energy, etc. Understanding your passions will help identify the right industry for you.
  • Aligning Goals to Roles: Once you have identified your aspirations, align them with potential industry roles. Be realistic about being entry-level – it may not match your ideal role at this moment but it could be a stepping stone to your dream career. If you like analysing and interpreting large amounts of data – becoming a data scientist could be a good starting point. Perhaps you have an engineering degree – you can look at the career path of a service engineer. Or perhaps you want to try being an application specialist/scientist as you enjoy problem-solving, and you want to show customers the different applications of the products you want to work with.

There are many paths that you can take with your career – and you don’t always have to continue down that path even if you’ve put a few years into it already. The most important thing is to choose something that you are truly interested in on a personal level.

Tailoring Your CV/Resume and Online Presence

One of the major issues in education is the lack of classes in CV/resume writing. When speaking with Adam Ostrowski, Ph.D (Application Scientist at Cellexus), he mentioned that CV writing is a major issue among graduates, as they are often unsure of what to include in their CVs. Skills and experience such as information parsing, data analysis, large data analysis and presentations are often left out. People are also unsure what information to highlight. The purpose of a CV is to sell one’s experience and skills in a way that an employer can see how they would fit into the company.

Customized CVs/Resumes:

It is important to tailor your resume to highlight your skills, experiences, and achievements that are most relevant to the industry. If you are able to, try to quantify your accomplishments whenever possible – this helps provide tangible proof of your value. If you can tailor your resume for certain job applications – the ones you feel are the greatest fit, then this can only increase your chances of securing an interview.

LinkedIn Optimization:

It should not be a surprise that LinkedIn would be mentioned in an article about career tips. LinkedIn is a powerful platform where you can create a compelling profile, engage with industry professionals, and demonstrate your passion for your field. It’s a brilliant tool for networking and finding out about companies in the industry you are interested in.

For example, if you are interested in Company X and visit their company page, LinkedIn also shows you companies that other people have viewed and may be relevant. You can easily go down a rabbit hole and have a list of relevant companies in your industry to research and learn more about. Once you have your list of companies, you can see what events & conferences they are attending in the year.

You can also connect with people you would be interested in speaking with – and most people would connect if you could send them a personalized note on why you’d like to connect in the first place.

Job Boards: LinkedIn has a great job board but it’s not the only one out there. Have a look at Indeed, CV Library (UK), Glassdoor, and other job boards that may be more relevant to your region/country.

Networking and Building Relationships

LinkedIn/Twitter (X)/Industry Recruiters:

As mentioned earlier, LinkedIn is a fantastic platform to engage with other academics, industry professionals, and recruiters.Yes, everyone is busy with their day jobs, family life, and personal situations, but people often would be happy to help if they can – you don’t get what you do not ask for.

X (Twitter) is another good platform to network and build relationships on. Adam Ostrowski set up a Twitter page with his friends/colleagues called Alt Ac Chats – link – where they discuss alternatives to academia, tips to move into industry, and common pain points graduates experience across the board!

Connecting with recruiters in the industry is also a fantastic resource. If you connect with industry specialist recruiters – they will have a deep understanding of the job market, company cultures, and skill requirements for certain jobs. Recruiters often have access to job openings that are not publicly advertised. When working with a recruiter during an interview process, they can provide valuable feedback on CVs and interview preparation to help improve your chances of securing a job. It is the recruiter’s responsibility to help you and remember that we are in the service industry – you will come across bad recruiters but hopefully, you come across some great ones too.

Industry Events – Conferences & Exhibitions:

There is pretty much a conference/exhibition for anything you can think about. Once you have found an industry you have an interest in working in, take some time to research what conferences/exhibitions are taking place throughout the year – this is a good opportunity to see what companies are attending, where you can meet potential hiring managers and learn about their products and technology face to face!

Career Fairs & Graduate Programs:

Take advantage of career fairs and graduate programs that are advertised or that you come across. Even if it was more for the practice of introducing yourself to others and explaining what your interests are career-wise, they can be good locations to learn more about entry-level positions you may not have been initially aware of.

Graduate programs often get you working in different departments of a company throughout a year – for example, 3 months within the commercial sales & marketing team, 3 months within the finance team, 3 months within the research & development (R&D) team and 3 months within the corporate team.

Preparing for Interviews and Demonstrating Your Value

Having success in the interview process and receiving a job offer is the ultimate goal. Please remember that you are interviewing the company as well, so it is important to have questions that you are curious about during the interview stages.

Preparation is Key:

Research the company you are interviewing with – get to know its culture and values that they share and be ready to explain how your skills align with their needs. Have a look at the job description of the role you are applying for and be ready to have examples to discuss how you best fit their needs. One way to do this is the STAR technique – situation, task, action, and result. Describe the situation and the task at hand, what actions did you take, and what was the result of your action?

Be Yourself:

Nobody knows yourself better than you do. Share your passion for the industry and your desires to develop personally and through your career. You will have opportunities to highlight how you can contribute to the organization and your ability to provide solutions to problems the company may come across.


Making the change from academia to industry is a challenging but also exciting time. It’s not always easy to leave something you may have grown comfortable with but trying something new is where you can see a lot of growth. You possess valuable skills that are in high demand.

Remember, it’s not about just finding a job but also finding a career that you will feel fulfilled within. In this article, we have explored how to understand your value, set career goals, tailor your CV and online presence, network, prepare for interviews, and use industry resources.

If you have found this article useful or if you would like to connect and ask any questions – please let me know and I would be happy to help! You can connect with me on LinkedIn or e-mail me at:

Giving Thanks

I would like to thank several people for their contribution to this article. It has been great learning about their transitions into industry, the difficulties they have faced, and the positive aspects making the move has brought them and their careers.

Thank you for your time and sharing your experiences.

  • Adam Ostrowski, Ph.D – Application Scientist at Cellexus
  • Cameron Watson, Ph.D – Strategy & Corporate Development Manager at Nuclera
  • Weonkyu Koh, Ph.D – Sales Engineer at Oxford Instruments Andor Technology
  • Michael Heyne, Ph.D – Field Application Scientist at Integrated DNA Technologies
  • Umesh Nair, Ph.D – Account Manager at Merck Life Science ANZ
  • Arjan Reijneveld, Ph.D – Senior Product Manager at Eurofins

Further Reading

Adam has written a fantastic article filled with great tips about moving out of academia:

Connect with Charlie on LinkedIn:

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