Transitioning from a PhD in Biotechnology to the industry of my choice (scientific communication and marketing) involved an intense period of application and rejection. Every time I got a rejection letter, I feared that the industry probably did not want fresh graduates like me, that they wanted someone with years of experience. These were moments of doubt and panic, but I now realize that the key skills that I developed as a PhD student not only helped me land this job but also continue to aid me immensely in my new role outside the lab in the corporate sector.

As PhD students we ask ourselves: “What can I bring to the table that would interest them?”. I’ve identified some qualities that every PhD develops and interviewed Dr Emma Raderschadt, Vice President of Infill Healthcare Communication GmbH, a top medical marketing and communication agency in Germany, for her take on how to sell your PhD skills.

1. Persistence

PhDs are persistent. When we fail, we try again. We keep on using innovative methods and applying different techniques to solve the problem and to get to the core of a challenging project. In a dynamic and fast evolving industry like scientific communication, management or consulting, this approach will help you immensely. Never giving up in the face of difficult projects, showing that you can ingeniously apply different approaches to solve challenges and create novel products for your clients will be highly appreciated in the corporate sector.

2. Analytical Thinking and Scientific Reasoning

Research allows us to develop a strong scientific temper: Scientists do not take things at face-value. “A good basic understanding of statistical data from clinical studies and the ability to interpret the results from such studies are very useful”, remarks Dr Raderschadt. In addition, a keen scientific eye combined with business acumen gives PhDs the upper hand in predicting the success or failure of projects.

3. High Quality Work

A PhD thesis is not just the result of years of hard-work, but it is also a document that undergoes thorough scrutiny from experts in your field. A PhD is granted once you have produced and defended reliable and reproducible data. Sustained high quality work is a practice most PhDs follow and a trait much desired in the business world.

4. Time Management

Where I currently work, we have strict budgets and timelines. Does that sound familiar to you? As researchers, we learn to deliver in high-pressure situations and to meet deadlines. Each publication or project milestone require careful time management to be completed successfully. “PhDs are very well disciplined and aware of deadlines” remarks Dr Raderschadt. In an industry setting, this quality is of high value.

5. Communication and Publishing

“Publish or Perish”, we’ve all heard it. During a PhD we go through a gazillion publications and reviews, learning how to critically review the quality of other researcher’s data and ideas. Additionally, we gain invaluable writing and presenting skills whenever we share our own data at conferences or in peer-reviewed journals. According to Dr Raderschadt, “(Life Science) PhDs have a solid scientific background with experience in writing or publishing original work which is a must in any communications industry”.

6. Social and International Competence

During your PhD you might have to collaborate in multi-disciplinary projects with scientists from all over the world. This allows you to gain people skills such as negotiation, delegation and management. Interacting within and between teams smoothly, building a rapport and achieving high quality results is also expected in the corporate sector. And in case you have experience organizing conferences or symposia, you gain an additional plus point!

In conclusion, “All PhD candidates have the advantageous qualities of being well-organized, self-disciplined, able to work under periods of pressure, aware of details, and used to literature searches and correct referencing procedures, as well as understanding the importance of deadlines”. Employers and hiring managers seek such traits in new candidates for jobs, according to Dr Raderschadt.

So, rounding it all up, if you are a PhD looking forward to branch out into the corporate world, especially in the medical marketing and communication industry, trust me when I say you have an arsenal full of qualities and strengths that many of your competitors do not. Remember to leverage them to your advantage during your interviews and in your cover letters. Also, if you can think of other skills that can help researchers ace in the industry, please do share with us all in the comment section box below. All the best!

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  1. An encouraging article that certainly boosts the confidence of young graduates, like me, who are receiving many rejections from the industry. Thank you!

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