A leap of faith.
A step into the unknown.
A whole new world.
There are countless familiar phrases we could use to describe moving from academia to industry, but they all cover one truth – it can be pretty damn intimidating.
Moving from the world of research, teaching, and publishing to a corporate or business environment means leaving behind the environment we know, and trading it for a completely new one. This might seem a daunting process, but it can also be incredibly rewarding.
In this article, we’ll consider why some make the move from academia to industry, and offer advice on how to prepare for it, as well as make a smooth transition and settle in to your new role.
Ready to make the jump?
Why transition from academia to industry?
There are several reasons why someone might want to start moving from academia to industry. For one, the academic job market is highly competitive, and there are often more qualified applicants than there are available positions.
Additionally, academic jobs can be limited to specific geographic areas, which can be difficult for those who are looking to relocate.
Finally, the compensation and benefits packages offered by industry positions can be much more attractive than those offered in academia.
Understanding the differences between academia and industry
It’s important to understand that academia and industry are very different environments. In academia, the focus is on research and teaching, and there is often a lot of autonomy in how work is conducted. In industry, the focus is on results and meeting business objectives, and there tends to be more structure and oversight. This is usually one of the biggest differences between the two paths.
Additionally, the pace of work in industry can be much faster than in academia, and there is often less flexibility in terms of work hours and schedules. Keep in mind, however, that some feel liberated by the steadier, more predictable schedule of an industry job.
Steps to take before moving from academia to industry
Before making the transition from academia to industry, there are several steps that you should take. First, it’s important to do your research on the industry and the types of jobs that are available. This will help you to identify the skills and experience that you need to develop in order to be a competitive candidate for industry positions.
Second, you should take stock of your own skills and experience and identify areas where you need to improve. This might involve taking courses or workshops to develop new skills, or gaining experience through internships or volunteer work.
Finally, it’s important to build a network outside of academia. This can include attending industry events and conferences, joining professional organisations, and connecting with people in your target industry through LinkedIn or other networking platforms.
Science communicators often occupy a special position between academia and industry, reshaping their academic experience into forms that open up new professional opportunities. Looking for inspiration? Check out this piece on some of our favourite communicators!
Building a professional network outside of academia
Building a professional network outside of academia is crucial for success in industry. This network can help you to identify job opportunities, learn about industry trends, and make valuable connections that can advance your career. Contacts within your academic institution may be able to connect you to those in industry to get started.
One way to build your network is to attend industry events and conferences. These events provide opportunities to meet people in your target industry, learn about new developments, and participate in workshops and training sessions.
Another way to build your network is to join professional organisations. These organisations provide access to industry news and resources, as well as opportunities to connect with other professionals in your field.
Finally, it’s important to use social media platforms like Instagram to connect with people in your target industry. This can help you to identify job opportunities, learn about industry trends, and make valuable connections that can advance your career.
Preparing your CV and cover letter for industry positions
When moving from academia to industry, it’s important to tailor your CV and cover letter to the specific job you are applying for. This means highlighting your relevant skills and experience, and using industry-specific language and terminology.
Your CV should be concise, easy to read, and visually appealing. It should include a summary of your skills and experience, as well as your education and any relevant certifications or licenses. Identify and emphasise any transferrable skills from your time in academia – this is your chance to show what makes you unique as a candidate!
Your cover letter should also be customised to the specific job you are applying for. It should highlight your relevant skills and experience, and explain why you are interested in the position and how you can add value to the company.
The job search process: Where to look for industry jobs
When looking for industry jobs, there are several resources that you can use. One of the most effective is job boards, which list job openings in a variety of industries and locations. Some popular job boards include Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn.
Another resource is professional organisations, which often have job listings for their members. Additionally, attending industry events and conferences can provide opportunities to learn about job openings and connect with people who can help you to identify job opportunities.
Finally, it’s important to leverage your network. Reach out to people you know in your target industry and let them know that you are looking for a job. They may be able to provide valuable insights and connections that can help you in your job search.
Ashley Ruba left behind a successful academic career to follow a new path in the UX research industry. Discover how she handled the whole process, including the all-important job search, in our in-depth interview.
Interviewing for industry positions: What to expect
When interviewing for industry positions, it’s important to be prepared. This means researching the company and the position, practising your responses to common interview questions, and preparing questions to ask the interviewer.
During the interview, be sure to emphasise your relevant skills and experience, and explain how you, as an experienced academic, can add value to the company. Additionally, be prepared to answer questions about your salary expectations, work style, and other factors that are important to the company.
Finally, be sure to follow up after the interview with a thank-you note or email. This can help to reinforce your interest in the position and keep you top-of-mind for the interviewer.
Negotiating job offers and contracts
When you receive a job offer, it’s important to take the time to review and evaluate the offer before accepting it. This means considering factors like the salary, benefits, and work schedule, as well as the company culture and opportunities for growth and advancement.
If you have concerns or questions about the offer, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or negotiate the terms. This can include negotiating the salary, requesting additional benefits or perks, or asking for a different work schedule.
Finally, be sure to read and understand the contract before signing it. If you have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification or seek legal advice.
Tips for success in your new industry role
Once you have made the transition to industry, there are several tips that can help you to succeed in your new role. First, be open to learning and adapting to new ways of working. This means being receptive to feedback and willing to try new approaches.
Second, build relationships with your colleagues, just as you did with those in academia. This can really help you to learn about the company culture and work effectively with others.
Finally, be proactive in seeking out opportunities for growth and advancement. This might involve taking on new projects, pursuing additional training or certifications, or seeking out mentorship or coaching.
That was a lot, but naturally there’s a lot to consider when moving from academia to industry. It’s a real leap that takes thorough preparation, but pulling it off has the potential to change your life for the better.
If you’re looking (or listening) for inspiration on the big transition, head over to The Research Beat podcast for advice and encouragement from academics who have already done it.
We wish you all the best in your job search and, as always…
Keep striving, researchers! ✨