There’s life after academia: 6 months update

It’s been a while since I wrote something here… But forgive me, life has changed a lot for me and I had to catch up! One year ago, I received the notice that our grant funding was not renovated and that the lab was going to close. One year ago, I was still fighting the idea of leaving academia. If at that time someone told me that today I was going to be working outside academia, with a good salary, and being happy about that, I’d never believe it! But here I am, exactly in this position now! Because everybody still asks me “how is the new job going?” I decided to share it with you.

I was very skeptical at first. To leave academia and work as a sales person? C’mon, who wants to be that annoying sales rep that always comes to your door at the worst possible time? I remember saying in my interview that I didn’t know if I’d be a good sales person, because I’d never would push a product to someone that didn’t want or it was not necessary to them. But you know what? That’s one of the reasons I got hired! Of course, my PhD mattered. They wanted someone to deal exclusively with academic accounts, and having spent so much time in academia, I was a perfect fit for the task.

Then I was scared! I was hired to sell analytical equipment, and my PhD is in neuroscience! It was ages since I had some sort of Chemistry classes and although I’ve used a HPLC before, all my knowledge in chromatography was very basic. Mass Spectrometry was always magic to me. How on earth I could talk to researchers and sell them those fancy instruments? It was tough in the beginning. I had to read and study A LOT.  I also had a lot of help, thankfully! What’s good about working for such a huge company is that there are specialized people to deal with everything you can imagine. Of course, finding who are those people sometimes takes a lot of effort, but once you know the deal, it’s easier! The other good part about working for a big company is that you don’t really have to make cold calls or look for sales. They come to you. Then it’s easier to call them back and answer their request. That made me feel much more comfortable in calling people.

I’ve always been a people person, always loved to talk and to help people. Now I am being paid to do so! In the beginning I was very afraid of wasting the researcher’s time. I know how crazy life is in academia, and how I was bothered with sales calls every now and then. But I started to realize that, when they need an expensive equipment for their research, they need my help and they are happy to talk to me! In my first time doing campus visits, I thought I was going to spend 15min talking to each professor – tops. I was extremely surprised how well they treated me and usually spend about 1 hour with them (Of course, I never just show up at someone’s lab, all meeting are properly scheduled in advance).

So now, after a little over 6 months doing this job, I finally got comfortable about my products, the techniques and the options that I can help my customers with. I believe I’m doing a good job, as I recently got a non-academic territory on top of my academic one. I started developing a relationship with some of my customers. I care about them, and they notice that. I fight for them, I tried to make the best for them. The other day a researcher wanted to buy an equipment with two detectors that would do basically the same thing. I could simply have sold it, but I warned and told the researcher that one was enough. They appreciated my help and my honesty. Yesterday was a very nice day. I was invited to do a vendor show at a very nice symposium and I heard that I was good at my job. Twice! My boss also told me how happy he was to have hired me. In the end, I am happy that he believed in me, but most of all, that I am happy that I also believed in me 🙂