“If you leave, you failed”

So you know I left academia about one year ago and started working in biotech, selling analytical equipment to researchers in and out academia. It was a painful process, and at first I didn’t really want to leave – but life just lead me to expand the horizons on my job search and now I’m really happy with my job.

A big part of my job is to visit customers, and in the academic world, professors that currently own or that may be interested in purchasing our equipment. And even though I still live in the same city where I used to be a postdoc I’ve never really taken the time to visit my former University. At first, I thought that I didn’t know exactly what to say or how to behave, so I rather go to my first visits with a more experienced sales fellow. So that’s what I did, and it was great! If felt so good to be in an academic environment again, and to talk to professors about research, grants, etc. I felt I could really contribute to this, because I understand the complexity in academia in a different way that someone that has never been there. Professors also like the idea to deal with a Ph.D., not as a status thing, but also as a peer thing.

But still, I didn’t go to visit my University. I thought “I’m still to raw into this whole biotech thing, I need to learn more about the instruments and the applications before I go there”. So I did it. Went to trainings, attended to a lot of webinars. Talked to professors, made quotes, learned with all the specialists that help me to put together an instrument. After my vacation I felt like I was ready (or let’s say as ready as one can be) and I literally had no excuse not to go there. I had a business lunch with a staff scientist from my University and he pointed me in the directions I should move there. He’s been at the University for many years, and I’ve known him for a long time. He is one of those people professors seek for advice regarding instrument’s purchases. So after we talked, I made a few appointments and scheduled today to be “former University visit day”.

From the moment I woke up, I was feeling weird. It took me forever to find a good outfit. I didn’t want to look too dressed up. But couldn’t look too casual. Should I bring brochures? OMG, everything was a big problem and a huge decision to make. But still, I couldn’t understand why I was feeling that way. So I asked Twitter about it, and @sennoma nailed it:

EXACTLY! The reason I never really went for a campus visit at my former University was because of that little voice in my head. Everybody there knows me as a postdoc. No matter how successful and happy I am with my job now, but showing up as a sales person now seems to me like a fail. I tried to have a deep breath and just enjoy doing what I do best: smiling and networking with people. Half of the day passed and so far, so good. Met some old professors that seemed genuinely happy for me moving on. Met new professors that were very kind to me. Gotta come back to my afternoon appointments, but despite all this, little voice is still in my head. I hope that this will eventually get better and go away.

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