I know I have been absent lately. My last blogpost was 7 months ago! And also I have not been very active on twitter as well… But those months were very stressful ones, and I usually tend to shut down and hide from discussing my problems. I believe everybody knows that our grant was not renewed and I was unemployed for 4 months…
I don’t know exactly when I started to change my mind about leaving academia. Actually I think it was a mix of things that lead me out of it. There was a lot of frustration after tons of academic job applications (that require a lot of work!) and interviews that didn’t turned into a job offer. On twitter I could see how almost everybody seems to be struggling to succeed. Writing several grants every grant cycle (!) with little success rate. Along with that, our grant money actually ended, and I could not afford to be unemployed. Luckily I moved into a friend’s house and had limited expenses. But still, I send money to my parents back in home country every month. And although I had some savings, they wouldn’t last forever.
As a green card holder, I could apply for unemployment benefits in my state. However, in order to receive the benefits, you need to apply to several jobs per week. As I had been applying for academic jobs for a while, there wasn’t many out there that I could apply. That’s when I started to look out of the box. What else was I qualified to do and also would bring me some personal and monetary compensation? Google was my friend, and also twitter. Networking is really the key for success. You would be amazed how people are willing to help!
The first step when applying for non-academic jobs is transforming your CV into a resume. People outside academia don’t have time to go through those several pages of abstracts, publications and teaching experience. That being said, your resume should have 1 or 2 pages top. And most of your value should be in the first page. Man, that was tough! I should write another blogpost only describing my experience with that. Also, you need to tailor your resume for the job you’re applying, in a similar way you do with their cover letter. After a couple of months, I had several resumes: resume_industry, resume_MSL, resume_state labs, resume_sales… But you cannot forget LinkedIn! It’s the easier way to have your resume in the internet, and people outside academia use it a lot! (I probably should write another blogpost about LinkedIn as well)
Months went by and I kept applying for jobs and networking. Talking to people in other careers helped me a lot to separate what I could do from what I absolutely wouldn’t enjoy doing. Also, made me think about my strengths and what I’m good at. I realized I didn’t want to be tied to a desk. As a very social person, I love dealing with people! But I also love research, and SCIENCE! Talking to a sales rep that is a great friend, he asked me if I was applying for sales job positions and I said no. As a scientist, a sales job didn’t seem “academic” enough. And I am terrible at pushing people to do anything, even worse if I need to push them to buy something that it’s unnecessary or expensive! But he did not give up, and set me informal interviews with several of his sales rep friends. Some of them had a master, even a PhD. I started to accept the idea and to apply for sales jobs.
That’s when I’ve got a message in LinkedIn asking for an interview. It was for a sales job, and although it seemed interesting, I didn’t put a lot of faith on it. They wanted someone to sell analytical instruments for a big company and they asked for experience. I seriously never thought I’d get the job, as I’m not a chemist and have no experience in sales! But my first phone interview was somewhat magical. I was very sincere in my limited experience and in being uncomfortable doing empty sales. But as the conversation went by and the details of the job were described, I started to enjoy the idea of doing it! The second interview with the other partner was much easier. I had done my homework and was able to ask all the questions I had and to speak my mind. They really liked me and in little time I’ve got an offer! They offered me a hybrid salary, a base salary (that’s almost the same amount I was doing as a PD) plus commission on sales. So in my mind, if I’m terrible at this job, at least I can pay my bills and live comfortably!
Now I’m working with this group for almost 2 months. We are a third party-seller for a couple of companies. I feel I finally found something that seemed to combine all my requirements for happiness in a new job outside academia. Yes, I am still seated in a desk during most of the day, but I have to travel and meet new people from time to time. I love to talk about science and now I spend most of my time in the phone with researchers, trying to understand their work and helping them to find the right equipment for them. It’s really easier when you don’t have to do empty calls and they actually need your product! This past weekend I finally emptied my office at the University. Although it did hurt to wipe everything off and leave almost 20 years of academia behind, I am happy with my job and the path my life has taken. Indeed, there’s life after academia, and I’m enjoying it a lot 🙂