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Highlight These 3 Transferable Skills To Get Hired In Industry As A PhD

Contributing Author: Olga Raguimova, Ph.D.

I started my job search the very next day after defending my PhD.

I networked.

I did a makeover of my LinkedIn.

I connected with multiple recruiters from various companies, including third party recruiters.

I posted my resume on multiple websites for recruiters.

My specifications for the job I wanted were very narrow: Scientist in a specific geographic area.

My lucky ticket came from a recruiter with whom I connected on LinkedIn.

She was looking for a 6 months Sr Scientist contractor for the Diagnostics Division at a major pharmaceutical company.

It sounded like a great opportunity to me.

The requirements for the position stated PhD +2 years of postdoctoral experience.

I only had one month of postdoc experience and the main technical skill they were asking for I was very weak in as well.

Nevertheless, my resume was shortlisted.

I was interviewed on site about one month after being contacted by the recruiter.

For the interview I had 30 min presentation with Q&A, 3 individual meetings with managers each 15 min long, 30 min labs tour and15 min meeting with the team in the break room.

A total of 2 hours for the whole interview.

I got an offer a week later!

I liked the team and the contract position was presented as a strong possibility to become a permanent position.

This wasn’t the only job opportunity I had though, I had another invitation for onsite interview, and phone interview scheduled and my resume was shortlisted for 2 other positions.

I decided to accept the position regardless of these other opportunities as this seemed like a really good fit for me.

I am thankful for the constant reminder to “Remember Your Value as PhD”.

I believe I got this position only because of my PhD transferable skills, since I was lacking the main technical aspect they were looking for.

Don’t discount yourself because you don’t meet all the job requirements.

Your transferable skills are more important than you think.

Why Your Transferable Skills Are So Important To Employers

As a PhD is it’s difficult to let go of thinking that your technical skills are the most valuable thing you will bring to an organization.

But, you need to realize that your transferable skills are what will be the deciding factor in whether you get hired or not.

A recent survey by Yoh, found that 75% of Americans would hire someone who had the right soft skills but lacked the technical skills required for the position.

Companies are more concerned about how you will fit into the culture of the organization than they are about the technical skills you already have.

They can easily teach you technical skills, but teaching you soft skills is much harder.

Businesses are going to hire people who have the transferable skills they want, and the data supports this.

For example, LinkedIn found that 57% of leaders reported that soft skills are more important than hard skills.

If you are not communicating your transferable skills during your job search employers are not going to see how valuable you are.

As a PhD it’s essential that you show potential employer that not only do you have the technical skills they need but you bring a set of high quality soft skills with you as well.

Top 3 Transferable Skills You Have As A PhD And How to Communicate Them

You might think that since you are a PhD and you have the highest qualifications possible that employers are going to fawn over you.

You might expect them to come knocking on your door begging you to come work for them.

Well, news flash, this isn’t going to happen.

Yes, your technical skills are phenomenal, but employers are looking for more than this.

There are multiple (if not many) people who can perform the same technical tasks as you, once you check those boxes employers are going to see if you have the Transferable skills required for the position.

They are interested in your soft skills so they can determine if you are a good fit for the company culture.

To demonstrate that you are the perfect candidate you must know how to effectively communicate your transferable skills.

Here are 3 transferable skills you have as a PhD and how you can communicate them to employers…

1. Comprehension.

This skill is something that many PhDs take for granted or don’t even realize how excellent their ability to comprehend things actually is.

First you need to realize that other people are not able to read, understand and comprehend new information as fast or as thoroughly as you.

You know how to pick up a complex paper, read it, break it down, understand it, and then take action based on what you learn.

This is incredible.

You need to be highlighting this skill in your job search.

On your resume you should be using the 3 part bullet point formula, so for the transferable skills part of that formula be sure to discuss your comprehension skills in some of your bullet points.

You can use keywords that have to do with comprehension that you find in the job posting.

If you don’t see anything related to comprehension in the job posting a few words or phrases you can use in your resume to convey that you have an incredible ability to learn new information are:

  • speed of learning
  • ability to grasp new concepts quickly
  • make sound decisions quickly based on new information
  • pivot easily when new information is presented
  • ability to absorb, comprehend and communicate new information

When you are communicating these skills in your job interviews it’s essential to weave them into your STAR method responses.

If you just say that you are a quick learner or that you can comprehend things quickly this doesn’t prove to the employer that you actually have this skill.

You need to give an example.

A great example would be to discuss a time that new information was presented about your project that caused you to have to switch gears.

Discuss how you were able to learn the new information, assimilate it into the project you were working on and then describe the action you took to make sure your project utilized this new development.

Finally remember to finish with a strong result.

What benefits were there to the project because you were able to learn quickly?

Highlight how your comprehension ability was key to the success of your projects.

2. Creativity.

In academia, the idiom is ‘publish or perish’ and while that does not apply in industry, there is an idiom that represents the culture in industry:

‘Innovate or die.’

In order to stay profitable and stay open businesses must keep moving forward.

This means that they are constantly innovating, creating new products and improving processes.

In order to constantly be innovating, the employees at a company must be creative, they must be able to create new things and see new ways of doing things.

So, it’s valuable for employers to hire people who know how to innovate.

That means you.

As a PhD, you know exactly what it means to innovate.

You have pushed a field forward and in order to earn your PhD you have discovered something brand new.

You also had to optimize protocols and methods all throughout your degree so that you could continue getting the best results.

You also have the ability to put concepts together in a new way that can lead to new solutions.

You need to share these experiences with your potential employer.

They need to know that you are an innovator and that you are creative.

So, when writing your resume and during interviews provide concrete examples of times that you created new things or times that you innovated existing things.

This could be new protocols, new systems, or new methods.

Also, if you have been involved with any patents be sure to highlight this to potential employers.

Having a patent is a great concrete example of how your creative efforts turned into a tangible innovate outcome.

3. Conflict resolution.

Everyday in industry there will be some type of conflict.

This doesn’t mean that you will be having fights with your colleagues on a daily basis, but when decisions need to be made people will have different views.

This will create conflict.

And conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if there is someone in the room who is good at conflict resolution.

Out of conflict or disagreements come great new ideas.

As a PhD you have dealt with so much conflict resolution in academia.

If you have ever had a disagreement with your advisor or with a colleague about the direction that a project should take and then come to an agreement after discussion then you have conflict resolution skills.

In industry these conflicts might arise about big strategic decisions, or about small daily tasks, or it could be a conflict that develops between teammates.

In any case, you have developed the skills required to navigate these situations during your time in academia.

Employers are going to try and find out if you have this skill, most likely by asking you about it during the behavioral interview questions.

So be ready to give examples of times you dealt with conflict.

Remember to use the STAR method and importantly remember to show that there was a positive result.

Were you able to listen to both sides and then come up with an even better solution that combined these differing viewpoints?

Did you help create an environment where colleagues started to get along better and the increased teamwork sped up the project timeline?

Examples like this are how you can show an employer you have excellent conflict resolution skills.

Don’t let employers put you into an academic box. Don’t let them stereotype you. Go into your interviews with confidence and with the skills you need to be seen as an industry professional by learning a few key business concepts. You should understand concepts such as corporate strategy, corporate culture, organizational behavior, mergers and acquisitions and current industry trends and developments. If you have a firm grasp of key business concepts you become an incredible valuable asset for any company.

To learn more about how to Highlight These 3 Transferable Skills To Get Hired In Industry As A PhD, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association.

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Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.

Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.

Isaiah is a Ph.D. in Anatomy & Cell Biology and internationally recognized Fortune 500 consultant. He is an expert in the biotechnology industry and specializes in helping people transition into cutting-edge career tracks.

Isaiah believes that if you feel stuck somewhere in your life right now, you should make a change. Don’t sit still and wait for the world to tell you what to do. Start a new project. Build your own business. Take action. Experimentation is the best teacher.
Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.