Written By: Tavis Mendez, Ph.D.
I have always been a social person.
But working long hours to generate data required me to perform my experiments in isolation.
Even worse, my project was going nowhere.
Instead of presenting my work at meetings and conferences, I was stuck working alone.
This wasn’t what I had signed up for.
I thought science was a collaborative effort.
That was what I was told before joining the lab.
I had accepted the job hoping to have a great postdoc experience that would lead to even more job opportunities.
But in reality, I felt trapped in a bubble of solitude.
Surely, there were positions outside of academia where I would be better suited?
Less isolated and more engaged?
One day, in a desperate attempt for human contact, I saw our local sales representative was heading to our lab to show off some new equipment.
I jumped at the opportunity to have a chat with him.
It turned out that he also had a PhD and had a very similar experience in graduate school: lonely, monotonous, and miserable.
As a sales rep, he was able to keep in touch with all the latest technological advancements in his field while spending a lot of his time chatting with academics and industry professionals alike.
He also wasn’t stuck sitting in front of a computer 24/7.
It sounded perfect for me.
After building rapport with him, he started sending me advertisements for open positions at his company and connecting me with recruiters that helped with his transition.
I had barely given a second thought to alternative careers beyond the research bench before I spoke with him.
Now I was on my way to a new and successful career that leveraged my strengths.
Why PhDs Need To Leverage Their Transferable Skills And Look At Alternative Careers
PhDs are too concerned with technical training and how important it may be for their professional development.
They don’t realize that industry cares more about people who have the transferable skills required to maintain and drive the company’s mission.
Technical skills can only get you so far in your job search.
In a recent employer survey, transferable skills such as communication and being a team player were more important than technical skills.
Approximately 50%-67% of the population is extroverted, and yet many PhDs have resolved to sit in small spaces in the lab, quietly working on experiments for the love of science.
However, the pharma/biotech companies are very welcoming to those who would like to focus on their outgoing nature for the sake of advancing the field.
In fact, according to recruiters in this field, long-term relationship-building is one of the top desired skill-set areas.
If you love to interact with people, you can combine this with your passion for STEM and align your professional lifestyle with your personal strengths.
Informational interviews are a great way to start nurturing the extrovert in you and gathering information about these types of positions.
Top 5 Jobs For Extroverted PhDs
If working in isolation bores you to tears and makes you feel lonely, there’s no reason to stay.
You have options.
A PhD provides you with the opportunity to do so much more than academia gives you credit for.
The key is to start planning early.
Start building connections with industry professionals in the fields you are most interested in.
Show them your enthusiasm and motivation for following in their footsteps and listen to their advice on how to market your academic skills.
Here are 5 jobs for extroverted PhDs to get you thinking …
1. Medical Science Liaison.
Do you like talking about science more than actually doing science?
You can skip all of the benchwork and grant writing to become a Medical Science Liaison.
PayScale.com reported the median salary for Medical Science Liaisons to be around $113,206.
Due to the relative novelty of the field, an unsaturated market is expected to result in good job prospects for aspiring MSLs.
In this field, you will be able to maintain a line of communication and understanding between a product or service with those who administer them to the population.
You will be an important part of the company to ensure that their products are utilized efficiently.
Flexibility is a key trait to have when handling and understanding the role of an MSL.
Communicating between several customers (internal and external) is essential to building and maintaining rapport that drives sales and development.
To do this, you will be required to travel and meet new people most of the time.
So if you like to get away from your normal routine often, this role will be perfect for you.
2. Technical Sales.
If you like finding solutions for complex problems, a Technical Sales role may be a great fit for you.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median salary of a Technical Sales Representative is $97,650 per year.
The main job will be to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a current product line or service to meet the needs of the client.
You will need a deep understanding of what you are selling, and thus may be involved in the entire pipeline of products and services, whether it is planning, development, manufacturing, or shipping.
As the world of life science becomes more complex, more specialized people are needed to talk at the level of other scientists.
This means that you do not need sales experience to take this role.
As a plus, if you love the company’s products, this will give you a chance to spread the word and advance your career while doing so.
3. Project Management.
Project Management is also a role for those who enjoy problem-solving.
It will allow you to apply your skills to deliver a service or product more efficiently because, believe it or not, much of drug development is plagued by planning problems.
You will need to interact with others to create teams, troubleshoot, and develop methods to achieve the company’s goals.
Without such expertise, a whole pipeline may collapse, so you will need to have impeccable organizational skills to maintain progress.
The need for great project managers cannot come at a better time as competition becomes fierce and there are many products that fail through the process.
The role of personalized medicine is booming as well.
Recently, the Personalized Medicine Coalition reported that more than 25% of New Molecular Entities (NMEs) are personalized drugs.
With the advent of a patient-specific healthcare system, great project managers are needed to spearhead this development.
Given that the political and economic environment can change at any moment, you will find constant challenge to work around any new regulations.
As a PhD, you are trained to solve difficult problems — if that’s where your passion is, this role is perfect for you.
4. Management Consulting.
Efficiency in providing a quality service or product extends into Management Consulting.
As the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors become more preoccupied with their struggles, these companies may reach out to private firms to streamline productivity.
In the UK, spending in Life Science industry consulting increased 14.6% and is expected to continue to grow.
In this role, you will be able to diversify your knowledge by solving problems from many angles.
You will be advising clients depending on your specialization, whether it is for research, policy regulations, or an industry-specific issue.
You will have to be ready to leave the comfort zone of being knowledgeable in one or two subjects and apply yourself quickly to new scenarios.
Just like the difference between a small biotech and a big pharmaceutical, the size of the management consulting firm will give a different experience.
A smaller firm will not have as much structure, which will allow for more freedom to engage in broader company activities.
A bigger firm will expect you to be more focused and specialized.
If you have a knack for problem-solving but don’t want to work for a life science company, this is another option for you with growth potential.
5. Application Scientist.
Do you have that one product that you love?
Do you like talking about it and how it can make your experiments better?
This is what Application Scientists do.
According to Glassdoor.com, the national average for an Application Scientist is $94,486 per year.
This position is a great way to get away from the bench and obtain the business knowledge you need to continue in industry.
Every company that sells a product will need an application scientist to make sure the customers are using it to their full extent.
You will provide support and training for specific products that customers need.
Application Scientists may be in the field for face-to-face interactions, while others may be in the lab offering support over the phone.
Great interpersonal skills and critical thinking ability are necessary for this role.
Like a technical sales role, your skills as a PhD will be invaluable in talking with fellow scientists.
If you like to talk about products and services but don’t like the need to meet a sales quota, this role is a suitable blend for you.
There are many opportunities for those who love to interact with others. You have already honed many of the transferable skills during your PhD and postdoctoral work simultaneously with your technical knowledge. Not only are you already qualified for these roles, but these positions are in high demand and now is the chance to leverage your experience. This time, you will not be alone at your bench for hours, but connecting with people to grow professionally.
To learn more about the 5 stimulating jobs for the extroverted 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.