Career hunt is one big nightmare after academic training. May it be MSc or PhD or Postdoc or any related training course, at the end of every academic course, the question triggers our mind is, “I am done with it, now what is next??”
Fortunately, chemistry is one subject, where in there are multiple options, when it comes to choosing career after completing academic course. I am sure many of you are near to the ending your PhD and are in same ambiguity about future. After PhD, some of you may be planning for a Postdoc training. Again, there may be multiple reasons to choose postdoc job. It may either be as need for academic job or for added exposure to become independent researcher or just because you didn’t get an industrial job, so thought of doing postdoc and then trying for moving to Industry. Some may be planning to join academia after PhD. Some of you after 4-5 years of rigorous training with acquired skills in your PhD and now must have decided that, you are fit enough for industrial job, so deliberately trying an industrial position. Same ambiguity will surpass your mind even when you are concluding your Postdoc career. If everything goes well, you may end-up in an academic position, for which you spent 2-3 years of time as postdoc. But if that didn’t happen then again you will start thinking what to do and one option that may drag your attention is Industrial job. Now you are more trained than MScs or PhDs, because you have spent some extra years as an independent researcher, you worked on the problems that you proposed, independently wrote papers, presented your work in conferences. So, definitely you will think, now I am more experienced and good asset for an industry, I can independently handle projects/teams and etc etc.
Excellent!! All that you thought is perfectly fine. Now, let me share some of my own views, which may be helpful, if you are stepping towards for industrial job. Again, there is nothing compulsory that what I am telling is ultimate truth.
You may be an MSc or a PhD or a Postdoc, gained enough experience/training in your academic course and now trying for industrial job. All that you gained is fine and perfectly acceptable, but my friends, when you step into an industrial job, you are again a fresher as per the requirements of this job, because industrial job is a different ball game. There are hell number of things that are completely different from what you learnt in academia. The very first difference I can quote is the TARGET. In academia, it is either your supervisor or the scrutiny or you yourself may set the target to work on it and it is lead time is flexible based on circumstances. But in industry the biggest challenge is, it is the Customer, who gives you the Target, with tight lead time. You have no other option, than to commit to the target and to meet it in given lead time without any fail. Because, your customer who gives you target has options and those options may be your competitors, so you have threat of losing the business to your competitors. You will hear many new terms such as times lines, lead times, KPIs (Key performance indicators), KRA (Key result areas), commitments, deliveries, performance and many more. There will be hell number of documentation processes and filings, quote makings, managing enquiries, client interactions, modes of reports writing, presentation of results at inter/intra department or at client levels.
Basically, industrial jobs are skill-based professions and your performance is evaluated based on how efficiently you reach the target in given time, maintaining timelines through proper planning. Your role as a team player and sometimes as individual contributor will be monitored in any project you are working. Therefore, all that you acquired in academic course will not be enough to be considered, hence you need a training again after joining as a beginner to become familiar with the nature of industrial job and also to understand the roles/responsibilities. You may be from premier university/institute, worked with big named Professor, published great papers, but as I told, it is the skill based job, you may confront with the situation, where you have to report to one of your colleague, joined several years before you, having more skills or experience, but less graduate than you. Your number of papers, conference presentations or novelty of your research work hardly matters in industry. You may have worked in particular research area, but here there is nothing like specific and you will be given projects from various areas having different applications. Overall, let you be junior, senior, team player, individual contributor, manager, boss, but as a whole this is a Team game, where everyone has to work as a team in broad sense for fulfilling customer needs, revenue generation and overall growth of business. That’s how your job and companies growth prosper to next level year by year.
The journey of life takes many turns and many times we fail to notice. We dream of something and something else happens, that is what life is all about. In today's competitive climate, when the secure jobs are lacking, to be successful is all about having the strong drive to push forward even when you are struggling. There is nothing wrong in choosing Industrial profession. Like many jobs, industry is also a great and challenging place to work with passion and learning. There are huge opportunities to grow professionally and financially.
As a concluding remark, your PhD is simply a training course to make you a professional researcher. It opens up the gate for the research career. In broad sense all these PhDs, Postdocs are simply stages coming in the huge canopy of research profession. You may aim for academic career or industrial life, but for both options PhD is the first stage. Postdoc training is necessary when you opt for academic career. Otherwise it is not helpful in anyway, if you seriously think of moving to industrial job. Postdoc will simply delay your professional growth in industry. At the same time, I can not deny that recently for few industrial jobs such as discovery CROs postdoc experience is being considered as an added asset. There are also complaints regarding industries asking experience. This is definitely a debatable topic, but if experience is really a need, you still can opt for trainee positions in many industries at lower wages for couples of years and thus can acquire industrial experience certification for permeant positions in Industry. It’s your life and you have to make decision. Therefore, choose the path smartly and understand the path completely, before making any decision.