As part of our “How to build a career in the chemical industry” webinar we have had some follow up questions from the audience and also pre submitted questions that we did not have enough time to answer on the day. In order to answer these questions, we will publish written answers to these questions from the different panel members over the next couple of weeks.
Dr Ian Barwick, the Chief Operating Officer at the Life Science Hub Wales has provided us with with some excellent answers focussing on getting a scientific job:
1. I am a biochemist by training. I would like to ask the panel regarding advices for a start-up career in industry after PhD and what companies are looking for in a prospective employee.
You could gain a lot of information by looking at the recruitment requirements for the companies you would consider working and use that as a starting point. The jobs being posted will indicate what are the essential and desirable skills and experiences that you need and you can identify your strong and weaker areas. I am sure that there is a lot of information that will help you on company websites regarding their recruitment processes.
2. I would like to pursue a career in the fragrance chemical industry. Do you have any advice for graduate level jobs or further study that would be beneficial? Thank you.
I would suggest contacting some of the fragrance companies and asking their advice – this is not an area of industry I am familiar with and so the best people to ask would be the companies themselves. They could tell you what they would be looking for in a new employee as regards skills and experience which can only help you decide your next steps.
3. Is it necessary to continue in a similar sector in industry to what was studied in my PhD? Are the transferable skills really seen as transferable? What would you be looking for when interviewing someone who had a PhD but very limited industrial experience?
Given the specialised and focussed nature of a PhD, it is probably unlikely that you would work in an industrial area absolutely matching 100% your thesis. That said, you will probably migrate to areas relevant to your research and so your knowledge and experience will be very useful. Probably more likely that a future employer will see your PhD as proof of your academic rigour and talent and one which they can build upon in their organisation. In terms of transferable skills, then doing a PhD is clearly valuable to an organisation but it is only really the start of your research career. An employer will want to ensure that you would be the right fit for the job i.e. you have the right skills but also the right attitude to fit into the organisation without any problems. If you look at a PhD student, then many of them wont have much industry experience, an employer is really investing in their potential, what they can bring to an organisation now, but also how they can develop over time and part of your interview process should be to make sure you ‘sell yourself’ properly by emphasising your talents and skills.
A crucially important part for me when interviewing (after ensuring the candidate meets the essential criteria) is assessing whether the candidate would be the right fit for the organisation and you can find out a lot about an organisation from its website (mission, values, goals etc) and use this to your advantage in your application to them.
4. I have a 3rd Class BSc Chemistry in 2013 from the University of Leicester. I’ve watched the webinar this morning and wanted to say that I have found it very useful. I am currently unemployed but I had previously worked as an Industrial Lab Assistant for 7 months until the end of April 2015. Since then I have been struggling to get into any kind of work. I have also recently joined the Society of Chemical Industry. I wanted to ask what would be the best advice you could offer to someone in my position and whether it is worth me going back to university to do a masters or to redo my degree.
In your position I would not recommend redoing your BSc. I think the important thing is to get as much practical experience as you can which will help your CV. One thing I would say is that the more time that passes from when you graduated, the less important your class of degree becomes as you gain more relevant skills and experience. Doing a masters degree may help if you chose the right course and also if the course incorporates a project element as it might be a good way to approach a company if you can identify a project that would be of interest to them. (when I did my masters, I did a project relevant to the company I wanted to work for and they ended up offering me a job).
I think as well your approach with joining the SCi is good as well as the more you can network and connect with people and companies, the better. Also think about using LinkedIn as there could be some excellent groups that you could join to help in your job search.
Lastly, don’t be too fixated on your class of degree – a friend of mine got a third in Chemistry, but still managed to study for and get his PhD and has a very high- flying job and I am sure that with your drive and determination you will get the right job for you.