Positioning Your Scientific Skills When Job Searching
When I applied for business roles in science industries, I had to figure out how to position my scientific skills most effectively. I wanted to put the skills gained from my degree to good use, but it’s not always easy when applied to non-scientific roles. However, there are many ways to demonstrate your suitability for one of these roles using your scientific skills. Here are some ways you can position your scientific skills whilst job searching:
Demonstrating understanding of scientific contexts
If you join a science-led company, you will have an advantage with your science background. Understanding the context the company operates in means you can grasp the bigger picture of the work you are doing. A lot of people do their jobs without knowing what it ultimately contributes to. You can use your science background to show the added value you bring with this understanding.
If you are working directly with scientists, you can also say that with your degree, you relate to the scientific mind. This makes it easy for you to interact with others who have a science background. For example, if you worked in a science communication role where you supported scientists to engage others with their work, you would be able to work well with them as colleagues. In my HR role, I worked directly with others in scientific jobs, and could support them more effectively as I understood where they were coming from and how their minds worked.
Knowing your transferable skills
Being clear about what transferable skills you have is crucial in today’s world. The world is changing at a fast pace, and adaptability is crucial. If you are able to demonstrate and articulate skills that can apply to a wide range of roles, you open up more opportunities for yourself. As someone with a science background applying for roles outside of academia, this is vital. You degree will have given you a wide range of transferable skills such as analytical thinking, data management and communication.
Take some time to reflect on your experiences during your degree and afterwards, and make a list of these skills with examples as evidence (see the next point for how to do this). Then, practice articulating these on paper and verbally. You’ll be so much more prepared for job applications and interviews!
When positioning your scientific skills, using evidence that demonstrates how these are transferable to the role you are applying for is crucial. The way to do this is firstly, understand the skills required for the role. You can find this on the person specification section of the job description. It is worthwhile looking at a few job descriptions in the areas you are interested in seeing what the common skills required are. You can then do this exercise before applying for anything and just tweak for individual applications. Then, make a list of the skills and a list of your experience during your degree. Think about projects you did, presentations you gave, tasks you had to carry out – they don’t have to be huge. You just need to find things that demonstrate your knowledge or experience in a particular area. List these against the skills they are looking for.
Also think about how your scientific knowledge gives you an edge with regards to understanding a particular industry or group of people (see point 1). If you do this work early on in your job search, you will be far ahead and well prepared – making applications will be a lot easier.
Whilst completing our science degrees, we are used to writing and speaking in a technical way. Communicating in an academic context is very different from communicating in the non-academic world. Remember to understand your audience when you are applying for jobs. Your cover letter is not the same as writing an essay. It needs to be more dynamic and show your character as well as your experience.
There are so many scientific skills that are transferable to a wide range of industries. Understanding what these are and how to position them can take a lot of work out of job searching. It’s often these activities that we struggle with and keep us stuck. It’s so useful to do this work upfront almost as a separate activity in order to make the job search flow more easily and less stressful.
If you are ready to take your career outside the lab and want to know how to start, book a Beyond the Lab Breakthrough Session here.