Adam (commercial company)

Route into HE

Adam went straight from school to a degree in Chemistry which was followed by a Ph.D., both at a civic redbrick in the Midlands.

Route into Contract Research

His first, one year, contract followed directly on from Adam's Ph.D. He was not happy in this first post and explored other options, including taking an extended holiday to Australia to do some thinking from a more objective position and to investigate the possibility of working in the chemical industry there. He decided that he should not be put off academic research by one bad experience and secured a second contract at a different institution to be sure that if he did decide to turn his back on scientific research it would not be for the wrong reasons.

Likes about Contract Research

  • Producing useful and meaningful results.
  • Having time to think about where he was going when the research was successful.

Dislikes about Contract Research

  • Isolation, particularly on moving to a new institution.
  • Lack of support with research and adjusting to working in a new group.

Reasons for moving on

During his second contract, Adam realised that even when the research was going well he would be happier in a different role. He gave the contract a year to be sure.

Exploration of Options and Sources

When he first felt unhappy with contract research, Adam started by thinking about what he could do with his background and looked at his friends to start to decide what he wanted to do. When he finally decided to move on, Adam felt unable to seek help from his supervisor or anyone else in the department, and so returned to this thinking and also sought advice from the university Careers Service.

He narrowed down his interests to areas which used his scientific knowledge, such as patenting and scientific communications (journalism and the media), and more commercially focused areas such as management consultancy and accountancy. He made about 15 speculative applications and received about the same number of rejections. Although this was disheartening, Adam knew that it was not untypical. He did have one interview for a process chemist post with a large pharmaceutical company but was not successful.

Adam also applied for jobs advertised in graduate recruitment bulletins such as the Prospects magazine and websites. He was not concerned about applying for jobs at this level as he felt he had a lot to learn and was keen to change direction. He was interviewed for two jobs, one as a patent analyst and one as a medical sales representative. He had researched the patent analyst thoroughly with the help of the Careers Service, the interview was fairly conventional and he was offered the job. He was also interviewed for the medical sales post and invited for a second interview after arranging to shadow one of the company's representatives in his area.

Adam attended a career management school run by the EPSRC for contract researchers and spent three days identifying the skills he could offer employers, exploring career options, sharing contacts and setting up some work shadowing. In addition to the medical sales shadowing, Adam spent some time at a television production company, arranged through a personal contact. He found shadowing to be a very useful experience and soon realised that he did not have the qualities he felt were necessary to succeed in a media career. The medical sales shadowing, on the other hand, convinced him that the job would allow him to use his scientific communication skills and have the freedom to manage his own work and time.

Following a very unpleasant and aggressive interview, Adam did not hear from the medical sales company and had to ring them up repeatedly. He was eventually invited for a second interview and felt that although it was tough, he was better prepared for it and handled the interrogation style well. He was offered the job and has since received training and feels he can make judgements about his progress, something that was always hard as a contract researcher.

Messages for Contract Researchers

  • Come to a decision about your future - take some time away from the University and research if you need to.
  • Explore your options - most university Careers Services can offer support, but be realistic about what they can offer. Where they can be valuable is in checking CVs and applications, particularly if you decide to leave academia as the style you present yourself in is very different.
  • It is up to you to make the decision about where your future lies; no one can tell you what that is.
  • Work shadowing can give you a real insight into a career area, saving time and frustration. You almost certainly have contacts in a careers field that interests you and your Careers Service may be able to help with this too.
  • Resigning from your job can be a big motivation! The work itself can distract you from the effort you put into your applications - having a fixed date to work towards might help.

Things to do now

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