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Transitioning out of Academia is scary, but you’re not alone!

Transitioning out of Academia is scary, but you’re not alone!

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Visha Krishnan, former Market Discovery Director of The SearchLite, recently attended a career event for Doctoral and Postdoctoral scholars interested in exploring careers outside of academia at Michigan State University. She participated as one of the panelists for the Innovation/IP portion of the Expanded Careers Conference, along with, Cindy Bott (Partner at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP and Tom Herlache, Technology Manager at MSU Technologies). The event featured a portion where the guest panelists individually explained how they arrived at their current job position and they shared with the scholars what it is that they are currently doing.

Although each panelist came from a different background they all transitioned out of academia in search of something else. Visha focused her doctoral studies on Chemical Biology, but decided in her third year that this path was not for her. After exploring several different options, she discovered that her forte was in startups and technology transfer.

Cindy started her doctoral studies in Cellular Molecular Biology, but realized that law interested her and she discovered that she could use her science background to bolster her new interest in law and go into the field of patents.

Tom focused on molecular biology for his doctoral and postdoctoral studies, but upon realizing that the pressure of publishing papers rather than focusing on the experiment itself was suffocating, he searched for something else and found that writing about patents interested him, thus he found his way to Michigan State University as the Technology Manager.

After introductions the scholars were given the opportunity to ask questions. Great points were made, and I have compiled a list of some takeaways that stood out from the rest:

  • Getting your PhD is NOT a waste of your time even if you decide to transition out of academia. Companies truly value the expertise you bring!
  • Internships are crucial. Explore and see for yourself if other fields outside of academia are a better fit.
  • Reach out to experts in the field of your interest and connect with them. You will be surprised to know how willing people are to share their experiences and provide career development recommendations and tips.
  • Figure out what you want to do. It might sound obvious, but it’s really important to not remain in a state of complacency and really search for something that you enjoy doing.
  • Don’t think that you have to start all over again, if you change your occupational path. Look for alternative options that won’t take four years to complete. For example, if you want to go into licensing, there is the option of taking a patent agent exam.

So don’t be discouraged if you feel out of place or realize that Academia is not your cup of tea! Transitioning is scary, but you’re not alone and there’s plenty of resources to help you along the way if you just look. Keep an eye out for more related events!

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