Graduate and postgraduate students, especially those in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), are considered to be a group of intelligent people. They work hard in the labs for years to discover new knowledge or advance science. However, when transitioning to industry, it is very common for these scholars to face a big skills gap.
The SearchLite identified five skills which graduate students should develop to improve the chances of career: Business Communication, Active Listening, Time Management, Creative Problem Solving, and Leadership.
To help graduate students bridge the gap between academic and industry, The SearchLite recently partnered with Michigan State University (MSU) to conduct an Industry Skill Development Workshop.
MSU Distinguished Professor and Entrepreneur, Ramani Narayan, Ph.D. and Omni Tech International Business Development Manager, Lee Walko provided career insights and coached the students during their workshop presentations.. Britany Affolter-Caine, Program Manager at University Research Corridor, joined the workshop as a special guest.
“Your research is your baby!”
Students who want to transfer from academia to industry often face a gap between their academic experience, current skill sets and career plans. However, students who want to stay in academia should develop their skills also. Alessandra Hunt, postdoctoral research associate raised this question during the workshop. Alessandra’s lab discovered a drug to kill bacteria, so the Tech Transfer Office (TTO) performed commercial assessment,since the TTO has more industry connections. She didn’t understand why the academic lab team should learn market discovery skills for themselves.
Professor Narayan answered her question based upon his own experience: ”You should not feel you don’t have connections. You should ask questions from a business perspective. That’s a part of your learning. ‘Your research is your baby’. You are in the best position to grow it. Other people may help you, because that’s their job. But your research is your own baby, nobody can replace you.”
Developing industry skills to perform market discovery is not only a process to grow your “baby,” but a valuable experience to grow yourself. The exposure to industry during market discovery gives you more sense about your research,cultivates your skills to work in industry and helps you bring back more inspiration to academia.
Hands-on Skills Workshop
The SearchLite brought a real case, Stephan Wood Products, to demonstrate market discovery. Students were divided into 5 teams. Each team had 60 minutes to complete the tasks: design the value proposition, discover alternative market segments, identify a list of subject matter experts (SMEs), create a list of questions for the SMEs, and complete an elevator pitch. After the 60 minutes, each team had 5 minutes to present and 2 minutes to answer questions.
It was a hard decision for the judges to choose the best team.
Finally, the team Sparty won the first place.
Two hours might be too short to fully develop any skills, but we hope it’s enough to introduce students to new perspectives about industry career transition and their research. If you want to grow with us, The SearchLite is always here waiting for you to join us!