Home > Starting to work in the industry. What is out there?

Starting to work in the industry. What is out there?

You just finished your Ph.D. and you don’t know what to do with your career? You are looking for jobs in the industry, but you don’t know where to start? You don’t understand the job description? I guess a lot of Ph.D. students have this problem and are not aware of what is out there in the industry. I guess the academic environment does not motivate the flow-through to the industry very well. At least, that is my opinion. They should provide more support for Ph.D. students because not all can and want to keep working in the academic world. So, for me, it was the same. I did my Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences at the KU Leuven, and I knew I didn’t want to stay at the university after my Ph.D. Why? Because there is not a real future and you are dependent on grants. What did I know? I wanted to work with people and use my scientific background in my new job. But which jobs fit within these criteria? I started looking on websites such as BrightOwl and contacted recruitment bureaus, but there was so much out there. The problem is that a lot of job description are not very clear and you don’t know what to expect. And it’s quite important because this is your future… In addition, they always seem to look for people with some years of experience and this frightens you. How can you get experience if you are not allowed to start somewhere?


How I did it.

Although having all these problems, I was able to find a job which would fit me. I took the chance and I got an interview for Medical Science Liaison (MSL) at a pharmaceutical company. During this interview, I got a lot of information about the job, and this was really helping me a lot to make a decision. However, this came a bit too late, because you want to be prepared for your job interview. Lucky me, I got the job after some interviews and I am working as an MSL now for a bit more than 6 months. As an MSL, you work throughout a product’s lifecycle, you help to ensure that products are utilized effectively, you serve as scientific peer and recourse within the medical community, and you are a scientific expert to internal colleagues at your company. You have to establish and maintain peer-peer relationships with leading physicians, referred to as Key External Experts (KEE), at major academic institutions and clinics. And indeed, my day is filled with appointments with KEEs and searching for scientific information about my products and my therapeutic area.  It’s a very flexible job, but you are on the road a lot. I have to say, I like it a lot and I really think this is a good job to start working in the industry after your Ph.D. You can get familiar with the industry and build out a network.


The last months, it seems that I am even becoming a talking point for other Ph.D. students which ask me how it is to work as an MSL. And I am happy to help them and providing them some additional information about the job because I know it is difficult to make a decision which is influencing your future. So if I can give you any advice, just talk to people and other Ph.D. students that started working already. They know it better how it is when you work in the industry and are able to provide you fair information. For the academic environment, I would suggest supporting Ph.D. students much more, because they are the future.


I am really happy with the choice I made to start working in the industry. It is a very challenging world and there are a lot of opportunities. Be fair to yourself about what you are capable of doing and start to build on that when you are looking for a job. It’s important, because it is your future but don’t hesitate too much. What do you have too loose?


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Last modified: December 4, 2018

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