To begin exploring alternative career paths, first consider what aspects of research you find the most – and the least – enjoyable, and let these preferences guide your career search.
For example, if you love experimentation, troubleshooting, and making discoveries but hate writing up reports and/or presenting data, a Research Associate position at a pharmaceutical company would be a good fit for you. Many companies hire researchers to brainstorm and test new ideas, but they’ll often hire science writers to ultimately compose a publication or a press release. This divides the tasks, allowing you to focus your attention on the aspects of science and research that you enjoy most.
Alternatively, if you are easily frustrated with experimentation and troubleshooting but love writing up a finished project, a career in science/medical communications would be a perfect fit for you. Numerous communications companies help larger pharmaceutical companies strategically align their new products and tell their stories in publications, PowerPoint presentations, and marketing pamphlets. In this case, you would only be responsible for the final positioning of data that someone else acquired, allowing you to avoid the parts of science and research that you find most frustrating.
Identifying the specific activities that you enjoy can be challenging, especially if you haven’t given it much thought. Fortunately, there are free services available that can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses.
Below are two different self-guided skills assessments that will identify your current skillset and help to define the types of careers for which you would be well suited.
Careerealism is company that helps job seekers find the perfect job fit by helping them identify their professional persona from the eight that they’ve defined: 1) the Mentor, 2) the Researcher, 3) the Warrior, 4) the Superconnector, 5) the Educator, 6) the Builder, 7) the Optimizer, and 8) the Visionary.
Each of these professional personas has different strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, they are not defined in the literal sense, i.e., an “Educator” isn’t necessarily a teacher/professor, but rather someone who excels at communicating information – in emails, documents, oral presentations, etc. For more details about each professional persona, visit their webpage.
As you go through the descriptions of the different personas, you may find that you relate to more than one type of persona. This is natural, as each of us possesses a variety of skills. The key is identifying which skills are your strongest.
Careerealism provides a quiz that can easily pinpoint which ones are our strong suits. With a short series of 20 “would you rather?” questions that takes less than a few minutes to complete, we can see a breakdown of where are preferences and tendencies lie. Take the quiz here.
Once you know your strengths, it will be much easier to identify ideal careers for you. For example, after taking the quiz, you may discover that you are indeed an Educator even if you’ve never thought of yourself as one. And let’s say that you are equal parts an Educator and a Visionary. Knowing this information may help you redirect your alternative career search, focusing more on leadership roles that require effective communication to get large groups of people to work together efficiently on long-term projects.
This service can certainly open your eyes to strengths you didn’t realize you had. You can then begin researching jobs that specifically require those skills or use Careerealism’s paid services to help you leverage your persona(s) to get your dream job.
Alternatively, you can use other free services to match your specific skills, not personas, to specific jobs.
Oystir is company that will ask you to identify your skills as well as the degree to which you have mastered these skills, and based on your self-declared skillset and levels of proficiency, Oystir will generate a list of jobs that are seeking candidates with your qualifications.
To use the service, first create a free account and begin by selecting a category on the left, i.e., “Biology Skills.” Within each category, you’ll find different bubbles/circles with different topics. If you have experience with a given topic, i.e., “Bacterial Culture,” select that bubble. The next view will provide you with an opportunity to define your level of expertise with this particular skill. For example, 1) I have no/very limited experience, 2) I’ve learned the basics, 3) I have experience but need help, or 4) I execute complex experiments by myself. After selecting the most appropriate statement and clicking “Complete,” you’ve added this skill and skill level to your skillset.
In addition to experiment-based skills, Oystir also includes categories such as Business, Finance, Outreach, Writing, Teaching, Engineering, and Manufacturing to help you parlay your research skills into diverse, non-academic roles for which you may already posses some basic skills.
After completing the assessment, Oystir filters out jobs that meet your qualifications. By clicking on the “Job Matches” tab, you can see the long list of jobs that are seeking candidates with your specific expertise. Then, just click on the jobs that interest you to learn more, and either go straight to the application or save the job in your “Favorites” for later.
It’s that simple.
Although both Oystir and Careerealism provide similar assistance in terms of identifying your strengths and weaknesses, there are a few key differences.
1) The main difference is that Oystir uses specific skills to identify good job fits for you, whereas Careerealism works more in the abstract to describe features of a position that you should seek out. Depending on your personality, one may be better suited for your alternative career search than the other.
2) Oystir is specifically geared towards helping PhDs and other scientists make the transition from academia to non-academic positions, whereas Careerealism is a universal service for all job seekers regardless of their background.
3) Oystir is ultimately a database of jobs; thus, after completing the skills assessment, you can be matched to specific job listings, whereas Careerealism does not provide this additional application.
Despite their differences, both Careerealism and Oystir provide excellent services that can help researchers begin to explore alternative career paths by first identifying their strengths and weaknesses. Many individuals are often met with limited success when it comes to non-academic job searches mainly because they are applying for jobs that are not a great fit for them; thus, the employer is likely to choose a different candidate. Better prepare yourself by first performing an in-depth skills assessment and letting this assessment guide your alternative career search.
** Perform your own skills assessment and share what you learn about yourself! **
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