A diverse profile for more flexibility on the job market
First of all, I have a relatively diverse profile including experience in the field, in the lab and with bioinformatics. During my biology degree, I did my first research internship in collaboration with the Natural History Museum of Paris to produce an atlas of bats for a nature reserve based on acoustic recordings. While studying for my Master’s, I had the opportunity to learn a lot about genetics during classes and in the lab. My PhD later gave me the opportunity to do more fieldwork, laboratory work and get decent experience with the programming language R for data manipulation, analysis and visualization. Last but not least, I attended several German classes in the framework of my doctoral school and an integration course from the job agency. All of these different skills proved to be useful later.
A first professional experience before the PhD
Even though I knew I wanted to make my career in research, I always had the idea that it would be good to have a Plan B ready if necessary. During the summer between the two years of my Master’s, I found myself a three-month contract as a bat consultant in France. Thanks to my previous research internship in bat bioacoustics, I already had the experience required for this job. In addition to the fieldwork, whilst there I learnt how to write consultancy reports. After the PhD, I had the opportunity to find a similar job as nature consultant – this time in Germany – with a focus on bats but also small projects on birds and lizards. My German was not good enough to write reports but I had enough work for a full-time position with the fieldwork and the data analyses (including bat ultrasound recordings).
An internship in a private laboratory
After my PhD, I had virtually no energy to engage myself in writing grant applications for post-docs. That is the reason why I started to look for job opportunities in the private sector. One of my strong interest was genetics and I was especially interested in learning more about Next-Generation Sequencing. Through my network, I managed to find a six-week internship in a private laboratory for the molecular diagnosis of pathologies, including cancer. I could learn a lot about laboratory and bioinformatic analyses in a very short time. A big positive point was that I shared my knowledge of R and helped analyse data for different research projects. Because the experience was so positive, the technical director and I wrote a funding application for a two-year project which was unfortunately rejected. A few months later, the chief officer contacted me again to offer me a long-term position which I accepted right away. My daily tasks now include a lot of bioinformatic analyses, including genetic diagnosis of tumors, and some laboratory work. With my experience of R, I can namely contribute to various Research & Development projects to analyse data and write research posters and manuscripts.
Keep your eyes open
There are potentially a lot of job opportunities waiting for you in the private sector, but you first need to identify the one that suits you. Depending on the sector, experience with fieldwork, laboratory work, project management or data analysis can be emphasised on your CV. In Germany, the PhD title is well recognized in the private sector so you will certainly catch the interest of potential recruiters. In any case, a short internship in a company is the best way to show how your experience as a doctor could be beneficial to them. You might not be paid during this time but it will be a great experience and could be a great investment for the future. Simply keep your eyes open, consult your network and you might land a totally unexpected but fulfilling position in the private sector.
Yann Gager (@Bat_Yann) is a Research Assistant at Genolytic in Leipzig, Germany.