Propel Careers

How to Get the Most Out of an Academic Conference If You Are Looking to Transition Into Industry 

September 14, 2014 
by Andrea Brear 

By Andrea Brear, Ph.D., Intern, Propel Careers

After years at the bench, you are ready to present your research at a conference. In addition, after careful consideration you have decided that you would like to transition from academia to industry. There are many opportunities available at a research conference that can facilitate this transition. Knowing what these are and taking full advantage of them will make your desired career change that much more attainable.

One purpose of attending an academic conference is to showcase your work, and to receive feedback and insight from others. In order to attract the most attention, and thus increase your chances of getting noticed by attendees from industry, it is important to highlight any disease relevance or therapeutic aspects of your work.

It is equally important to learn more about scientific research from pharmaceutical or biotech companies that you are interested in. Depending on the size of the conference, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the rows of posters and scheduled talks. To avoid becoming overwhelmed, it is best to plan your days ahead of time. Prior to starting, many conferences provide information online pertaining to posters or talks with their respective times and locations. Develop a strategy where you can pinpoint which pharmaceutical or biotech companies are giving posters or talks most appealing to you. Map out a rough schedule in advance to maximize your time and ensure that you attend the posters and talks that you are most interested in.

Many academic conferences now offer a number of professional development seminars that are very useful for advancing your career. These can include workshops on cover letter, resume, and interview preparation, panels on alternative careers in science, and insights for finding a fulfilling position in a pharmaceutical or biotech company. These seminars are often posted online in advance so you can find which are most relevant to your current standing and pencil them into your conference schedule.

Exhibitors are often present at a conference promoting the latest instruments, products, and services. With the purpose of attracting potential customers, they provide hands on demonstrations and interactive presentations. Prior to the start of the conference, identify the vendors that are most relevant and /or of interest to you. Talking with the vendors allows you to gain valuable information about their positions, the company, and general information about current trends in industry. As an added bonus, this is also a great way to stay abreast of the latest technological advances in your scientific niche.

Attending a conference is one of the best ways to maintain and build your professional network. Poster sessions, kickoff events, coffee breaks, happy hours, and exhibitor booths all provide ample networking opportunities. Here, you can reconnect with former advisors and colleagues or create new connections with employees of pharmaceutical or biotech companies. Taking the time to foster these relationships is crucial for career advancement and potential collaborations and will prove useful for future endeavors of any kind.

On a final note, remember to have fun and enjoy the conference. While it's a good idea to take advantage of all these opportunities, try not to overdue it. Leave some down time to experience the city you are visiting whether it is exploring cultural landmarks, tasting the local cuisine, or just relaxing.


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