Scientists and trainees often have a hard time seeing how their lab-based skills can be applied beyond the bench. When you are job searching, whether you are seeking a position in academia, industry, or government, it is essential that you have a clear idea of your main attributes and how they could be applied to your intended position of choice.
Identifying skills you already have developed and will be able to transfer to your next professional position is a key component of a successful job search. If you need help identifying possible transferable skills, take a look at the OITE blog post on “What are my transferable skills?”
Many trainees express an interest in going into management consulting or other fields where project management skills will be highly valued. As a researcher, this could be a great fit for you, because by virtue of running experiments, you are utilizing project management skills. There are five stages in a project management cycle, including:
Sounds familiar to planning and running an experiment, doesn’t it?
When applying for positions focused on project management, speak about your bench work in these terms and it will feel much more relatable to the hiring manager/team. During the initiation phase of an experiment, you are likely trying to understand the scope of your project which could involve literature reviews and generating your own hypothesis. In the business world, this phase consists mostly of analyzing the feasibility and timeline of the project. During the planning phase in both science and business, you are likely trying to map out any risks/vulnerabilities to your outcome. You are ensuring you have enough resources (budget/materials) to complete your work. The third, fourth, and final stages – execution, project monitoring, and closing – depend heavily on the type of task you are working on, but it is important to remember that even though the day-to-day tasks might differ between bench and non-bench roles, the overall process and the skills that you are utilizing to ensure success are often the same.
Understanding some basic principles about project management stages and the flow of work can help you to see connections beyond your own bench work.