How to convert a scientific CV into a business CV


Seán is back with another guest post, this time on the tricky subject of turning your scientific CV into a business CV! Seán explains how to make a good first impression with your cover letter, and shares some tips and tricks for making your CV more business-friendly.

A huge problem that many scientists feel when leaving the lab is having insufficient business experience to make the transition out of science. And so with little business experience, what kinds of jobs can they apply for? However, every day many scientists do make a successful transition into the world of business, without a sniff of an MBA on their CV. Most of my friends have now gone on to work in sales, marketing, business development, IT, consulting and project management, just to name a few professions and roles.

Like everything (not even science unfortunately), there is no magic formula to make your CV appear as a business masterpiece. However, tailoring your CV for an HR department and a business manager can definitely make a big difference to whether you get to the interview stages of the job process or not.

Below are some of my tips and advice that may help you when making that transition out of science:

The first impression

From your cover letter the HR department and employer will make a judgement on whether you are a candidate who is truly interested in working for their company, or someone who has just sent another job application hoping that they make it to the interview stages. Therefore, it is critical that you tailor your cover letter to suit your prospective company, including how you align with their interests, how you understand the competition, how you have excelled to get where you are and how you’d be an asset to work for their company. Furthermore:

  • Give a brief description of their competitors and where they stand within the market;
  • Describe how X, Y, Z of your experience directly relates to the role and makes you an ideal candidate;
  • Describe the highlights of your career, what successes you have achieved, and how your determination to succeed would directly align with their business goals.

Your CV will give the HR department and your prospective manager an insight into how you structure your thoughts, your experience and exactly what your role was during your PhD and post-doc. So clearly outlining your exact roles, and how you excelled in these roles, is critical to getting through to the interview stage.

More tips for a business-friendly CV

Project management is a phrase that many PhDs and post-docs use in their CV to describe the skill of managing a research project. However, this can be taken as a given in many cases and thus expanding more on how you managed your project will set you apart from other candidates. Expanding on the objectives, goals and outcomes of your projects, and what experience you gained, provides valuable information for your CV. A little more detail will give your prospective employers a lot more insight into how great you really are!

Managing grad students and undergraduates during your PhD and post-doc alerts the HR department and your manager to your experience in working as a senior in a team, and displays that you are ready to take on responsibility, no matter what the position is. Highlighting how you managed these grad students, took their projects to completion and how you helped troubleshoot their issues along the way shows that you’re a team player and ready to take action.

Use some business terminology. It’s very likely that your new employers will been out of the lab a few years, or may not have any scientific background at all. Therefore, speaking the common language of business will resonate and allow them to see you as a business person (Chris says: my free guide on how to translate your skills into language employers can understand can help you with this).

Demonstrating further training and outreach will show whoever reads your CV that you have an interest in life outside of the lab. Further training and outreach will also show an employer what steps you’re taking to make yourself successful and useful in a career outside of the lab. If you haven’t taken any training courses yet in business, consult with your University’s career advice counsellor and see what courses you can take up for free.

Awards. You may not have won an Oscar or Olympic gold (yet!), but nothing screams success like winning an award, no matter what it was. If your peers had to compete to win this award and you beat them to the post, place it on your CV. Winning awards also shows employers that you can get things done, within a timeframe and be successful at doing it. Furthermore, it shows that you are competitive and likely to succeed within their company.

Putting some of these tips and tricks into your CV will help you to stand out from the crowd. Getting through the interview stage is the next part of the process, but with such a great CV, you’re sure to get the job!

About Seán:
Seán was a PhD student at University College Dublin and a post-doc at Cambridge University, where he studied mechanisms of cell division. Currently Seán run an ELISA assay company where you can find some great information on ELISA assay protocols and ELISA kits.