Interview Questions When Transitioning From Academia To IndustryPeggy McKeeon April 10, 2024 at 12:30 pm Work It Daily

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Is your career experience in academia, but you’re ready to move to business? If you’re a teacher, a professor, a scientist, or a lab tech, employers can see a move to business or industry as a pretty big leap.

They may have some perceptions about academic types that will bias them against you, and they will want to know why you want such a dramatic career change. What will you say?

This answer is a wonderful opportunity to present yourself as a great fit for business by talking about your drive, ambition, and enthusiasm, and turn any bias from a negative to a positive. Here are a few examples of potential answers and corresponding questions:

Interview Question: “Why do you want to move from academia (or the lab) to industry?”

“I’m ready to move now because I want to be more directly rewarded for the things I do. In academics, I can put in a lot of hours of quality work and still never be recognized or paid any more than someone else who doesn’t put in the effort that I do. In a business role, I feel that the harder I work and the more that I do, the more I will be rewarded by the company I work for, both financially and professionally. I expect that I would be given the opportunity to grow and take on more responsibility, which will eventually reward me even more.”

Interview Question: “When you say ‘reward,’ what will you be talking about?”

You will want to talk about what’s important to you: money (salary or bonuses), recognition, appreciation, or increasing authority and responsibility. Your answer will depend on your situation and your motivation.
This answer gives a reasonable explanation that makes sense to employers. It’s natural to want to see a benefit from all your hard work.

An alternative answer could speak to your desire to work in a practical way as opposed to a theoretical one, so you can feel that you make more of a difference, or experience the end result of your work.

Whatever answer you give,
keep this big picture in mind: You need to show them why you are running TO this job, rather than AWAY from your old one.
Talking about all the reasons why you want out of academia or the lab is a negative way to approach this explanation, and it won’t do you any favors in the interview because it will make you seem negative, whether you actually are or not.

Focus your explanation on why you want to move forward into business and how excited you are about that. It’s positive, and it keeps the conversation and the interviewer focused on your great qualities and your fit for the job.

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