Transitioning Into Industry

Going from the Laboratory to Industry, is it for me?

Have you ever consider leaving the laboratory for a career in industry? Have you ever thought about changing your focus in the field of histotechnology? Whether you choose sales or technical support, it is quite different than working in the laboratory on a daily basis.

There are many reasons that one might choose a career in industry. Some of those reasons may include money, job satisfaction, flexibility, looking for a challenge, growth opportunities and/or a change in scenery. Before you take the leap, there are some things you should consider. First, preparing your résumé for a job in industry is somewhat different than the résumé you might use when looking for a position as a bench tech or a supervisor. You may want to start by having someone already in industry assist you in preparing your résumé. Second, it is not likely that you will have a physical location to report to. You may have to set up a home office. It is likely you will travel frequently. Plans may change from day to day and you will have to be flexible.

So what are the advantages of leaving the laboratory for industry? First, there's the flexibility, not having to report to the same place every day, work with the same people day in and day out, and meeting new challenges on a daily basis. There may be perks such as company cars, bonus opportunities, profit-sharing, or others. It can be really fun to travel and use your creative juice.

As far as benefits go, most companies will offer benefits similar to those found in healthcare organizations. Smaller companies often have higher rates for medical and dental insurance than larger companies that have more employees. Make sure you do a side-by-side comparison with your current benefits in order to ensure that you have the coverage you need.

The downside is that you often must be more disciplined. Juggling your personal commitments with those of your career can be a challenge. Your schedule may be very hectic and sometimes you may feel as though you live out of your suitcase. What this means is that you have to be very disciplined with your time and energy in order to be successful. Especially when working in your home office, you have to be disciplined enough not to let your personal commitments interfere with getting your work done.

Schedule wise, working in industry can be very different than working a set schedule in the laboratory. The day doesn't end at five o'clock, often working into the evening in a hotel room is the only way to get things done. You may have to travel early in the morning or late at night in order to make your commitments. No more 40 hour weeks, often 50 to 60 hours is the norm. In order to keep your weekends for personal life, it pays to make the most of your time during the week when in hotel rooms and when traveling. Don't forget that most trade shows are on the weekend and as a representative of your company, you may have to attend.

Making sure you have the tools you need to be productive during this travel time is essential. This means a good laptop computer, an extra battery, a cell phone with a lot of talk time and battery life, and all the information at your fingertips. You must also be comfortable with working in places like airports, in your car, and in a hotel room.

Working in a virtual environment is very different than working in the laboratory. You need to be able to communicate well via e-mail and telephone. Sometimes it can be lonely when you're on the road. Taking care of yourself is also important. Eating healthy meals and getting exercise while traveling is essential to maintaining your health. You have to make time for yourself and get your work done. This balance can be hard to achieve.

Lost opportunities can affect your performance standards and your salary. Industry must remain nimble which means there are often many changes in territory and responsibilities. This can be frustrating. Adaptability is a key attribute you must have.

So now that we've talked about the advantages and disadvantages, just what does it take to the successful in industry? For technical support roles, your technical knowledge and experience are very important. You need to be a good troubleshooter, be able to visualize what is going on in the lab in your head as you talk to the customer on the telephone. Sometimes you just can't be in the lab and you must be able to ask the right questions in order to solve your customer’s issues. You need to be good at multitasking, be able to deliver on the promises you may, and build relationships with your customers. Think of the best technical representative you have ever worked with and then ask why they were the best. Most of the time, it's because they built a relationship with you based on reliability, trust, and integrity.

What about sales? Most companies will provide sales training; however, you must already have certain personal attributes that will make you a good salesperson. You have to build relationships, have excellent knowledge of your product as well as your competitor’s product, and be able to point out the advantages as well as the disadvantages of one over the other. Trust and integrity are essential to building the relationships with your customers. In addition, you must be able to provide cost analysis, show the advantages of your product in writing, and negotiate contracts. Excellent computer skills and knowledge of programs such is Excel, PowerPoint, and Word are required.

For technical support or sales, one of the most important things is that you believe in the product that you represent. Your integrity cannot be compromised if you truly believe in the company you represent.

So before you make the jump from the laboratory into industry, take a step back and evaluate all the options. The best way to find out how a company really is, is to talk to someone that is already doing the job that you'll be hired to do. Ask the hard questions without hesitation.

Submitted by Tonia Breckenridge, NSH Member Since 1992