I love questions from people in the UK, Australia, and Canada! They’re my favourite! (See what I did there?) Not just because I enjoy dabbling in the Queen’s English, but also because it’s so much easier to answer people’s career-related questions when I can sleep soundly knowing that nobody’s going to lose their health insurance.
I’m struggling trying to make a change of career and simultaneously relocate to another country. I would really appreciate some advice! I’m a PhD researcher in a scientific discipline and my contract ends shortly. After nearly 9 years of science, I never want to darken the doorstep of a lab ever again and I want to have a high earning potential, so I’ve been applying to graduate schemes in finance and to the big accountancy and consulting firms. Only the accountancy firms have progressed my application and everyone else rejected me out of hand. I’m due for three first-round phone interviews over the next few weeks and I think this might be my last chance.
The problem is, I hate phone interviews. Talking to someone in HR for half an hour on the phone for a pre-screening interview reduces me to a quivering jelly. Worse, almost all my examples for competency-based interviews are all about scientific projects and it takes more than half an hour (and pictures) to explain precisely what I do to someone with no prior knowledge. This is not possible in a phone interview.
I’m also very concerned that I have no backup plan except going back to science, where I don’t think anyone is really valued the way they should be – compensation, benefits and the working environment are all of a far lower standard than you would expect for a similarly qualified group of professionals in any other industry. I also still have a thesis to finish so my PhD will not be official for at least another 6 months.
So, I suppose my questions are, in order of importance:
1) Can you think of any other options I have, given that my husband resides in an area with terrible employment prospects, a largely unskilled workforce and very high unemployment? Relocation is not an option for him because he’s still in training.
2) How honest can I be in interviews anyway? Does everything really need spin? Can’t I just talk? And admit that I’m incredibly nervous?
3) How can I answer competency questions without having to explain the entire premise of my scientific endeavour?
4) I’m a short lady (5’2) and when I wear a (skirt) suit I look like I’m playing dress-up. How can I neutralise this effect if I ever make it to a ‘real’ interview?
I really hope you have the time to answer any of my questions, or that you can point me towards some other resources.
A Quivering Jelly
Great questions! Interesting — I have all kinds of students prepping for the GRE to get into science careers, and here you are trying to get out. It also seems strange that your science cred wouldn’t be of interest to finance programs. I am under the impression that many investment houses love to have people with biotech expertise (even if your area is something totally unrelated, a decade doing any type of science still puts you way above most finance people in terms of analyzing companies in this area — or, even if it doesn’t really, an investment firm would still like clients to believe it does).