Deciding to leave the bench after dedicating years to your career as a scientist can be a daunting prospect but with only about half of science graduates having a lifetime career in research it is an increasing reality for many scientists. Last week over 60 scientists joined us at the Nature Jobs Career Expo for the Digital Science workshop Life beyond the bench: I love science but I don’t want to stay in research!

After a brief intro to some of the careers available to scientists we opened a panel discussion with representatives from communications, marketing, product management, software engineers and start-ups to answer attendees questions about establishing a career away from the bench.

A common theme during the panel discussion was gaining relevant experience for a job away from the bench. Be proactive and write to companies you are interested in to find out if they have internships available. An internship will not only give you experience but it will also let you find out if that really is the career choice for you – the realities of a job can be very different to what you might think it will be like.

It isn’t always going to be possible to get an internship but there are other things you can do. Start a blog focusing on you area of interest to get your name and voice known, contact the companies you’re interested in working for even if they’re not actively recruiting, engage with science start-ups as they’re most likely to be in need of another pair of hands or apply for an entry level job in a larger organisation simply to get a foot in the door.

After the panel discussion attendees shared their take-homes and here are some of our favourites:

  • Be prepared to take an entry level job
  • Start a blog focusing on your area of interest
  • Network, network, network!
  • Pick your niche and be the best
  • Read more science blogs
  • Be proactive in finding your way and selling your unique skills
  • Do something you are passionate about

Remember – be prepared to try a few different things until you find the career that’s right for you.