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Old 04.08.2015, 13:14
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Looking for jobs as a fresh PhD – advice?

I am a PhD in fundamental sciences (biophysics) who relocated from Netherlands to Zürich this year due to family reasons. At the time of considering the move, I was finishing my PhD contract so I thought ‘Meh, I will find a job in CH instead of NL. How hard could it be?’ Turns out pretty hard.

I started with the obvious: applying for the big pharma in the first couple of months – no interviews. Since I did fundamental research and there is no job that will match with my skills 100%, I started thinking of transferable skills. I applied for the following type of positions in companies of all sizes, all over northern Switzerland: scientist, project manager, analyst, clinical trial leader, even internships with pretty well thought, non-generic application documents. I lack a network in my field around here, so I went to job fairs and tried to meet employers face to face.

Overall I did like 30 pretty well thought applications over 6 months so far and I got invited to two interviews – one that did not read my cover letter well, and one who did not have a job opening. It feels like I am always either overqualified (high education, can’t do internships) or underqualified (lack of ‘real life’ experience) and I just can't seem to jump over the HR wall. Some more things about me:

- I am non-EU national but I have a Swiss work permit
- I do not speak much German (hardly a problem in science, I don’t apply to jobs where German is a must)
- I did not have my PhD defense yet, but I am available to work immediately and can give employers a timeline for when I will get my degree

Everyone tells me to do a postdoc but since I already know that I want to go to industry, I’m afraid if I do one getting out of the academic nest will be even harder. What do you think could be holding me back? Thanks in advance for reading.
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Old 04.08.2015, 14:26
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Re: Looking for jobs as a fresh PhD – advice?

It feels like I am always either overqualified (high education, can’t do internships) or underqualified (lack of ‘real life’ experience) and I just can't seem to jump over the HR wall.

I believe this is your Problem. What makes you think that you can't do an intership? Many People start with an internship especially if they have no working experience in the field like is your case. Just apply for internships. Work hard. Let them see that you are good and that you know your stuff. Get a good working reference letter (very important in CH) and some working experience (very important in CH) and then send out more application letters with the reference and the reference letter. You will have a Swiss reference letter and Swiss working experience and you will have picked up some German - don't underestimate your need for German. You might not need it for work but you need it for your colleguages. It won't hurt. As Long as you have no job learning German is your Job. It can't be too hard for you if you speak Dutch.
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Old 04.08.2015, 14:42
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Re: Looking for jobs as a fresh PhD – advice?

Have you thought about a postdoc position at a university?


Edit: Oops, just read your final sentence. don't dismiss it out of hand, it might be a useful stepping stone into industry, especially if you can enhance your skill set and knowledge base.
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Old 06.08.2015, 14:04
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Re: Looking for jobs as a fresh PhD – advice?

Thank you for your replies. I have to admit that I have not vigorously applied for internships and I did not know the importance of having a Swiss reference (though I am not surprised I guess I had different expectations to begin with that need to be readjusted.
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Old 06.08.2015, 16:07
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Re: Looking for jobs as a fresh PhD – advice?

If you were unemployed here you would be expected to make 10 applications a month so really you're way down on your application numbers. Get more of them out there!

You say you have a Swiss work permit - what type and from what? Is it the graudate one which is supposed to put you on equal footing with Swiss/EU's or is it one from your PhD, in which case it's effectively no longer valid for working purposes. Any new employer would have to make a case for why they couldn't find a Swiss/EU national to do the job.
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Old 06.08.2015, 16:25
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Re: Looking for jobs as a fresh PhD – advice?

The number is low because of my initial relaxed approach which has now changed, most of them are the last 2 months

I have a B permit due to my EU spouse in which it says 'Familiennachzug mit Erwerbstätigkeit' so as far as I know it puts me in the same category with EU nationals and only have to report to migrationsamt once I do find a job.
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Old 06.08.2015, 16:42
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Re: Looking for jobs as a fresh PhD – advice?

I was recently informed that it takes an average of 6 months for Swiss life science PhD's to find an entry position in the biotech/pharmaceutical industry, so you will have to try harder . To better prepare yourself I can recommend the services of these people who recently gave a great seminar (the 'basic pharma job booster') at the ETH covering how to apply to industry out of academia (I'm in no way connected to this company BTW but will probably transition to industry myself after my postdoc and found this to be very helpful).
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Old 06.08.2015, 16:49
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Re: Looking for jobs as a fresh PhD – advice?

Are you putting that info on your CV? It should be there if you aren't. Otherwise employers will look at your nationality and automatically assume they'll have to go through the non-EU hiring process. Make sure it says B permit including work rights.

I only found a couple of jobs on www.jobs.ch and both wanted German as well as English so yes, you may need to improve your language skills to help with the job hunting.

And have you tried the companies given in these threads?

English speaking companies + Web Sites for job searchers in Switzerland

Another possibility is LinkedIn. A lot of people/recruiters seem to use that these days.
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Old 06.08.2015, 17:43
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Re: Looking for jobs as a fresh PhD – advice?

Requoting myself from another similar thread

Quote:
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I've just managed to get my first job outside of academia after finishing my PhD.

It was bloody difficult. There are a LOT of new PhDs about just now. I interviewed for a entry level medical writing position in Switzerland. For that one position they got 650 applications

I'm starting as a CRA next week in the UK. Not necessarily something that requires a PhD, but it's a foot in the door and with the current market beggars can't be choosers.
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Old 07.08.2015, 13:30
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Re: Looking for jobs as a fresh PhD – advice?

mgosia - Thanks for the information, I will have a look at the seminars. 6 months is awfully long for me but it is good to hear it is not that much out of norm

Yes, my permit situation is loud and clear at the first page of my CV. I am working on the German front but it is also a long way from being a beginner who can read stuff to a more 'useful' level where you can actually interact with clients etc. I can get to an intermediate level pretty fast thanks to the similarities between Dutch&German, but I am not sure that will be helpful in job hunting.

porsch1909 - True. Due to my ties here i am not applying abroad yet but another couple of months like this i will start considering it.
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