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Old 04.08.2015, 12:14
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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, 13:26
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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, 13:42
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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, 13:04
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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, 15:07
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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, 15:25
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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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