Book Review: Navigating the path to industry

Today’s review is of a short e-book: Navigating the Path to Industry: A Hiring Manager’s Advice for Academics Looking for a Job in Industry, by M T Nelson.

This book may seem only tangentially relevant for readers of this blog. It is written to help academics thinking of moving into industry; a guide for those who are used to navigating the thorny paths of tenure and grant applications, but are trying to move into corporate life.

It is a short e-book, an easy and chatty read, with references at the end for those who want more detail, written by someone who is now frequently hiring people, including former academics, after successfully making the transition more than a decade ago.

In fact it is more relevant than I expected. There are three main sections:

  • Prepare yourself to apply for jobs
  • Apply for jobs
  • Final thoughts

The Apply for jobs section is full of great advice on writing a cv, writing a cover letter, thinking about how the company might manage its recruitment process, and thinking through how to give your application the best chance of success.

The bookshops are littered with advice on these topics, and I found this section a great distillation of dos and don’ts. The style seemed just right, possibly because of the way in which it took you into the mind of the person sifting through cvs for a job application.  Here is an example from the section on writing cover letters:

You need to do the work of mapping your skills to the skills the hiring manager has stated that she wants. Use the keywords from the job ad; don’t make the hiring manager construct the map from your skills to her requirements, and don’t make her guess if your “aqueous container construction” is the same thing as the “underwater basket weaving experience” requested in her posting, even if you come from an academic environment that strongly prefers the term “aqueous container construction”.

The surprise for me, though, was just how relevant her advice about moving from academia into industry might be for actuaries thinking of moving into wider fields.

I’ve talked to many actuaries thinking about moving into areas like marketing, credit risk management, market risk management; areas where an actuarial skill set is highly relevant, but not well-known. Most strategies involve going via consulting, or else joining the company in another role and trying to move from the inside. This book has some really great advice about how to make the jump direct, if those strategies aren’t available to you.

The very specific advice about how to go about networking and finding information about possible jobs is very transferable. One of the best pieces of advice here is the suggestion to organize an informational interview.

An informational interview is an interview where you ask someone in a job that sounds interesting to you  lot of questions and try and figure out whether you would like the job and how you might get such a job….

This is the step where many of your peers will drop out. It is intimidating to reach out to people you do not know and ask them to answer your questions. Why in the world would they agree to this? Amazingly, most people will say yes. …. People like to talk about themselves and feel like an expert giving advice.

So I would recommend this book for people starting out their working career (it never hurts to read good advice about applying for jobs) and those who are specifically considering a move into a different field.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the author, whose personal blog I follow and enjoy.