It’s easy to think of the myriad skill you acquire during the lab as restricted to use in, well, the lab. Oh, but how wrong you’d be! Following on from the alternatives careers that Vicky wrote about, I’m going to show you the hugely useful skills that perhaps you didn’t even know you had! Feel free to add these transferable skills to your CV, resume, or even to LinkedIn so that people you’ve never met can totally endorse you for them! Or maybe just keep them bottled up in your mind and bust them out in interviews. It’s your call.
Attention to detail
We’ll get rolling with an obvious one. Those little details? You know how to spot them. You’ve hunted for almost-imperceptible anomalies down a microscope; you’ve sifted through huge amounts of sequence data; you’ve stared at hundreds of similarly sized bands; and you’ve moved microliters upon microliters of clear liquid into clear tubes containing yet more clear liquid, every, single day, without even a hint of fear or hesitation. You’re basically a hawk in the sky when it comes to spotting errors and noticing the smallest details – and small details matter.
There are entire businesses built on providing “professional” courses for this – but you don’t need those. You’ve been used to running multiple experiments at once for the past few years. When at first you whimpered at the sound of “You should run these in parallel,” now you throw your head back and laugh confidently into the fume hood. Your skill at multi-tasking, advanced planning, project coordination, disaster management, and contingency implementation are is high demand. And you’ve got oodles of skill to spare. Go flaunt it.
While conducting fine manipulation with your primary hand, your off hand is busy capping, unscrewing, and holding open eppendorfs, falcon tubes, and petri dishes. You’re essentially an ambidextrous wizard. You’ve fine-tuned your brain to make notes without ever removing your face from the microscope. You can hit start on the microcentrifuge as you drop samples into the water bath. Yes, this skill is niche. But should you ever need to change printer toner while opening a new ream of paper, pour coffee while unscrewing the milk carton, or reply to an urgent email while also high fiving your buddy, then you’re crushing it.
There’s a good chance you’re more than at least basically proficient in statistical programs like Graph, Minitab, SPSS, or, if you’re a real scientist, R. But you’ve done more than battled with stats software: you’ve probably delved into imaging packages like Photoshop, Illustrator, ImageJ or Volocity; conquered custom software that border on cryptic archaic technology; navigated internal HR systems that would bring most people to tears; and maybe even learned to code properly. These skills elevate you to the office tech hero; circumventing the IT department with rebellious abandon; writing custom scripts to query databases; or applying sound statistical know-how to otherwise fluffy data. CV gold right here.
A whole year of failed experiments? No problem. Regular critique from peers and strangers at lab meetings and conferences? Bring it on. Scooped? You didn’t want that project anyway. There’s very little that will challenge your resolve, and that will continue forever. A little cry? A weekly rant? The occasional desire to throw it all in? Of course. But you overcame that. You figured it out. And your tenacity is something that will always serve you well. When there are deadlines bearing down on you or a plethora of problems flung your way, you can pull it together and knock it out of the park.
Social and communication skills
All those nights in restaurants and pubs after the conference were actually you honing your social and networking skills. Yep. You’ve been sharpening your ability to communicate specialized and highly complex information to a range of audiences in both verbal and written form. You’ve also been getting better conflict resolution every time you successfully answer those intentionally difficult questions at meetings without sighing, rolling your eyes, or replying with “What? Of course I’ve thought about that! Idio—”. Being able to communicate to a range of people across multiple media platforms makes you immensely desirable 😉
What are your top 3 transferable skills? GO!