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Academia to Industry - Bridging the Gap

  • 22 May 2023

Several years ago, I remember graduating from university and thinking, what now?

How do I find a job in the 'real world'? I wasn't interested in pursuing research or working in a laboratory. I wanted a full-time job where I could apply transferrable skills, expand my knowledge, and contribute to the Scientific community.

Back then (2006), it was tough, and there was a noticeable gap between academia and industry. Throughout University, no one specifically coached me or anyone for the matter on how to get an job in industry, within a commercial setting. In my experience, I now know that being educated around the tangible steps necessary to get your foot in the door is crucial when embarking on the first steps of your career, unless I missed that class, I left University without the foundational knowledge to pursue my career.

Fast forward years later, I am proud to say that I navigated path into industry, some of it blind, however I got here. In my current role, I am in the position where I am responsible for partnering with many global manufacturers within the Life Science and Clinical Diagnostics field, my main role being, to assist my client with their hiring needs. My day-to-day role consists of communicating with hundreds of hiring managers and post-graduates (all levels). It pains me to say, that after all these years, 17 to be exact, the gap still exists.

So how do we, as hiring managers or as post-graduates, help bridge this gap? Is there a simple solution? Probably not, but after being in the professional and technical space within the Life Science sector for several years and being exposed to hundreds of hiring managers and graduates, I would like to put forward some ideas and actions that may just help us get there.

  1. Join reputable industry associations before you graduate.

After some personal research, you will find that whether you are in Life Science, Healthcare, Finance or Manufacturing, there are plenty of association that you can become a member of.  Subscribe to their mail-outs, as associations love to keep their people informed. They will notify you of upcoming networking events, industry news, job opportunities and much more.

  1. Attend networking events.

To connect with prospective employers and converse with people across varied professional levels. My advice is to start doing consistently in your final year of university and continue throughout your career. Networking events offer so much more than a brief encounter with industry leaders, you can gain significant insights and knowledge, which allows you the opportunity to navigate your career path wisely and allows to begin building your personal brand.

  1. Be intentional about your reasons when signing up to associations and attending networking events.

Be prepared to ask questions, know who to meet (sometimes they provide a registered guest list) and be curious and confident in yourself.

  1. Social Media.

This is a collective luxury and should be used to its full advantage. If you haven't already, join LinkedIn. This is a widely used social platform across all industries and hiring managers/recruitment are on the hunt throughout this platform. This professional connection tool provides insights into desired industry-based companies and leaders. You will be able to connect with industry peers, gain a greater understanding of companies in the sector, and grasp their culture and upcoming opportunities.

  1. Choose an industry mentor/coach.

Well-established experts enjoy sharing their knowledge. And one day, you will too. Choose someone who will genuinely invest volunteered time with you, their role is to understand your needs and help by offering industry knowledge, motivating advice on how to navigate through the transition from academia to industry. A great mentor/coach could open networking pathways, help you see discover your true potential, they will offer direction and an opportunity to learn from them. Choose wisely. Graduates, don’t be afraid, ask questions, and put yourself out there, proudly.


Hiring Managers, whilst I understand that hiring someone with experience is cost-effective and can save time, does it always work? Is it always necessary? Are you able to retain your new employee successfully? If you have the capacity, you really should consider hiring a recent graduate with transferrable skills. Hire a graduate with a great attitude to learn and a commercial mindset, a committed graduate can very easily be mentored, trained, and developed through the business.

In my experience, when looking for an Applications Specialist or Technical Sales Specialist, hiring an experienced scientist directly from a laboratory, with all the technical and soft skills required to be effective in the role has been a great move. A determined, focused inexperienced candidate can offer a fresh pair of eyes and an approach that is not hindered by the construct of 'this is the way it's always been' mentality. We live in a fast-paced environment where strategy serves better than historic structure. Innovative ideas are born every day, often with most of these coming from the 'non-experienced' talent. The time has come to re-evaluate the meaning of risk and adapt to this ever-changing talent pool.

Are you partnered with your local University? TAFE institutions? Have you promoted your graduate programs to local academic institutes. Is there an opportunity for an internship program? As a company, how often are you present at career expos, university events etc.


At KE Select, we are partnered with universities, TAFE institutions and industry associations, we have adopted a program nationally, allowing is to share some knowledge around finding that role in industry, we listen to candidates about their careers, provide constructive feedback and advice, offer a deep insight into employment options within the Life Science and Medical Technology sector, we  do all that we can to encourage confidence and education around making the transition from academia to industry.

KE Select’s main service offering is specialist recruitment, again, we work very close hiring managers and their organisations to best understand their full workforce planning needs. We provide sourcing strategies and services that helps them build technical, committed, experienced teams. It is vital that we gain a deep comprehension of our client’s organisation and objectives. It's through these relationships that we notice trends, successes, and any ‘gaps.  

I am so grateful that I took the leap into industry, I have covered many areas of recruitment within the Life Science commercial & technical sector, I've also had the humbling experience of partnering with companies to support their casual staffing, these roles have ranged from, Warehouse Assistants, Laboratory Chemists, Microbiologists and many more.

All great industry leaders starting off as a budding graduate, standing at a crossroads, These leaders did not just walk into their role, that are all aspiring, talented and committed people who pioneer ingenuity and success.

We are passionate about people at KE Select and look forward to powering positive connections in an environment where there is no gap to bridge.  

Ruby Lio
Division Manager - Commercial & Technical
KE Select 

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