Dr Lina Tengdelius holds a MSc in Chemistry and a PhD in Materials Science with specialisation in Thin Film Physics from Linköping University, Sweden. She recently transitioned from academia to a role as a Consultant Manager at Dfind Science & Engineering. She works with recruiting people with a science background and reads a large number of CVs from PhDs every day.
Listen to her exciting story on how she landed her current position and what her experiences on “the other side” has taught her about the recruitment process. In this episode, Lina also shares her best tips and tricks on how to market yourself efficiently when looking for a job in the Life Science industry.
Tina helped me realize that the personality traits that I had considered to be problems for most of my life could be my greatest strengths, and that I should look for a job that suited my personality instead of adapting my personality to a job that didn’t really suit me.
– Dr Lina Tengdelius, Consultant Manager at Dfind Science & Engineering
#PhDCareerStories #Consultant #Recruitment
Hi listeners! My name is Lina Tengdelius. I finished my PhD in June 2016 and now I work as a consultant manager at Dfind Science & Engineering. As a consultant manager I recruit and manage consultants who then perform work onsite at our clients. My focus is within the Life Science industry in the Stockholm area.
So how did I get here? Well I grew up in a small town here in Sweden and quickly found an interest in math and science at school. I thought chemistry was especially interesting and in my town there was a private high school that had a specialized chemistry program. So I applied, got accepted and spent 3 years there studying all the subjects you take in high school of course, but with emphasis on math and chemistry. However, I didn’t like physics very much and when it was time to choose university I deliberately wrote off all engineering programs since I didn’t want to take any more physics courses. Instead I found a program called Chemistry with math at Linköping University. It was originally a 4-year program but a year after I started all programs were divided in 3-year bachelor programs and 2-year master’s programs. It was decided by the university that the chemistry with math program would be too difficult to convert into a bachelor’s program so instead it was shut down. This of course didn’t feel great at the time but it ended up being a great thing. The result was that I got to put together my own bachelor’s program. From this I learned so much about how to compile an individual study plan that I was offered a part-time job as a Study Adviser to help other science students plan their studies. After I finished my bachelor I continued with putting together my own master’s program. I wanted to study materials chemistry but the chemistry department in Linköping was more focused on organic chemistry and biochemistry. Instead I found interesting courses in the physics department. Remember how I said I really didn’t want to take any Physics courses? Well, sometimes everything doesn’t end up as you have planned and my PhD is actually in Physics. But now I skipped a few steps.
When finishing my master, I started looking for jobs. However, jobs for chemists at this time was hard to come by, especially in the Linköping area. I had just gotten married and my husband was a year into his PhD studies in organic chemistry so it wasn’t a great time to move either. Through my participation as a student representative in the department board I had some connections with researchers in the Materials science area and one of them were looking for a PhD student. I applied, got an interview and was in the end offered a position with another researcher in the same group, Thin film physics. So me doing a PhD was more a result of circumstances and opportunities that arose at the right time than a lifelong dream. What I liked most about being a PhD student was hearing about all the interesting things everyone else was working on. What I liked least was that research requires a lot of patience and I’m motivated by seeing fast results.
At the end of my time as a grad student I thought a lot about what I wanted to do next but didn’t really have much of an idea. I knew I didn’t want to stay in academia. I thought about working with intellectual property rights as this was a subject that interested me and I had taken a few IP courses as a PhD student. But then I realized that a job like that most likely requires just as much patience as research does. I ended up staying in my research group as a senior research engineer for a few months while I tried to figure out what I wanted to do next. At this time my husband started a postdoc position in Stockholm and we moved back to my hometown from where you can commute to Stockholm. I was still employed at my university in Linköping and wrote papers from home. I felt a bit stuck and thought that a career coach might help me. I started seeing Tina, one of the founders of this podcast. She asked a lot of difficult, and frankly sometimes just annoying, questions but she really got me thinking. I had spent many years trying to adapt my personality to the job I had and the people I worked with. Being a rather strong-minded woman who is motivated by fast pace, results and change isn’t always easy in the rather male-dominated, traditional world of physics research. Tina helped me realize that the personality traits that I had considered to be problems for most of my life could be my greatest strengths, and that I should look for a job that suited my personality instead of adapting my personality to a job that didn’t really suit me. Reaching this point the recruitment business caught my interest since it is very fast-paced and full of result-driven people.
I applied for a position as sourcing manager at Dfind Science & Engineering. Sourcing manager is a position where you mainly work with the candidate aspect, conducting interviews, taking references etc. However, they had already found a new sourcing manager but also had an opening as a consultant manager and asked if I were interested. The role of a consultant management is three-fold. You work with recruiting new consultants, you work with getting new clients or maintaining your relationships with existing clients and you are the manager of a number of consultants. Most recruitment companies mainly look for people with a background in HR or sales when hiring consultant managers but there are some companies specialized in certain fields that look for other backgrounds. At Dfind Science & Engineering everyone from the sourcing assistant to the CEO has a background in science and/or engineering. The idea is that we can better understand both what our clients want and what the candidates can offer when we have a similar background ourselves. Anyway, after several interviews and tests I was offered the job as consultant manager. The entire process felt like an eternity but when I look back I see that it actually took just about 5 weeks from my application to being offered the job and less than a month later I started working.
Most people seem to think that I have made a rather drastic career change but I think that I use a lot of skills from all of my previous jobs as well as other experiences from e.g. committees and boards at the university.
So what use do I have of my PhD in my current work? As a PhD student I learned how to structure my work effectively and how to manage my own time. I got used to working with a broad range of people in different disciplines and even if I don’t understand everything someone in a different field is talking about, I usually understand enough to know what I need to understand and what isn’t necessary information for me at this time. This helps a lot when conducting interviews e.g. for a position as a microbiologist which I don’t have much experience of myself. As a PhD student I also improved my ability to quickly read and sort out a lot of information, which is very useful when reading a lot of CVs. Having a PhD degree also comes in handy when establishing relationships with clients, who sometimes have a PhD of their own. As a PhD student I also developed skills such as critical thinking, giving and receiving criticism, problem solving, team work, administration, management, building networks, information search, prioritizing tasks, working outside my comfort zone, keeping deadlines as well as streamlining and optimizing my work. All of these things are valuable in my work as a consultant manager.
So what have I learned from first being a PhD graduate looking for a new job and then becoming the person on the other side, hiring people? Well, first of all perception of time is very different. When you apply for a job and doesn’t hear anything for a couple of weeks it seems like an eternity when you’re the candidate. For the recruiter, however, that time just flies by. As a consultant manager I can have a number of recruitment processes going simultaneously and I also have a number of working consultants whom I manage. Add meetings with my team and customers and I have no problem filling my work day to say the least. If a recruitment is being handled without a recruitment company, the hiring manager also have their core business to think about and usually recruiting a new employee isn’t at the top of the priority list. So try to be patient. However, if you haven’t heard anything for a few weeks and are starting to wonder what is going on, send the recruiter an email and ask for the time line for the recruiting process. Personally, I send an email to everyone who didn’t get the job but sometimes I don’t do that until the person I want to hire has signed a contract so then it can take a while.
I’ve also realized that as a recruiter you read a lot of CVs. As a candidate I thought how hard can it be to read the entire CV and a cover letter but now I will admit that I do not read everything unless something makes me interested when I skim through it. For me structure is key to if I read it thoroughly or not. A messy CV where it is hard to find the most important parts at a first glance will most likely not make it through the first cut. This can seem harsh but it’s the reality so make it your mission as a candidate to tell me as a recruiter who you are, what you know and why you want this job in a well-structured way that is easy to read and understand. In short, you need to sell yourself! I will talk more about CVs in my tips & tricks episode of this podcast.
So what do I look at when PhD graduates apply for a job at Dfind Science & Engineering? Well, the thing I want to figure out is if you can perform in an industry setting AND if you want to be in an industry setting. If you apply for a lab job in the pharmaceutical industry but focus on your research ambition in your CV and cover letter and also send your publication list I will most likely come to the conclusion that you would rather continue in research. However, if you instead focus on what you have learnt conducting your research, that can be beneficial for the position you applied for, I will be much more interested. It could be experience from a number of lab methods, team work, documentation of results etc. In the cover letter I also want to see a motivation for why you want this job and I want it to be something more specific than that you found the add interesting. It could be that you enjoyed working in the lab as a PhD student and that you now want to test working in an industry lab to contribute with your knowledge of a certain method and at the same time enhance your knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry.
I also look at if you have other experiences outside your research. Maybe you have been involved in organizing student activities or you might have had other jobs before becoming a PhD student? My own experience as a study adviser proved very helpful for getting this job as a consultant manager.
Social media can be a great tool in your job search. On your LinkedIn page you can have all your experiences, publications etc available that you don’t include in your application so if anyone is interested they can always find it there. Also, it is a great way of making and maintaining connections that can be helpful for your career. Feel free to add me on LinkedIn if you like.
To conclude: Try to find a job where the way of working is in tune with your personality and what motivates you! Then spend time on developing a great CV and motivate why you want that job when you apply.
Thank you for listening and good luck with your continued career!