Stephen is a recent graduate (Ph.D.) of Duke Physics. He returned to Duke and gave the graduate student seminar on March 19, 2004 on the topic of working in industry.
It would be nice if these worked, but typically they don't. Your advisor probably won't know anybody in industry. Sending out your resume at random will just get you rejected.
Instead, you need to find out what the company is interested in. Find out why it would be intersting to work at a certain place, why you would be a good fit there.
Your best resource are former students who now work in industry. If you know people who graduated from Duke who now work in industry, call them up. Even if they can't give you a job, they might know someone who can. This gets you in the door much better than sending a resume at random.Companies typically fill jobs by personal contact. They want to know the person they are hiring, or at least have second hand knowledge of the person as an individual, i.e. know someone who knows someone.
When a company receives a pile of resumes, they are looking for ways to reject them. When they make personal contact they get to see what kind of person you are.
One way to make personal contact is an informational call. You can call a company and ask them what kind of things they do there. Ask them what it's like to work there. Ask them about specific projects they have.MAKE PERSONAL CONTACTS
You can do this by looking at papers they have published, becoming familiar with research and then contacting the authors. They will be happy to talk about what they do. Find something they are working on and let them know you're intested in helping. They want to hire people that can help them.
First there is usually a phone interview, 30 mins to 1 hour. If they like you, they will fly you in. You have to impress them here. You have to dress nicely, be interested, be nice, be friendly, be remembered. They should give you a site tour. If they don't offer, you ask. The people you meet on this tour and at this interview have influence in whether you are hired, be personable to them, be remembered by them, be interested in them, be interesting to them. Sell yourself as smart and personable.
There is a career center at Duke. Go there and see if they can teach you about interviews.
Life is a bit different at a company. In addition to physics, you will have to know some business. It may be worth your time to take a business course while you are here at Duke. It's an excellent business school, and it's free! That will give you the chance to learn the lingo.
Time becomes meaningful when you work for a business. Unlike graduate school, time is more literally money. Every hour costs money in industry, so you have to work on a tighter schedule.
You must be able to explain what you do to non-physicists. Part of your job will be selling what you do as useful/profitable. You will have to be able to explain it to your boss/client.
When you work in industry, you are more likely to be doing purely applied physics, not basic science. The product of your work is a product, not a paper.
It's difficult to come back to a faculty research position after a job like this. It is more possible if you work in a gov. lab setting and write papers.
Project Management -- Important for industry and academia
Be involved with proposal writing. You'll have to do it in the future. Start now. Take classes on this.
Must be flexible
Ability to pick up a problem you don't know anything about and learn to work on it.