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Recently Graduated and Unemployed? Here’s What to Do

Recently Graduated and Unemployed? Here’s What to Do

Author:  Tara Smylie

Ah, the job search. Universally hated, and unfortunately also necessary for almost everyone at some point during their career. If you’re a recent grad in the middle of the hunt, you might feel a little stressed out or overwhelmed. That’s totally normal – and luckily, there are several ways you can manage your anxieties as you continue casting your net.

Contact and Connect

Friends, family, old mentors or professors… chances are, you know a handful of people who’ve been through the same thing and have some words of wisdom to offer. If possible, reach out to peers who are in the same boat – you will all feel less alone if you have each other to confide in. Connecting with other recent grads also has the advantage of strengthening your professional network.

Take a chance and connect with people or organizations you’d really like to work for, perhaps even offering to volunteer for them. For example, if you’re interested in a medical research environment, email a lab coordinator in that field and ask them if they have any opportunities for an ambitious assistant who is willing to work hard and eager to contribute. When it comes to life science and biotech, your connections are your strength – so never stop making them.

Work smart, not hard

Don’t pressure yourself to apply to exactly X number of jobs every day. Instead, focus on finding jobs that match your interests and abilities. For example, let’s say you excelled in all your statistics courses and have some field experience as a scientist. Perhaps you could put your skills to good use as a biostatistician – or possibly an environmental analyst for the right company. The ideal job will make use of your existing skills while offering you opportunities to cultivate new ones.

And remember: you don’t have to rush to the finish line. They say that looking for a job is a full-time job, but you don’t need to spend a full 8-hour day on the search if that feels excessive. While you are searching, be sure to read all job descriptions – you don’t want to waste anyone’s time applying for a job that doesn’t click for you. And when you inevitably face some rejection, try not to dwell on it and remember that rejection will happen to any job hunter who aims high.

Constantly refine your approach

Mass applying to hundreds of jobs at a time can feel productive, but you’re not as likely to impress any single employer. Find a balance between quality and quantity – and yes, that will mean writing cover letters. Over half of employers prefer candidates who attach them, and they can help you sell yourself if you maintain a professional tone.

As you search, you may notice that some components of your process need work. If you think your resume could use some fine-tuning, ask a colleague to look it over and give you some feedback. Or maybe you know your interviewing skills aren’t quite where you’d like them to be. If that’s the case, consider watching some videos or taking a course on the subject to brush up your skills. Your job-seeking skills will drive both your short- and long-term career, and the perfect time to invest in it is when you’re actively looking.

Relax your standards

There’s no need to find the “perfect” job immediately – you never know what an opportunity can lead to. Instead of chasing your number-one dream position, focus your efforts on landing a “good enough” job and consider where it could take you in the future. Nowadays it’s very common to end up working in a different field than the one you formally trained in, so stay open to the possibility of doing something a little unfamiliar.

As a final note: remember to enjoy the free time you have right now. You may not get the chance to take time off work for a while once you do have a job – so make the most of it while you can! Take this opportunity to polish your skills, reach out to old contacts, and get back in touch with the hobbies that fell by the wayside during your college days.

Keep calm and carry on

Finding a job is never easy. Realize that you’re not alone, and take the search at a pace that feels comfortable to you. Remember, you can’t control when you get an offer – only the effort you put into the process. If you’d like some assistance finding your next opportunity, Sci.bio’s recruitment services can help you take your next steps.

References

  1. It’s Who You Know: A Guide to Career Networking in the Life Science Industry
  2. How to Deal With Job Rejection and Move On
  3. 83 Must-Know Resume Statistics: 2022 Data on Length, Cover Letters & Valuable Skills
  4. Resume Writing for Life Scientists
  5. Managing Job Interview Questions
  6. Only 27 percent of college grads have a job related to their major
Hate Your Job? Here’s What to Do

Hate Your Job? Here’s What to Do

Author:  Tara Smylie

We’ve all felt it: that sinking feeling we get when a new position isn’t what we thought it would be. But there’s no need to despair. No matter what happens, you can gain valuable work experience and a new list of potential references. If your current work circumstances aren’t quite doing it for you, consider the following tips to help you take charge of the situation.

Identify the problem

To hone in on the source of your discomfort, you’ll have to put words to your feelings. Take a mental walk-through of your average workday, and when you hit a sore spot, write down why you think that is. Then, condense your notes into a list of specific, tangible issues that affect your day-to-day work life. Are you finding certain tasks to be beneath your skill level? Not what you expected out of this role? Are certain colleagues making it hard to focus on your job? The more specific you can make this list, the better.

Once you’ve identified some key pain points, brainstorm some changes that could fix them. More than likely, your supervisors can adjust your work environment or project load to improve your experience. Say you’re working as a lab assistant, and would like to spend more of your time helping researchers and less on menial tasks. Before you tell anyone at work, come up with a few ways you could make this happen, such as assisting with higher-level work one day a week or working with a different research team.

Meet with your boss or supervisor

Once you’ve thoroughly assessed the situation, schedule a meeting with your supervisor and ask them if there’s any room to make changes. Politely explain how your solutions could help the organization, along with improving your job satisfaction. Keep an open mind as they respond to your ideas: Even if they don’t fully agree with what you’ve proposed, they’ll likely meet you halfway.

Perhaps they can’t assign you to a different team, but will green-light your suggestion to spend some afternoons shadowing a senior researcher. Or maybe they can lay out a path to help you secure a promotion to a more research-based position within the next year.

Take advantage of the networking opportunity

Even if you do end up resigning, here’s no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If your job isn’t what you hoped it would be, the connections you make in your current role can help you with a career move in the future. Maybe your boss will write you a top-notch reference letter, or you’ll be able to come back and work for your current employer in a different role someday. For such scenarios to pan out, you’ll have to make a sharp impression while you can.

As you consider how to make the most of your circumstances, don’t underestimate the power of horizontal networking – making connections with people at your level. You probably have a lot more in common with your coworkers than with your bosses, which means that you can all share resources and keep each other up-to-date about new developments in your field.

Be courteous from start to finish

Whether you’re resigning from a four-month internship or a full-time job you’ve had for two years, a resignation letter will help you make a graceful exit. Your supervisors will take note of your professionalism and will appreciate having a record of your reasons for leaving. If all goes well, you can also ask your boss to write a letter of recommendation for you.

Keep on moving

So you’ve made your exit. Now what? Simple: get back on that grind. Reach out to your contacts and keep tabs on all job boards in your field. If you want a really competitive edge, consider working with a recruiter. And this time around, you know exactly what you don’t want in a work experience, so you can pursue your next opportunity with greater clarity.

If you’re eager to find your next science or biotech opportunity, Sci.bio’s recruitment services can help you land a job that complements your skills and career interests.

Sources

  1. How to Enjoy Work in 12 Steps and Why Doing So Is Important
  2. 12 Ways To Ensure a Successful Meeting With Your Boss
  3. Being Honest with Your Boss can Increase Your Workplace Happiness
  4. 8 Reasons Why It’s Important To Build Workplace Relationships
  5. Why You Should Be Horizontally Networking With Your Peers
  6. Having Trouble Selecting a Recruiter? Start With These Questions
Beyond the Lab and the Launch

Beyond the Lab and the Launch

Author:  Gabrielle Bauer

Explore these ideas, insights, and tips to help you live your best life, both on and off the job.

INTRODUCTION

To stay sharp and to grow within the biotech industry, you need to look beyond the daily routine, to set goals, and to make connections. When you reach a fork in the road, you need strategies to help you choose your next steps with confidence. You also can’t ignore the rest of your life. No matter how inspiring you find your work in the life sciences, time away from the lab or the boardroom can help you maintain your zest for working and for living.

This backgrounder aims to inspire you to live more purposefully and creatively, at work and beyond. Use the ideas and tips below as a starting point, adapting them to your unique style and circumstances. Follow the links to dive more deeply into a topic, and keep an eye out for our blog and events for further insights into the science life.

CAREER JOURNEY

A successful career journey includes both making and changing plans. While perseverance can get you through many rough spots, you also need to know when to cut your losses and regroup. Consider these approaches to help you chart your course.

Boosting Your Goal IQ

“I want to be successful in five years” may be an admirable goal, but it’s not a smart one. Smart goals are:

  • Specific: To zero in on your goal, try answering the five W questions: What do you want to accomplish? Why is the goal important? Who does it involve? Where is it located? Which resources does it require? ●
  • Measurable: How will you know when you’ve reached your goal or are partway there? Measuring your progress can help you maintain your excitement about approaching your goal. If your goal will take months or years to accomplish, break it down into steps that end with clear milestones.
  • Achievable: By all means dream big, but make sure your goal matches your interests, aspirations, and aptitudes. The best goals are those that stretch your abilities without exceeding them. A word of caution: avoid setting goals that depend on someone else’s actions, like “getting promoted to medical director.” If that’s what you want, reframe your goal to something like “acquire the training and skills to be considered for a medical director position.”
  • Relevant: The goal has to mean something to you. If it doesn’t align with your values and other life goals, it will lose its appeal. You know your goal is relevant if you can answer yes to the questions: Does the goal seem worthwhile? Is this the right time for it? Am I the right person to pursue it? Does it make sense in the current business environment?
  • Time-bound: A time-bound goal has a deadline. If you decide to pursue an advanced degree in bioinformatics, you can set your deadline at (for example) three years from now. You can also set deadlines for completing prerequisites, if needed, and for applying to bioinformatics programs.

While you’re working on SMART goals, take the opportunity to step back and consider your long-term career trajectory. Dorie Clark, a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University, suggests you begin by clarifying where you don’t want to go. “Get clear on what you don’t want, and then take steps to avoid that,” she writes in the Harvard Business Review. “It’s much easier to identify things you know you dislike, rather than ideating about a hypothetical future.” Perhaps the pandemic years have made you realize that you don’t want to spend all your time in an office environment. Or perhaps it’s the opposite: you’ve learned that working from home doesn’t do it for you. Or you’ve realized that you don’t want to spend the rest of your career in a laboratory or on the road.

Next, flip the exercise around and make a list of scenarios that instinctively appeal to you. Maybe the entrepreneurial lifestyle calls to you, and you can picture yourself launching a boutique skincare company with a small lineup of clinically active products. Maybe you’re an avid hiker and you’d like to live closer to the mountains. Such “visioning” exercises will keep your long-term aspirations alive in your head, so you’ll be ready to turn them into SMART goals when the right time comes.

The Biggest Decision

If you’ve recently completed your schooling, you’re probably staring down the scientist’s biggest fork in the road: academia or industry? Or maybe you’ve already made your choice, travelled some distance down that path, and are now wondering if you should backtrack and take the other road.

It never hurts to lay out the pros and cons of either choice, as we’ve done here. For extra inspiration, check out videos such as this one, targeted to scientists and engineers.

Pro and Cons Chart of Academia and Industry

When reviewing such lists, be sure to check in with yourself. Are you listening to your inner promptings, or are you trying to please a colleague or professor sitting on our shoulder? If that’s the case, refocus your thoughts on your own mental picture of yourself—the only picture that counts. Nobody knows you as well as you do, and what works for your mentor won’t necessarily line up with your needs.

Finding Your Career Sweet Spot

Ever heard of Ikigai? This Japanese path-finding exercise, which roughly translates to “reason for being,” can help you zero in on a career path that speaks to your heart and your mind. As illustrated below, Ikigai invites you to ask four questions:

  1. What do I love?
  2. What am I good at?
  3. What can I get paid for?
  4. What does the world need?

Once you’ve answered the questions, see where they overlap: that’s your ikigai, or career sweet spot. For example, if you love biology, you’ve always been good at drawing, you’re comfortable around computers, and you’ve noticed many new digital health communications companies popping up, you may find your sweet spot as a digital medical illustrator.

The Ikigai Intersection

Venn diagram of Ikigai

Tweaking Your Career Path

If you’ve hit a mental wall in your career, you’re certainly not alone. By age 50, the average person has held 12 different jobs in search of the right fit. People change not only jobs, but careers: in 2016 alone, about 6.2 million workers left their roles for work in a different field. If you recognize yourself in these signs, it may be time for a change.

  • You’ve lost your mojo: You don’t feel connected to your job and you have trouble faking enthusiasm. You’re underperforming and letting deadlines slip past you.
  • You don’t feel like you’re making a difference: Your role doesn’t play to your greatest strengths, and you don’t feel your accomplishments make the world a better place.
  • Your job is affecting your personal life: You come home exhausted, you take out your frustrations on those who live with you, or your body shows signs of chronic stress, such as headaches or digestive problems.
  • You fantasize about a new job or career: You feel jealous of your friends’ careers or find yourself browsing job boards. When people ask you what you do, you don’t take pride in the answer.
  • You dread going to work: This clue needs no further elaboration. If you feel this way consistently, it’s time to look elsewhere.

Perhaps you don’t need to step out of the life sciences field, but to find a new career under its large umbrella. If your job as a lab technician doesn’t fulfill the performer in you, maybe a biology teacher will do the trick. Or if you enjoy working on science projects but feel like an outsider in the lab, you could find your groove as a regulatory writer. Don’t ever think of such lateral moves as steps backward: success is measured in personal fulfillment, not in a CV.

CONNECTIONS

The life sciences are as much about people as products. Whether you’re looking for a new job, want advice on writing research grants, or simply enjoy picking colleagues’ brains, you don’t have to be the life of the party to make meaningful connections. You just need to show up where your tribe hangs out.

Go to Industry Events

If you’re in job-hunting mode, networking will take you farther than just about any other strategy. It’s your ticket to the hidden job market—the 70% of jobs that never get advertised to the public. Not just that, but networking jumpstarts 85% of all job offers.

Start by making the most of industry events. The biopharma world runs on a continuous cycle of conferences and summits, many of which include after-hours networking sessions. Even if you feel tired after a long day, resist the temptation to skip them. Designed to help people relax and unwind, these events are networking gold: when people feel relaxed, they connect more easily and organically.

Which brings us to the big networking takeaway: focus on building relationships, rather than making transactions. It’s unlikely that your new connection has a job lined up for you, and a direct appeal may turn them off at this stage. Remember that both of you share the same goal: to build a network of people who can help each other over the course of your careers.

Within a day or two of making a connection, send a quick follow-up note. Avoid making a specific request: instead, thank your contact for the chance to chat and tell them you hope to speak more in the future. Next time you sign up for a conference, ask them if they plan to attend and can meet up with you.

In some cases, a connection may lie dormant for a while before coming back to life again—and sometimes the spark just isn’t there. If you feel you’re forcing it, step back and accept that not all connections will stick. Like many things in life, networking requires a mix of persistence, patience, and rolling with the punches.

Get Social

Whether you love or merely tolerate social media, it’s a networking channel you can’t afford to ignore. Start with LinkedIn, recognized as a top choice for career networking. Make sure your own LinkedIn profile stays up to date, and post articles of interest to your network every few days. Join LinkedIn groups devoted to your area and become an active participant. Also engage on LinkedIn with people you’ve met at live events. Request a connection, comment on their content, and share articles that may interest them.

Hop on Twitter to get industry news and discover movers and shakers in your area. As with LinkedIn, engage with the colleagues you meet on Twitter: follow them, comment on their posts, and retweet blog posts and articles they’ve posted.

At the same time, avoid relying exclusively on social media to build your network. As Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, points out, “Sometimes social media tricks us into believing we have a strong connection with someone when, in fact, that connection only exists in that single plane of existence.” When an opportunity presents itself, Clark suggests taking the conversation off-line. “If you notice that your friend was just promoted or had some other success, celebrate her win by giving her a call or sending her a note.”

Want to volunteer? Do it strategically.
Strategic volunteering means choosing volunteering roles based on the skills you have and those you’d like to acquire. Yes, it’s calculated—and that’s a good thing. For example, if you’d like to boost your project management or business communication skills, consider volunteering for a hospital foundation. Want a crack at leadership or policymaking? Volunteer for a committee in a science organization. For the biggest bang in human contact, help out at a major conference.

Stepping Away From Toxic Relationships
Building your network doesn’t just mean making connections: it means severing those connections that cause more harm than good. If you sense that a colleague or friend is trying to sabotage your career, you could well be right. Not everyone has your back. Attitudes and behaviors like these should set off your alarm bells:

  • Failing to offer encouragement when you clearly need it
  • Questioning whether you’re qualified for a job you have in mind
  • Revealing personal information about you to other colleagues or on social media

If the saboteur is someone you know well, a candid conversation may lead her to mend his ways, but don’t count on it. Sometimes your best course of action is to cut your losses, ideally before the tension escalates to animosity. If you keep getting sabotaging vibes from a friend or associate, step away without guilt. As the saying goes, life’s too short.

And what if the problem lies with your whole working environment? By no means rare, toxic work cultures can sap your performance and your spirit. Signs of workplace toxicity include lack of transparency around projects, passive-aggressive communication, and cliques within departments. If this describes your workplace, consider taking your concerns to someone in the human resources department (assuming your organization has one). A mediated group discussion could help people reflect on their contributions to the bad vibe—and realize that they’re being watched. If nothing changes, look for opportunities to move to a different department, or even a different branch. And update your resume, just in case.

LIFE BALANCE

Balance doesn’t look the same for everyone. To achieve a work-life balance that leaves you fulfilled, you need to know what you value most, both at work and elsewhere, and work toward it. If flexible work hours and creative control top your list, share these priorities with recruiters and hiring managers when you consider new biotech roles. Of course, flexibility works both ways: don’t automatically reject opportunities that meet most but not all of your criteria. Small details can be negotiated, either now or down the line.

Avoiding Burnout

As a rule, life science professionals bring a lot of passion to their work. There’s nothing wrong with working hard—or even to devote most of your waking hours to your work—except when your focus on work strains your personal life or starts affecting your health. A hyper-focus on work also puts you at risk of job burnout—a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that erodes your job satisfaction and even your personal identity. Symptoms of burnout also include lack of energy, poor concentration, and physical symptoms such as headaches or digestive problems.

While not (yet) a medical diagnosis, burnout is recognized by leading medical publishers such as the Mayo Clinic and WebMD. If you’re heading toward burnout, you need to insert a braking mechanism into your working life, even if it feels forced at first. Some burnout-busting ideas to consider:

  • Keep one day per week free of meetings
  • Designate certain hours of the evening off-limits for viewing and sending emails
  • Schedule outside time into your day: go for a walk, sit by a lake, or stroll through a botanical garden
  • Schedule activities with family and friends
  • Show up for family meetings and emergencies
  • Plan day trips to nearby towns or hiking trails

Attitude Adjustment: the Joy of Gratitude

Appreciating the blessings in your life doesn’t just feel good: practicing gratitude can improve your sleep and emotional regulation and protect you from stress and burnout. To get the full benefits of the practice, list a few blessings every day in a gratitude journal (or electronic file), post them on a gratitude mood board, or drop them into a gratitude jar. Don’t limit the blessings to big-ticket items such as a promotion or new friendship: the cherry tree you saw down the street or the joke you exchanged with the cashier count, too.

Recharging Your Batteries

In biotech and elsewhere, many jobs involve long periods of physical inactivity and engagement with screens. Over time, this workstyle can drain your energy and lead to health problems. If you recognize yourself in some of these habits, try the science-backed antidotes listed below.

Graphic chart of Stressor and Solution

For a more potent reboot, take that vacation you’ve been putting off. If you’re like four out of 10 Americans, you didn’t take all your vacation days last year. Don’t be that “hero”—today’s employers certainly don’t expect it of you. Successful biotech companies recognize the restorative power of a vacation and encourage their employees to take time off.

In addition to recharging your batteries, vacations can give you a new perspective on your life, including your career trajectory. If crowded airports are not your thing, book a week at a cottage or a campsite nearby.

Holiday Mindset

Official holidays may not coincide with your vacation time, but they offer a further opportunity to disconnect from work pressures and stressors. When the next statutory holiday or holiday season rolls around, take the opportunity to reflect on your career accomplishments and challenges over the past months. Reach out to someone you haven’t seen in a while, whether a colleague or simply a friend. If it’s alone time you crave most, enjoy some guilt-free hours with a hardcover book—or surround yourself with the natural world.

Keeping the Juices Flowing

Have you ever pondered a problem for hours on end, glued to your screen or notepad, and then hit upon the solution after you’ve stepped away to weed your garden or walk around the block? We’ve all had this experience, and psychologists say it’s no accident. As behavioral psychologist Susan Weinschenck explains in a Psychology Today article, “if you keep your prefrontal cortex too focused on the ‘task at hand’ then it can’t go searching for interesting combinations of information you have stored in memory. When you take a break (the garden, the walk, the shower, the dishes) then your PFC is freed up to go searching and combining.”

To stay creative, you need to expose your brain to a variety of stimuli. Different creative activities stimulate different parts of the brain, contributing to its plasticity over the lifespan. For example, exercise increases growth factors that help the brain form new neural connections, and meditation helps preserve the aging brain. Completing a puzzle or playing a word game doesn’t just help you relax: it’s brain juice. To get the most from the activity, choose the right level of challenge—a bit of a stretch, but not too much—whether it’s the cryptic crossword or the daily brain teaser in your newspaper.

PARTING THOUGHTS

We hope you have found some inspiration in these ideas and will apply them to your own life. Feel free to pop back here to remind yourself of your goals and progress. If you’re wondering whether to accept or decline an offer, or whether to reinvent yourself entirely, keep your focus on your must-haves and your deal breakers. The fine points can always be negotiated. If you’re honest with yourself and with your recruiter, you’ll get what you need. Ω

The Life Sciences Industry in 2022

The Life Sciences Industry in 2022

Author:  Claire Jarvis

Are you a recent graduate entering the STEM job market for the first time? Or are you a mid-career professional considering a transition into biotech? The ‘life sciences industry’ is an area of rewarding career opportunities, offering many different avenues for career progression.

What is the Life Sciences Industry?

When most people think of the life sciences industry the first thing that comes to mind are the large pharmaceutical companies. These companies specialize in discovering and developing small molecule drugs.

The second most recognizable type of company within life sciences are the biotech companies. These companies focus on developing large molecule drugs partially derived from living organisms. While life science professionals often talk about pharma and biotech companies as distinct entities, there is often overlap between the two: many large pharmaceutical companies own a mixture of biotech and small molecule therapies.

In addition, there are research companies that focus on the development of medical devices – devices for consumers and healthcare professionals to address unmet medical needs (e.g. insulin pumps, baby incubators).

The last major chunk of life science companies are contract research organizations (CROs) and contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs). These companies act as vendors to large companies looking to outsource parts of their drug development and manufacturing to save on in-house resources, or respond to surges in demand. Since pharma and biotech companies are frequently looking to save and remain flexible, there is always a demand for CRO/CMO support.

Top Pharma Companies in 2022

In terms of annual revenue, size and profit, some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in 2022 include:

  • Roche
  • AbbVie
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Merck
  • Pfizer
  • BMS
  • Sanofi

Thanks to successful new drug launches, these companies grew over the past few years, and are predicted to continue their expansion in the foreseeable future.

For many large pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer in particular, the COVID-19 pandemic led to further profit because these companies were able to invest in resources to develop new COVID-19 vaccines and scale to meet demand. A strength of large pharmaceutical companies is that they already have the financial backing in place to pivot their research program towards immediate healthcare demands, while small biotechs rely on success in a single therapeutic area. Although several medium-sized specialist biotech companies were also buoyed by the success of their COVID-19 vaccines, including Moderna with its RNA vaccine.

Successful Startups

Many biotech startups are concentrated around the Boston and San Francisco areas, though startups can be found across the country.

Currently, a profitable area for startups are rare diseases. Larger pharma companies are less likely to shoulder the risk of developing a rare disease treatment, but the biotechs often end up in partnership with or sold to a larger pharma company once their treatment reaches important clinical milestones.

A lot of medical device companies are innovating with smart technology and artificial intelligence/machine learning.

Deciding on Your Next Career Step

While the choices available in the life sciences industry might seem overwhelming, considering several key aspects will help you narrow down your job search options. For instance, large pharmaceutical companies might offer more security, but more rigid job roles. While new hires at a start-up will need to be flexible and willing to assume more risk. However when they succeed there are greater equity opportunities available for employees at small companies.

The salary at a CRO might be less competitive than at a large pharmaceutical company, but the CRO is likely to offer more variety and a faster pace of work, as well as a less conservative company culture than at Big Pharma. Whatever your career priorities and goals, there will be a perfect position in the life sciences industry for you!

Looking for your next biotech job? Sci.bio is the biotech recruitment agency, whatever your career goals. Get in touch to learn how we can help.

Want Good Hires Who Stick Around? Make Their Careers Your Business

Want Good Hires Who Stick Around? Make Their Careers Your Business

Authors: Tara Smylie and Gabrielle Bauer

To attract and retain the best, most life sciences companies offer such benefits as flex time, remote or hybrid working options, and year-end bonuses. Far fewer capitalize on a perk that virtually all employees value highly: career development support.1 This can take the form of professional development (PD) opportunities or individual mentoring.

A push up the ladder

Climbing up the career ladder, whether reaching for that tenured professorship or medical director role, takes years of hard work. By offering PD services, you make the ladder just a little less steep for ambitious new hires. Here are some options to consider:2

  • Career coaching services: These services are likely to attract ambitious and self-motivated candidates (i.e. people you want to work for you).
  • Leadership training courses: Such courses will allow your keenest employees to develop the skills they need to take on new and more challenging roles. When developing or selecting these courses, consider the increasing importance of soft skills in the life sciences.3 Leadership and emotional intelligence are hot commodities in today’s world.
  • Support for further academic training: Your employees’ career ambitions may depend on pursuing further university education or other relevant credentials. There are different ways you can help with these goals, such as providing financial sponsorship, granting time off work to complete schoolwork, and offering educational guidance.
  • Research opportunities: For employees whose positions involve research, provide chances to practice and refine research-related skills. Find out if they’re interested in a particular area of research, presenting research findings to others, or something else—and offer opportunities based on their answers.

The magic of mentoring

The dictionary defines a mentor as an experienced and trusted advisor. Within the context of a career, a mentor is someone who shares their knowledge and expertise to help a less experienced employee (sometimes called a protégé or mentee) achieve success.4

Just how much do employees value mentoring? The numbers speak for themselves: Nine out of 10 workers with a career mentor report being happy in their jobs, while more than 4 in 10 workers who lack a mentor say they’ve considered quitting their job in the past three months.5 Given that happy employees consistently outperform the competition,6 it’s fair to say that mentoring benefits not only the mentored, but the employer. The mentored employee performs well, which makes them happier, which further increases their performance, in a positive feedback loop that raises satisfaction all around.

When developing a mentorship program, start by creating a profile for every employee who participates. To get a sense of their strengths, weaknesses, and professional goals, you can give them a questionnaire with such questions as:7

  • What skills would you like to cultivate or improve on?
  • What skills do you feel proficient in already?
  • What are your long-term career goals?
  • What qualities are you looking for in a mentor?

Provide your mentors with a similar list of questions to assess the areas in which they have the most to offer their future mentees. Ideally, a mentor and mentee will have similar backgrounds

and career trajectories, but the mentor should be farther along and thriving in their current role.

Hot tip: to ensure your mentorship program achieves its objective, periodically solicit feedback from mentees and be prepared to make changes based on what they say. Maybe they would like more networking opportunities from their mentor or maybe they don’t feel totally heard. You won’t know what needs improvement unless you ask.

Broadcasting your PD services

Start by mentioning your PD and mentorship services in your job description. This shows that you care about your employees’ success and will pique ambitious candidates’ interest. By the same token, mentioning your PD and mentorship services during an interview will invite a candid dialogue about a candidate’s career goals. Through these discussions, you can identify which talent will fit best into which projects—and which candidates have the greatest interest in advancing within your company.

If you’re working with a recruiter, be sure to inform them about your career development services, as these offerings will help the recruiter pull in high-quality candidates. The recruiter may also suggest adding other offerings to your current list. That’s another reason to work with a recruiter specialized in the life sciences: they’ve talked to hundreds, if not thousands, of candidates, so they know what motivates the best and brightest to come around and stick around.

It’s hard to overstate the benefits of offering career development opportunities to your employees—so don’t wait to get started.

Sources

  1. 4 Extraordinary Ways to Compete for the Best Talent in the Digital Age
  2. Professional Development Examples
  3. Soft Skills in the Life Sciences
  4. What is a Career Mentor
  5. Nine in 10 Workers Who Have a Career Mentor Say They are Happy in Their Jobs
  6. 11 Shocking Employee Happiness Statistics for 2022 That Will Blow Your Mind
  7. 4 Steps to Matching the Right Mentors and Mentees
Resume Writing for Life Scientists

Resume Writing for Life Scientists

Author: Cliff Mintz
Looking for a new job can be an overwhelming and daunting experience. A vital first step in any job search is the creation of a carefully constructed and well-crafted resume or curriculum vitae (CV). While there are clear distinctions between resumes and CVs—the former is a one-to-two-page document whereas a CV has no page limit—the CV is the preferred document for life scientists. This is mainly because the shortened resume format doesn’t provide scientists with enough space to adequately explain their training, accomplishments and research interests to prospective employers. However, for non-scientists jobs like administrative assistants, pharmaceutical operators, and data entry professional resumes are preferred.

Too often, inexperienced job seekers will hastily craft resumes without paying much attention to format, style, content or grammar; and then wonder why they are not landing job interviews. The purpose of this article is to provide some advice and tips to help life scientists improve their resume writing skills. The terms resume and CV will be used interchangeably; but most of my remarks are mainly directed at crafting CVs.

Formatting and Writing Tips

Open, uncluttered and less densely-written CVs are visually appealing and more likely to be read by hiring managers. This is because these individuals scan hundreds (sometimes thousands) of resumes daily and unless an applicant’s qualifications, skill sets and

personal attributes “jump off the paper”—and are easily discerned in 60 second or less—the likelihood of a face-to-face job interview is remote.

Short descriptive and succinctly-crafted phrases are the best way for employers to quickly ascertain whether a job applicant is qualified (bullets are option). Avoid using paragraphs because they are dense and sometimes difficult for hiring managers to navigate and interpret.

Finally, powerful, action-oriented verbs and adjectives tend to evoke strong, positive impressions. The use of action verbs and superlative suggest that a job applicant is confident, self assured and has a “can do” attitude. Unfortunately, scientists usually don’t excel in this area but it is essential to be successful in a job search.

Constructing a CV

Generally speaking, there can be as many as eight different sections for a CV.

1. Summary of Qualifications

The Summary of Qualifications or candidate profile is the first section of a CV that a hiring manager will see. It represents the best opportunity for a candidate to convince a prospective employer that she/he may be the right person for the “job” It should not be longer than 4 to 5 lines and must be peppered with key words (gleaned from job ads). Many organizations use software programs to screen CVs for key words and if they are absent the likelihood of employment for a job candidate is low.

2. Professional Experience

The Professional Experience section lists a candidate’s work experiences in reverse chronological order (most recent to past). Three to four short descriptive phrases that detail a candidate’s professional experiences while holding each position is generally sufficient.

3. Professional Activities

Professional activities include things that are related but not part of a person’s official job responsibilities. Examples include, consulting, editorial duties, committee memberships etc.

4. Education

Education credentials generally begin with the lowest degree first (associate or bachelor) and end with the most advanced degree or educational experience, e.g. postdoctoral fellowships or professional school. The name and location of the institution that awarded the degree and major area of study ought to be listed with each entry (Fig 1). PhD and masters’ theses title or a brief description of a research project (postdoctoral fellows) may also be included. It is perfectly reasonable to list the names of PhD mentors or postdoctoral advisors associated with PhD and postdoctoral training.

It is not necessary to list the dates that degrees were awarded. While this may not be a bad thing for entry level employees, it may hinder more experienced job seekers from securing new positions because of age discrimination.

5. Award & Honors

Awards and honors include any official recognition for outstanding service or accomplishments and include dean’s list, travel awards, scholarships etc.

6. Professional Affiliations

Membership in professional societies, organizations or clubs should be listed in a separate section entitled Society Membership and Professional Affiliations (Fig. 1).

7. Other Skills

When appropriate, it is okay to list (in a separate section) any extracurricular activities or specialized skills related to the job that may increase a candidate’s competitiveness.

8. Publications

All of a candidate’s authored publications should be listed on the last page of a CV in the in this section. Usually, this section is divided into three subsections: 1) Peer-reviewed papers; 2) Chapters, Books and Reviews; and 3) Oral and Poster Presentations (Fig. 1). Early career scientists need not include all of the categories if they lack the appropriate publications. Likewise, midcareer scientists may consider not listing oral and poster presentations. Publications ought to be numbered and it is appropriate to list papers that are “in press.” Manuscripts that are submitted should not be included.

As a rule of thumb, never send references to prospective employers unless they specifically ask for them. Simply indicate on the resume (usually immediately before the publications section; Fig 1) that references are “available upon request.” However, for most academic jobs it is customary for an applicant to send references at part of the original application package. For industrial jobs, references are generally not requested unless an employer is interested in moving forward with a possible job offer.

Tailoring a Resume

To be competitive, job candidates must routinely tweak and modify their resumes to meet individual job requirements. One convenient way to tailor a CV to a specific job, is to read the job ads created for the opportunity. Employers always list the skills, qualifications and experience that will be required by the successful applicant (typically what is mentioned first is most important). Once identified, a resume ought to be modified with keywords to show that a candidate possesses all or most of the job qualifications and requirements.

Finally, keeping a resume current is vitally important. Resumes that are not fully up-to-date may suggest that a candidate is lazy or not interested in a particular job. Also, some job opportunities may appear quickly and the time required to update an out-of-date resume may prevent a candidate from competing for a job.