Author: Claire Jarvis
The collapse of the SVB on March 10, 2023 made national headlines, and prompted fear of a looming financial crisis and a return to government bailouts. For biotech investors and employees, the collapse of the tech-focused bank raises additional concerns about the stability of the biotech sector.
What is the Silicon Valley Bank?
The Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) was the 16th largest bank in the USA. Founded in 1983, it catered almost exclusively to technology companies by providing the venture capital funds necessary for biotech start-ups to grow. Prior to the events of early March, the bank was worth $212 billion.
Why did it collapse?
In early March 2023 the SVB announced it needed to raise more money, citing rising interest rates and inflation. This announcement caused panic, and customers and investors rushed to withdraw their money, leading to the collapse of the bank’s value. Within 48 hours the damage was done, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) took over the emergency operation of the bank.
The FDIC is currently trying to sell SVB as part of its break-up plan.
Is this a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis?
Following the collapse of the SVB, Silvergate Bank and Signature Bank fell in quick succession a few days later. Although the successive liquidation of US banks is alarming, and the overall likelihood of a recession in the next few years has risen, the fallout from the SVB collapse is mostly contained to the biotech sector and other medium-sized banks who cater to a narrow selection of industries (both Silvergate and Signature focused on cryptocurrencies).
Some issues appear unique to SVB’s downfall, such as the role of a chief risk officer being unfilled last year. The bank also stored its money in long-dated Treasury deposits, which give modest returns on investments. When inflation rose, the bonds no longer yielded satisfactory returns.
How does the Silicon Valley Bank affect the biotech industry?
Silicon Valley Bank was seen as the bank of choice for young biotech companies, because they tailored their services to venture-backed start-ups and agile biotechs looking to grow. Unlike commercial banks, most of SVB clients deposited amounts greater than $250,000, which is the maximum amount of savings protected by the FDIC in the event of a financial collapse. It’s estimated that 85% of SVB’s bank deposits were uninsured. It’s therefore not clear how much damage has been wrought on the biotech sector, and it will take a time for companies to disclose any losses. It’s possible the US government will bail out companies who lost uninsured deposits if the crisis deepens, but that’s not happened yet.
In early 2023, biotech start-ups are already struggling thanks to rising interest rates and a hiring slowdown. Established companies have the diversified portfolio necessary to withstand economic shocks better than start-ups with only one or two pipeline products.
However, the failure of Silicon Valley Bank may see a slowdown in the biotech sector as venture capitalists become more cautious about investing in biotechs, or the regulations around life sciences investment increase. What this does for the biotech sector as a whole remains to be seen.
The advent of online job board and e-applications in the early to mid 2000s all but killed the cover letter. The impersonal nature of applying online for pharmaceutical or biopharma positions led many to believe that cover letters did not improve or enhance a person’s hireability or them an edge in landing a job. However, the cover letter is making something of a comeback in today’s highly competitive job market.
Pharmaceutical recruiters and biotech headhunters have begun to read cover letters again because in today’s fast -paced business environment. Hiring decisions must be made carefully and quickly. To that point, job applicants who actually take time to carefully read job descriptions and craft cover letters to introduce themselves to biotech & pharmaceutical recruiters are likely to be more qualified and interested in the jobs that they are applying than those those who simply attach a resume to an e-mail message and hit the send button. Also, cover letters offer candidates opportunities to make a strong first impression but injecting some of their personality into a job application.
So, what should a strong cover letter contain? Besides including keywords (taken from the job descriptions) and action rather than verbs, job candidates ought to infuse cover letters with engaging and memorable dialog. Also, applicants must include descriptions of their skill sets, career goals and previous experience that may help to differentiate them from the hundreds of other people who may have applied for a particular job. For example, rather than writing “I’m writing to apply for the open position at your company” try offering something like ” My name is ____ and I’m looking for a change. After that opening, then explain why your background, skill sets and career focus are in line with the company’s needs that were outlined in the job description. Biopharma head hunters pore over hundreds of job applications and tend to remember the ones that stand out.
There is no doubt that writing new cover letters time consuming and often difficult. It is much easier to just hit the send button because you may believe that volume will trump quality. That said, pharmaceutical recruiting firms and biotech head hunters no longer have the job to carefully evaluate potentially qualified job applicants. These days they are looking for any edge to quickly identify and separate right fit candidate from the thousands of job applications that they receive. Remember: taking time at the front end of the job application process will often pay off with success on the backend!
Until next time,
Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!
While a resume is a mandatory requirement for all job seekers, writing one that ultimately may lead to a job interview remains elusive to many job applicants in the biotech and biopharma industry.
To that point, resume writing is more of an art than a science and it can take many attempts to discover a format that works. Nevertheless, there are several common mistakes to avoid when writing a resume to improve the likelihood of success.
1. Don’t forget to include a “Summary of Qualifications.” Instead of an objective statement at the beginning of a resume, replace it with a “Summary of Qualifications” (SOQ); 3 to 5 sentences that highlight an applicant’s skill sets, experience and personal attributes that help to distinguish her/him from other job candidates. The SOQ ought to be constructed as a “30-second elevator pitch” that cogently describes who you are and the value that you will bring to prospective employers if they hire you. Don’t be afraid to pepper the SOQ with laudatory adjectives and action verbs. The purpose of the SOQ is to grab the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager to continue reading your resume. To that point, it has been reported that hiring managers take between 6 to 30 seconds to review a resume and determine whether or not to move forward with job applicant.
2. Make sure to include keywords in your pharmaceutical resume. Increasingly, many pharmaceutical and biotech companies are using software and keyword searches to screen the large number of resumes received for individual job openings. Because of this, it is vital that jobseekers sprinkle keywords throughout their resumes (including the SOQ). A good way to determine which keywords to use is by reading job descriptions for opportunities that interest you. After identifying the keywords, make sure to insert them into your resume where appropriate.
3. One size DOES NOT fit all! It is very tempting to craft a single resume and then submit it for all jobs that interest you. Unfortunately, this approach is certain to increase the likelihood that your resume will land in the recycle bin. Prospective employers want job applicants to take the time to write a resume that clearly demonstrates how and why they are the right candidate to fill a position in a specific organization. Again, a good way to craft job-specific resumed is to read job descriptions for individual opportunities. Identify the technical skills, educational background and job responsibilities and then create a resume for the pharmaceutical job that shows that you meet all of the job specifications and requirements. While this may seem like a lot of work, it is necessary to ensure the likelihood of a successful job search.
4. Typos and spelling errors are forbidden. Given the fierce competition for jobs in today’s global economy, a single typo can land your resume in the “not interested” pile. Resumes should be spell-checked for typos and grammatical errors before they are submitted to prospective employers for consideration. It is vitally important to proof read a resume and it is a good idea to allow friends and colleagues to review it as well. A biopharma resume is the first exposure of a job applicant to prospective employers and it should be perfect. Resumes fraught with typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors signal to employers that a job applicant may be careless, not thoughtful and does not take pride in his/her work product.
5. Keep it simple. There is no need to use special fonts or color in a biopharma resume. It is best to stick to black and white color and use basic fonts like Arial, Tahoma or Calibri with sizes of 11 or 12 pt. Also, it is important not to incorporate long or dense blocks of text into a resume. Dense blocks of text are difficult to read and increase the time hiring managers want to spend reviewing resumes. Instead, concisely describe achievements in 2 to 5 bulleted points per job. Also, be certain to highlight your accomplishments rather than simply listing duties for different jobs. Prospective employers are much more interested in what was accomplished rather than what your responsibilities were. Finally, white space is known to draw readers’ eyes to important points. Therefore, it is vital that your resume is not cluttered, formatted correctly and contains sufficient white space to invite the reader to read it.
6. Size does not matter! Urban legend tells us that a resume should be two pages or less in length. In reality, there are no absolutely no rules governing resume length! The goal of a well crafted resume is to allow prospective employers to determine whether or not a job applicant is qualified for a specific position. While in some cases, a one or two page resume may be sufficient; in others a longer one may be required. That said, generally speaking, shorter is preferred by hiring managers/recruiters (because of the thousands of resumes that they review daily). However, do not be afraid to craft longer resumes if additional space is necessary to present yourself in the best light to potential employers.
Although, the items mentioned in this post are common resume mistakes, it is by no means a complete list. However, they are easy to fix. A good way to test resume effectiveness is to revise an old resume (to fix the above mentioned mistakes) and then apply for different jobs using the old and revised resumes. If there is an uptick in employer response rates to the revised resume as compared with old one then you are likely on the right track. If not, you may want to seek additional help with your resume writing.
Until next time…
Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!
by Clifford Mintz
The “publish or perish” principle of academia is certainly not a new one and is likely as old as scientific research itself. And, while persons who choose scientific research as a career are often motivated by curiosity and the desire to improve the human condition, they soon find out that academic research is highly competitive and oftentimes dominated by overly ambitious and egocentric individuals. I’m sure that most of you have been told that in order to excel your research must be published in the highest impact journal possible. This, coupled with diminishing research funding can place enormous pressure on individual researchers to gain a competitive edge via less than ethical (and possibly illegal) behavior.
To that point, there was an article in this Sunday’s NY Times that described a postdoc who intentionally sabotaged the efforts of a rising star in a cancer research laboratory at the University of Michigan. While this is only one incident, I do not think that it is the only example of intentional sabotage taking place in academic research laboratories. In fact, this recent incident brings to mind a candid discussion that I had with a prominent academic researcher many years ago. He confided to me and a colleague that he intentionally sabotaged a fellow postdoc’s work because he did not like his competitor and did not want him to get recognition for a discovery (BTW, this discovery led to a patent that made the researcher a very wealthy person).
There is no doubt that in present times, working in an academic lab can feel like working in a pressure cooker that is about to explode. That said, it is important to realize that you are not alone and that learning coping skills can be helpful in relieving stress and anxiety about future career opportunities and employment. However, there is never an instance, when cheating, fabricating data or intentionally sabotaging a competitor’s experiments is acceptable. In fact, any researcher who behaves in this manner ought to be called out, censored and disciplined for their actions.
We are living in uncertain times in which hypocrisy, lies and alternate facts are acceptable to large numbers of people. As scientists, we are responsible for facts and “the truth.” Any deviation from this obligation is unacceptable. In the end, people always look to scientists and researchers for answers, solutions and hints of the truth. It is important that we do not succumb to today’s economic and political pressures and continue to be the purveyors of facts and “the truth.”
Until next time…
Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!