Have you ever considered working for a start-up? It’s almost a buzzword nowadays – that’s how much the term “start-up” is tossed around. But what really is a start-up, and why is there so much chatter about working for one? In truth, working for a start-up comes with many exciting opportunities – but like anything else in the working world, it can be a trade-off. As always, the most important thing is discerning if it’s the right fit for you, your career, and where you are in your life.
What is a Start-Up, Anyway?
A start-up is any company that is still getting off the ground – indeed, “starting up”. Around 90% of start-ups are unable to expand past the start-up level, with 10% of these failures occurring within the first year.
Working for a start-up often entails irregular hours, a wide variety of job duties, and a sense of closeness with your team members. You’re expected to show up with a can-do mindset, and to prioritize growing the company above most else. You’re also likely to get interesting development opportunities that may never come your way at a larger company.
Biotech start-ups can be unique in that they allow you to develop a wide range of skills, and build connections to many different pharmaceutical companies. Even if you end up working at a start-up for a shorter stint, you may be able to leverage these skills in an unexpected context later down the line.
Growth Potential When Working for a Start-Up
When you work for a small company, the potential for growth is huge. Should the company succeed, you could profit in a big way. And truthfully, there’s not much that looks better on your resume than having helped catapult a little-known name to success.
But there’s a significant chance your company won’t become the next Facebook – or worse, will have to shut down. So if you do opt to work for a start-up, make sure it’s one that offers great connections, learning opportunities, and chances to prove your skills.
If the business does have to close up shop, you may feel like you’re back at square one. To mitigate this, come up with an action plan for if and when this happens. That way, if it (unfortunately) comes to pass, you won’t feel panicked trying to figure out your next steps.
Joining a start-up may in some ways feel like being vacuum-sucked into the most chaotic, most ambitious group of friends imaginable. Employees tend to be close, and leaders tend to be open to ideas from everyone – as long as it helps the business, it really doesn’t matter what your title is. You may also be asked to do things that don’t fall strictly within your job description – or feel inspired to, because you know exactly what the company needs.
We’re all familiar with the stereotype of the ambitious twenty-something busting their guts in the start-up world. That trope exists for a reason – clearly, said world can be demanding and unpredictable. Of course, you can join a start-up at any age, but if work-life balance is your top priority, the lifestyle may not be the best fit for you.
All that being said, start-up workers often experience higher-than-average job satisfaction. This isn’t surprising – working for a smaller business, you’re far more than just a number. Everyone knows your name and probably at least some of your story. And because the stakes are so high, your contributions are deeply valued.
Is the Start-Up Life for You?
The stress and uncertainty of working for a start-up can be worth it – if you’re willing to shoulder some risk.
Some people feel most comfortable working for a large corporation, where security is high and the path forward is clear. Others may prefer a more unpredictable, chaotic environment with a small but real chance of paying big dividends. Maybe you want something in between – a mid-size company still trying hard to grow, but with an established presence in its field. Different strokes for different folks, as they say!
Science MBA Combo? The short answer: yes! The long answer: yes, because career opportunities in the STEM business space are more abundant than ever, and it’s never been more useful to bring a wide range of skills to a position. An MBA can be the perfect complement to a science degree, supplementing a technical grounding in science with some highly sought-after business skills.
A solid foundation
Science degree holders are often already well-versed in many of the skills required to succeed in business. These can include research skills, data analysis skills, and the ability to communicate high-level concepts. With a little bit of instruction, these skills can easily be applied in a new context. In addition to applying them to lab work and problem-solving on a chemical level, a science-and-business expert knows how to apply them within the context of a whole company.
STEM Science MBA
Some highly specific MBA programs offer tracks for STEM, healthcare, and other fields. This is in response to the ever-growing need for specialized business experts. If you’re thinking about doing an MBA, consider applying to a specialty program that will not only teach you the standard content of this classic degree, but how to apply these lessons to your chosen field.
If you do find yourself shopping around for STEM MBA programs, make sure you have your screening process down pat. Prioritize programs whose curricula offer a direct pathway into the role you’d like to land afterwards. And should you be called in for an interview, be sure to clarify what companies recruit from the program, and the kinds of positions that are up for grabs.
Career opportunities for a winning combo
For those who’ve graduated with a STEM degree and go on to pursue a Science MBA combo, career prospects abound. Many positions require a blend of technical science acumen and more hands-on, management-focused business skills. If you can bring both to the table, you’ll be a piping hot candidate.
Financial analyst: a financial analyst in the life science space can choose to work for a company, or to work as a freelance consultant. In either case, your primary role will be to offer financial and business advice to biotech and pharma companies.
Quality control specialist: this position involves overseeing research processes to make sure they comply with all applicable regulations. That might sound dull, but there can be an element of creativity, too: this job can also involve making recommendations to improve the efficiency of the research process.
Sales account manager: A sales account manager for a life science company may indeed find that they can work in a scientific field they’re passionate about, while receiving no shortage of opportunities to schmooze with customers. For the right person, managing a sales account in a field they love can bring the best of two worlds to the work experience.
Product manager: an employee in this role oversees the development of new products in the life science and biopharma space. This could involve monitoring lab work, advising a marketing team about current project specs, or advising businesses on what products to develop next.
Advantages of a diverse skill set
Biotech businesses are some of the hottest on the market right now, and at present the industry is only growing. As a result, life science employers are more in need than ever of employees who understand their businesses on both a micro and macro level. Surprise surprise: the science MBA combo lends itself beautifully to just that.
Another benefit of getting an MBA post-life science undergrad: more interactive career opportunities. After years of highly detail-oriented and isolated lab work, some scientists hunger for more interactive, people-facing employment. If you can relate, take note: an MBA will bolster your chances of finding a socially dynamic position that still calls upon your years of rigorous scientific study.
The perfect position for your background
Clearly, the science-MBA combo has never been timelier. Employers nowadays are looking for a blend of soft skills and hard skills, and the moment they see that winning duo of specialties on your resume, they’ll know without any further investigation that you possess plenty of both. If you’re looking for an interdisciplinary position that incorporates the full range of your skills, Sci.bio’s recruitment services can help you find it.
Life Science Jobs – When you think about what it means to be employed in STEM, do you think of syringes, microscopes, and lab coats? If so, you’re not alone! In reality, however, lab jobs are just one path you can take as a life science graduate.
Within STEM and biopharma, there are many hidden-gem positions that simply don’t get as much attention as they should. If you have an interest in science but also enjoy analysis, management, or communications, there is no shortage of exciting and non-traditional job prospects out there for you to explore.
STEM (Life Science Jobs) and Business
Not all STEM positions are primarily scientific. Most will require at least a foundational understanding of STEM concepts, but some also call for a strong big-picture grasp of business operations.
As such, if you possess both a science background and a keen understanding of economics, markets, and/or human behavior, you’re in luck. Job-seekers with passions for both science and business can consider the following options:
Medical science liaison: this position requires both people skills and a knack for clearly communicating important information. The main duty associated with this role is the provision of medical product information to key players in the pharma and life science industries.
Life science recruiter: if you have a strong network and enjoy the thrill of the chase, this position may be for you. Recruiters in the life sciences have the chance to make new connections across many different fields, and to gain an insider perspective on the back-end of science-based business operations.
Biopharmaceutical sales rep: if you have an advanced science degree, a go-getter attitude, and are a self-professed “people person”, you may find a perfect match in this position. The earning potential is very high, and for the right fit, the work environment can be exhilarating.
STEM and Communications
Any job in scientific communications will require both a keen analytical mind and the ability to articulate high-level concepts. If you’ve cultivated that elusive blend of “soft” communications skills and “harder” data and research skills, this may be the niche you’ve been searching for.
If you’re interested in finding a job in this field, here are some positions to keep on your radar:
Technical/Medical Writer: If you feel comfortable communicating scientific concepts to wide audiences, consider looking into medical or technical writing as a career. Some science writers work on a freelance basis, while others are employed by corporations.
Science Journalist: science journalism is similar to technical writing, but potentially broader in scope. A scientific journalist produces copy for not only scientific media but also blogs, websites, newspapers, etc.
Scientific Instructional Designer: this position is ideal for anyone with a teaching background as well as a scientific mind. Instructional design is a growing field, with many roles currently available at life science/biotech companies.
Another path less travelled: health informatics
When it comes to lab-coat-free science positions, health informatics jobs are just about as good as it gets. For one thing, they tend to pay well. And for another, the work they involve usually proves to be both stable and stimulating – the perfect combo. Positions in this field tend to involve management, advising, communicating, and/or analysis. If you possess one or more of these skills, consider that HI could make for a very fulfilling career path.
Here are just a few health informatics jobs available today:
Clinical Informatics Analyst: this position is all about the data. It involves compiling and analyzing health information, and using that analysis to make policy and workflow changes within an organization.
Health Information Technology Project Manager: think regular project manager, but with a little added expertise. For an employee in this role, projects often center on the implementation of new technology and the optimization of existing workflows.
Health Informatics Consultant: often contracted for on a per-project basis, an employee in this role advises a healthcare organization on health-informatics-related challenges, questions, and initiatives. Because of its broad scope, the nature of this position can vary greatly from client to client.
Look before you leap (into a career)
Depending on your skill set and personality, a lab position may be ideal for you. But no matter where you end up, you’ll never regret having explored your options. Remember: modern career paths are not always linear! What you learn now could come in handy years down the line.
Whether you’re looking for a medical writing position, a senior lab job, or just for some career guidance, Sci.bio’s recruitment services can help you get where you want to go.