The last few years have been tough for most of us. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our education, our workplaces, and our career plans. Many of us had to adjust to remote – or socially-distanced – work, while simultaneously handling greater family pressures and uncertainties. If you feel you’re barely scraping by while your peers are thriving…don’t worry, you aren’t alone.
Social media and emergent technologies do a lot to simplify the work of a STEM professional, but they also contribute to an increased sense of imposter syndrome: the persistent inability to believe that your success is deserved, or was legitimately achieved as a result of your own efforts or skills.
Imposter syndrome is made worse by social media: many STEM professionals post curated career highlights on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, or spin their failures into inspiring stories of success and resilience. The need to post regularly on social media sites to keep your profile visible also creates a steady stream of doubt-sowing content.
Many scientists pride themselves on their industriousness and technical expertise, and see success as a direct result of hard work, so to believe you aren’t the skilled expert becomes even more demoralizing. Imposter syndrome can make your work life anxious and miserable, and hold you back from opportunities you’re qualified for, or from sharing your knowledge and skills with others.
Controlling your sense of imposter syndrome is a life-long challenge, but there are several ways you can overcome those intrusive, demoralizing thoughts.
Managing Imposter Syndrome
● Social media consumption in moderation, with plenty of ‘breaks.’ We can’t get away from work-related social media entirely, but online activity yields diminishing returns. Set limits on how long you spend on these sites each day, and give yourself breaks. The less time on social media, the less time you are spending playing the comparison game.
● Regular self-affirmations to combat negative thought patterns. The only way to disrupt the cycle of negative thoughts is to introduce new, positive thoughts into your head. Remind yourself that you were chosen for this job or task for a reason, and that you have as much right to be there as everyone else. Affirm to yourself that the negative thoughts are lies and not an accurate representation of your abilities.
● Build a supportive network. While you might feel like an uncomfortable fraud, your peers know the truth. Find a group of work colleagues or mentors who speak up when they hear you criticising yourself, and who can remind you of your strengths when you feel low.
● Track your wins. Create a physical record of your professional triumphs, big and small. There’s something about a list on paper or a word document that makes those wins seem more real, and it helps put any minor failures into context.
Just remember, most people experience imposter syndrome at some point during their training and career. In 2018 a systemic review of 62 papers and over 14,000 participants found up to 82% of survey respondents had imposter syndrome.
Feeling like an imposter on the job market? The friendly and knowledgeable recruiters at Sci.bio can help you uncover your strengths and make your biotech job application shine. Reach out to us to start the conversation today.
Developing and promoting your personal brand isn’t only an activity for job seekers. It’s an important tool to distinguish yourself after finding employment: even if you’re happy in your current role, a strong personal brand will help make your job more fulfilling.
As a biotech recruiter, clients and job seekers want to work with someone who understands the biotech job market landscape. Biotech job candidates trust recruiters who are familiar with and appreciate their existing technical skills; biotech clients don’t want to explain what they see as the fundamentals of any technical role to a new recruiter, or have the recruiter bring them ill-suited job candidates. Therefore, a recruiter with a strong personal brand will find it easy to attract the right clients and job seekers, and convince both parties of their ability to close the deal between job candidate and company.
When you start out as a recruiter, you won’t necessarily have a strong or compelling personal brand. It takes several months to figure your personal brand out, and longer to strengthen and promote it to the point where it pays dividends.
Here are some questions for recruiters to think about as they develop their personal brand:
What kind of positions do you most enjoy recruiting for?
What kind of candidates are you most successful in finding and connecting with?
What kind of roles have you accumulated the most experience on?
What kind of projects and subject matters fit best with your education and previous work experience to date?
Ideally, all your answers will overlap – and that’s your recruiter’s personal brand! Don’t worry if you don’t know the answers yet, or if your experience, successes and enjoyment don’t seem to have a common theme. Come back to these questions later, or ask your mentor for guidance.
Once you have the initial outline of your personal brand, hone it into 1–2 sentences that will become your elevator pitch at networking events. For example: “I’m an executive recruiter who specializes in placing mid-level leadership candidates into agile biotech companies.”
Now you have a personal brand, your LinkedIn and other social media posts should tie into your brand. For instance, if you specialize in recruiting Medical Science Liaisons to large pharma, you should state in your posts and bio that you help connect MSLs with jobs, and share the latest news from big pharma companies. This helps establish credibility in your niche, and attracts potential clients.
If you’re worried that a focused personal brand will scare away too many potential clients and job candidates, remember that you’re going to enjoy a higher success rate with the opportunities that do seek you out because they appreciate the specific value that you offer. The people that connect with you already know how you can help them, and if they approach you, it’s because they already see themselves as a good fit for your services.
Are you a scientist looking to get away from the bench? Have you considered becoming a biotech recruiter? We are always looking for great talent! Sci.bio would love to meet you.
Searching for your first biotech job? Much of the career advice for aspiring scientists focuses on creating and polishing tangible documents: CV, cover letters and a LinkedIn profile. Less discussed, but perhaps more important than anything else when it comes to job hunting success, is the creation of your personal brand.
What is a personal brand?
Your personal brand is composed of the qualities, values and strengths other people associate with you. It is both the image you actively promote, and the impressions of you people get from your online and in-person presence. The author Cynthia Johnson identifies “personal proof, social proof, recognition, and association” as the four pillars of a personal brand.
Why does my personal brand matter?
The biotech job market is competitive. A biotech company may receive hundreds of applications for every entry level scientist position advertised. Not only will a clear personal brand help your job application stand out, but it will give time-pressed hiring managers and recruiters an immediate sense of who you are as a candidate and what you can bring to the role.
How do I cultivate and market my personal brand?
1. Be authentic
Although it might take time to discover your personal brand, you should never pretend to be something you’re not, or misrepresent your accomplishments. A ‘strong’ personal brand is not a reflection of how impressive your accomplishments are, it’s about the consistency of your messaging, and whether the broad strokes of the brand you promote matches the evidence showcased in your CV, website, etc.
2. Identify your strengths and accomplishments
When starting their career, scientists are often taught to be modest about their achievements and present work experience in a ‘neutral’ fashion. In the world of personal branding, you are allowed to brag a little! Your wins and your talents should take center-stage on LinkedIn and your other professional websites and social media accounts. If you win a research award…post about it online. If you’re great at working in cross-functional teams…point that out in your job application.
Once you’ve written down your technical and personal strengths, it’s easy to translate the former into your area of expertise. Recruiters and hiring managers definitely want to see your achievements, but even more important is a demonstration of cohesive expertise in your research field. That expertise is what will get you an industry job.
3. Focus your brand
There are two meanings of the phrase ‘focused personal brand’ – and both are important. You want your personal brand to be concise: it should boil down to a couple of sentences and adjectives. An example might be “Creative microbiologist who specializes in E. Coli.” It shouldn’t take you five minutes to explain to a recruiter who you are and what you do.
In the other sense, your personal brand should be focused into a sub specialty, with a defined target audience. While it’s understandable that you don’t want to narrow your career opportunities down to nothing, your personal brand can’t be so broad that nothing about you stands out to recruiters and hiring managers. For instance, saying you’re “a medicinal chemist” may be true…but it’s less helpful than saying you’re “a medicinal chemist who specializes in oncology drug development and has experience using solid NMR.” Now you’ll attract the attention of recruiters seeking to fill oncology and solid NMR-based medicinal chemistry roles.
4. Build an online and in-person presence
Once you’ve decided upon your brand, it’s time to market yourself. Update your professional website, job application materials and LinkedIn profile to highlight your core skills, values and career objectives. When you aren’t posting about yourself on your professional social media profiles, you should be sharing and interacting with content that reflects your personal brand (e.g. breakthroughs in your area of expertise, news from the kinds of companies you wish to work for). You don’t have to produce a lot of content or be active on LinkedIn 24/7: but you should make a commitment to posting or sharing content on a regular basis, be it once a week or once a day.
Of course, you can also publicize your personal brand through in-person and virtual networking [insert link to networking blog]. When networking with recruiters and peers within your field, your elevator pitch should encapsulate the strengths and expertise already outlined in your personal brand. Once developed, consider engaging in professional activities that reinforce and publicize your personal brand, such as presenting at conferences or taking on leadership roles in professional societies.
When looking for your first industry role, the biotech job market can seem intimidating and overwhelming. Fortunately, the experienced specialist recruiters at Sci.Bio are here to help. Get in touch with us to discuss your career goals today.
As the number of COVID-19 cases drop and social distancing measurements relax, in-person networking events will start returning. For many scientists and science students, their understanding of ‘networking’ is at best a foreign concept with no applicability to their career path, and at worst they think there’s something almost underhanded about schmoozing your way into a job.
Unfortunately for those scientists, networking is critical to securing jobs inside and outside academia. For STEM students and postdocs who are uncertain about their future career path, networking can provide opportunities and insight that academic mentors are unavailable to provide. But the good news is networking doesn’t have to be awkward or embarrassing. In fact, it can be informative and fun.
Here are some tips and tricks that any scientist – or introverted person – can use to help network more effectively.
What is networking?
A common misconception about networking is that it’s all about trying to get a job. Networking is a conversation. It’s about forming a mutually-beneficial professional connection. When defined like that, you can see networking takes place all the time on a large and small scale. A 5 minute conversation with a visiting lecturer is networking, but a 5 minute conversation at a family BBQ can be networking, too! Presenting a poster at an international conference is definitely a networking situation. Research collaborators and colleagues within your department are network contacts, but any people you meet and interact with have the potential to be network contacts as well–you never know who other people know.
Networking rarely yields immediate results: it can take months (or years) for the benefits of networking efforts to show. Recruiters at the mixer you attend may not know of suitable job openings right then, but several weeks later when a job opportunity arises they may – if you networked successfully – remember your name.
Because of this, it’s helpful to begin networking 6-12 months before you finish your PhD or postdoc, the earlier the better. It takes time to build connections and become comfortable networking with others.
Getting the most out of networking events
While a lot of networking can happen organically, dedicated networking events are a great opportunity to meet new people you wouldn’t otherwise encounter within an academic research setting. These events might take place in conjunction with symposia and conferences, or be organized by professional societies.
Before arriving at a networking event, think about your career goals and how other attendees could help you. Are you actively looking for a job? Or still trying to figure out what you want to do? Distill your objectives into a couple of sentences and get comfortable explaining them.
“During my first networking event at a career fair, I was nervous and not quite sure what to expect or talk about. After a few interactions I realized that all I had to do was introduce myself, have a candid conversation, exchange contacts, and then I had a networking connection.” Carter Lewis, Sci.bio Recruiting Associate
Despite the fact you need a game plan, it helps to go into networking events with an open mind. Everyone in the room has the potential to help you meet your career goals, or introduce you to new opportunities you hadn’t considered. Show the same level of interest and courtesy to everyone you meet, and find out what you can about their job. What do they enjoy about their work? How did they get into the field? What advice would they give to someone looking to break into the field? While you may not be interested in biotech consultancy, perhaps a labmate is considering such roles and would benefit from any insights you can relay.
As scientists, we tend to be very detail-orientated and thorough when talking about our work. In networking situations, people may not be familiar with your field and could be pressed for time, meaning you must be concise. Develop a ‘high-level’ elevator pitch that describes your work quickly in broad strokes. If the other person wants to learn more, they’ll ask follow-up questions.
When talking to someone new, avoid monopolizing the conversation. Pause and ask questions. It doesn’t sound like much, but simply seeming interested in other people is one of the best ways to leave a good impression. Don’t forget to think about what YOU may be able to offer THEM; networking and building connections goes both ways.
The great thing about networking events is that everybody who attends wants to have a conversation with you! Even if you’re naturally more reserved, there are many people in the room, such as recruiters, who enjoy meeting new people and are experienced at navigating these kinds of social interactions.
Business card and follow-up
“Thanks, it’s been great talking to you – here’s my contact information.” You don’t have to devote a lot of time to any one person at the networking event. If it seems like you don’t have much to say to each other, it’s fine to politely bow out of the conversation and look for someone else to talk to. Be sure to collect the other person’s contact information and share yours. Business cards are the traditional hallmark of networking, but some people generate QR codes that link to their LinkedIn profile or online CV. At virtual events all you need to do is drop your contact info in the chat. Most people who attend networking events are open to connecting electronically afterwards. You can also send a short email the next day thanking them again for their time and re-emphasizing how much you enjoyed talking to them.
“Even if [recruiters or my new connections] didn’t have an immediate job opportunity for me, I still had someone that I could reach out to in the future.” Carter Lewis, Sci.bio Recruiting Associate
As mentioned above, networking doesn’t immediately bear fruit. You want to cultivate your network over several months; interacting with new connections on LinkedIn (e.g. commenting on their posts) and keeping your name fresh in their minds without becoming a nuisance or spamming them. Maybe this new contact knows one of their contacts has a job vacancy, or perhaps they can help you with something unrelated to your job search? Either way, you won’t know until you’ve made the connection!
Networking can appear daunting, but recruiters at Sci.bio are happy to help you expand your circle of contacts and take your career to the next level. Get in touch with us today.