You might think of a “science job” as a lab-coat-wearing, number-crunching, sitting-and-calculating kind of affair. But science jobs can call for a full gamut of abilities – including “softer”, more “human-based” communications skills! If you’re used to seeing yourself as a “pure scientist”, this might seem intimidating – but basic communications skills are very useful in the modern life sci/biotech industry. Never fear: if you are able to understand a concept, chances are, you can learn how to communicate it.
Here we’ve outlined some useful communications skills for the life scientist of 2023, and how to go about cultivating them.
Life Sciences 2023: Communication Skills are Key
Nowadays, the general public is more interested than ever before in being scientifically literate. As such, there is no shortage of non-traditional, communications-based life science jobs to consider. From Social Media Specialist to Marketing Manager to Scientific Editor, jobs in the science communications space abound. Even if you don’t have one of these jobs, you’ll be a huge asset to your employer if you’re able to take on communications tasks in a pinch.
On its own, information isn’t actually all that useful. For it to bring actual value to actual people, someone or something needs to come along to communicate it. If you’re employed in the life sciences, at some point, you’ll probably have to be that person! That’s why basic communications skills are actually indispensable for the life scientist of today. Even something as simple as writing a clear and well-laid-out email is an extremely important business communication skill, and can help you stand out in the corporate world.
Another important skill, oft-overlooked: knowing your audience. If you’re writing for a presentation, think of it like a performance – for a bit of dramatic flair, you can add some extra variety in sentence structure and punctuation. If you’re writing an article for a scientific journal, on the other hand, feel free to indulge in some jargon – but maybe hold back on the poetic license. If you’re writing for a popular magazine for non-scientists, you’ll want to take a more conversational tone, and go easy on the obscure terminology. Whatever the case, knowing how to reach your unique readership can make or break the engagement factor of your work.
And let’s not underestimate the importance of visuals as communication techniques. At some point in your career, you may be asked to prepare a slide deck for a presentation at a pharma conference, or create an Instagram carousel about your company’s latest product line. If and when this happens, you’ll find that an eye for design, layout and color is crucial.
Practicing Your Communication Skills
As we’ve discussed already, “good scientific writing” means different things in different contexts. That said, there are some general rules to keep in mind. For scientific writing that is at once concise and compelling, remember these tips:
Ask yourself, “Would I want to read this?” If you wouldn’t – why not?
Also keep in mind some common writing mistakes. Is your writing:
Using more words than it needs to convey a simple idea?
Full of dull, uninformative “filler” phrases?
So repetitive in sentence structure and word choice that it’s… boring?
These are very common mistakes, so don’t feel bad if you make them too. Just keep an eye out – they can creep in pretty easily if you’re not careful! As for design, keep these general ideas in mind:
Don’t use too many different shapes, fonts, etc. – unless you have a clear reason to
Use different shades of the same color on the same page for a simple, visually pleasing aesthetic
Position your most important elements slightly upwards and leftwards of center for maximum visual impact
Communication Skills – the Life Raft of Information
It’s always a good idea to have extra skills in your arsenal – you never know when they might come in handy! If you practice your writing skills, design skills, and overall ability to concisely convey concepts to different audiences, you’ll be well on your way to being a pro scientific communicator.
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.
Looking for that perfect entry-level hire? If you’re like many life science employers, you’re used to vetting applicants based on years of experience. For positions categorized as junior or entry-level, though, applicants aren’t likely to have an extensive employment record. You’ll need other ways to assess their skillset, intelligence, and willingness to learn.
As you look through resumes and conduct interviews, don’t underestimate these newer and younger candidates. While junior job-seekers may be lacking in years of experience, they can easily make up for that in attitude and flexibility.
Screening for success at the junior level
A junior candidate may not boast a pages-long resume of work experience – and that’s okay! Previous leadership positions and awards can show you just as much about their work ethic and areas of interest. Did they start a biomedical education club in university? Have they won awards or scholarships related to their scientific work? An applicant who loves their field, takes initiative, and enjoys learning new skills will be highly motivated to adapt to a new position.
That said, you’ll still want to see that they’ve previously excelled in a similar environment. Just remember to check your expectations – the fact is, not many junior candidates will have work experience in the exact role you’re hiring for. Take a realistic approach and look for evidence that they’ve been successful in a similar classroom setting, volunteer position, or extracurricular management role.
And remember, it’s not just the hard skills that are important. Emotional intelligence plays a critical role in the workplace, even for technical jobs. When hiring for junior positions, look for these qualities in your candidates: receptivity to feedback, work ethic, and ability to function as part of a team. Candidates with these attributes are likely to thrive in the ecosystem of the workplace.
Sometimes you’ll have a good feeling about a candidate, but not quite enough confidence to take the leap and make them an offer. In this case, consider sending them a skills test. This approach is a win-win: you get to see what they’re capable of, and they get a chance to prove themselves to you.
Benefits of hiring junior employees
It’s no secret that millennials and zoomers are usually proficient with technology. As a result, it shouldn’t take long for them to learn the ropes of any new software required for a position. By the same token, younger candidates are likely to have at least one tech-based skill already. This could be anything from video editing to Microsoft Excel to overall computer-savviness. These skills are great to have in your arsenal should you ever need them.
Younger hires can also offer some much-needed youthful perspective. They’re likely to be up-to-date on trends, such as recent developments in the world of social media or new apps that might help to structure company workflow. Another upside: less experienced employees often show particular enthusiasm for their work, which can inspire others to embrace a positive attitude themselves.
Junior roles in science industries
Communications-based science jobs are often a good fit for junior-level hires. That’s not because they’re easy, but because the skills they require can be developed through various avenues. Positions like medical writer or scientific project manager, for example, can sometimes be filled by candidates with shorter or more diverse resumes.
Currently, many pharma and biotech companies are in the market for junior research associates fresh out of grad school. If this is you, try scanning candidates’ resumes for relevant scientific skill sets. Current top skills required for research associate positions include collaboration, analysis, and experimentation. As you scan candidates’ resumes, look for education or experience that has allowed them to cultivate these skills.
Know what to look for
As you search for the best possible hire for a junior position, ask yourself this: who has the potential to be your next workplace superstar? You can’t expect recent graduates to have decades of work experience in highly skilled, highly specialized positions. You can, however, scout out applicants that demonstrate enthusiasm, some relevant experience, and above all a willingness to learn.
If you’re looking to hire an ambitious and skilled junior level employee, Sci.bio’s recruitment services can help you find the perfect match.
Consider hiring ‘old talent’. When an employee is finished with you, they’re gone for good, right? Not quite. The “boomerang employee” has existed since the dawn of the workplace and is alive and well today. In the wake of the pandemic and the associated Great Resignation, many employees who left their jobs started to have second thoughts about their decision – and many employers are open to rehiring them.
Here we’ll discuss why employees seek to return to their old workplaces, and some of the pros and cons of bring former quitters back into the fold.
Why do employees return?
In a study of people who quit their jobs during the mass exodus that began with the pandemic, job leavers gave several reasons for wanting their old job back again:
Former coworkers (38%): workplace morale can make or break a job, so employees who don’t click with their new coworkers may soon find themselves missing their old work pals.
Former customers (22%): if your employee had customers at your company, perhaps they found them easier to connect with.
Familiarity with the old role (31%): your employee may have overestimated his or her ability to adapt to a different environment and seek a return to a familiar role they know they can perform well.
Paycheck (19%): Often, employees simply can’t find a better deal elsewhere (though they won’t want you to know that!).
Work-life balance (16%): if a new job demands overtime or gives little consideration to needs outside of work, people find themselves dreaming about a former position with more understanding management
As long as your former employee seems genuinely interested in returning and keen to keep performing well, you should at least consider taking them back. Feel free to ask what they preferred about their experience with you. That way, you can aim to keep them satisfied in those areas – and maybe gain some insight into retaining your other employees.
Advantages of rehiring old talent
When training boomerangers, you’re not starting from scratch. They’re already familiar with company procedures and culture, so you won’t have to pour as many resources into training them. What’s more, their connections with former customers may encourage those customers to come back.
Rehires can also draw on experiences working elsewhere to bring you fresh insights into the current market. Maybe they discovered a more efficient way to manage lab inventory or learned new strategies for launching a cosmeceutical product online. Whatever they spent their time doing, they likely gained knowledge and experience you’ll want to hear about.
Rehired employees also tend to be more reliable than they were before. Having tested outside waters and found them less welcoming than they’d hoped, this time they’ll lean toward sticking around. They’ll appreciate that you took them back and feel a renewed sense of investment in your company.
Take a good look at your own motivations and see if they stack up. Are you overlooking more suitable candidates in favor of an easy rehire? Think long-term and resist the lure of momentary convenience. If many qualified candidates exist for the job you need to fill, you have a good chance of finding that fresh star who will more than make up for training costs.
Another caveat: depending on their experiences after leaving your company, former employees may come back with higher expectations or a different attitude. To get a sense of their mindset, ask probing questions during the re-interview and consider whether you’re still a good match for each other.
Trust your instincts when rehiring old talent.
Rehiring a former employee can save time, costs, and headaches. Just bear in mind that the process comes with some risks. Bottom line, no two rehiring scenarios look alike, so take some time to consider the pros and cons of your situation. And don’t ignore your instincts: sometimes your gut speaks more clearly than any checklist.
If you’d like some guidance on hiring—or rehiring—the best talent for your company’s current needs, Sci.bio has the life-sciences expertise to get you started.
When there’s a hiring freeze, it’s not the easiest time to be a biotech recruiter: As you may know, biotech companies have been experiencing a surge in layoffs in recent months, and nobody knows for sure when this trend will ease up.
While an industry-wide dip in hiring may concern you, it also creates an opportunity to step back and take a look at your clients, your stats, and your marketing strategies. Here, we’ve compiled some ways to stay busy and hone your craft while you find yourself with a little more time on your hands.
Strengthen candidate relationships during hiring freeze
If your stream of new talent is running thin, don’t despair – you can still reach out to your existing candidate pool and get to know them better. Find out how they’re doing, what they’re working on, and what their goals are. As you chat, be honest about what’s going on – and explain the action plan you’ll implement once the industry picks up.
At the same time, don’t limit your outreach to existing candidates. If you haven’t already, test out new talent engagement pipelines such as email, social media ads, and sourcing software. Experiment with different strategies and see which ones promise the best return on investment.
Review your process
Now that you have fewer day-to-day details to worry about, take a step back to look at the big picture. How is your overall strategy working for you? Any weak spots that could use some tweaking? Take inventory of four key metrics: average cost of hire, average time to hire, typical sources of hire, and employment acceptance rates. Are these stats where you want them to be? If not, use this time to make adjustments to your recruitment process.
You can also change or expand your strategy for attracting new clients. Assess your engagement rates, conversion rates, and the profitability of your advertising channels. Does your branding convey a cohesive message? All your social media should work synergistically and let prospective clients know exactly what you’re about.
Start planning now
When the hiring freeze ends, which may be sooner than you expect, you want to be ready to get back in the game immediately. To get into position, look at your databases of both candidates and employers. Take advantage of this time to reach out to new potential candidates and explain your services.
As you prepare for the next hiring surge, stay on top of hiring trends. When the economy booms again, demand for both traditional and non-traditional science roles will surge. A keen eye for upcoming trends, from health informatics to rare oncology, will give you an edge. Find out what’s hot and tailor your strategy to that.
Remember, you’re still in business
Companies rarely stop hiring entirely – even during a hiring freeze, you can reach out and ask what kind of roles potential clients are looking to fill. In uncertain times, businesses often place special emphasis on the quality of their new hires, while trying to cut down on the quantity. You’ll earn employers’ gratitude and loyalty if you can deliver top talent in trying times, so spend some extra time and energy finding hand-in-glove matches for clients who are hiring. By the same token, don’t forget about your existing candidate roster. In a frigid job market, candidates will need all the support they can get.
\When you’re a recruiter and there’s little recruitment to be done, it’s easy to get bored or restless. On the other hand, if you stay busy by investing in long-term relationships and business strategy, this hiring freeze may turn out to be the proverbial blessing in disguise. Before you know it, work will pick up – and you’ll be grateful you took this time to stay relevant and connected.