Propel Careers

Advice for New Graduates (and Others) During a Tough Job Market By Lauren Celano, CEO Propel Careers 

July 30, 2012 
by Lauren Celano 

Lauren Celano, CEO, Propel Careers wrote this blog for Bio Careers as part of her monthly contributions. To learn more about Bio Careers, see link:

Your job search is not just about finding any job. It should be about setting yourself up for success and finding an environment where you can thrive. You want to be in a situation where you can develop professionally and personally, be challenged and rewarded, have fun and enjoy going to work, and impact the work significantly through your efforts. You want your job to build and enhance your career path, not just to maintain the status quo.

As you think about your career, focus on what motivates you, on your passion(s), and on your transferrable skills, including the hard and soft skills, strengths and weaknesses, preferred culture and company size. All of these factors will help target your job search to find the right fit for you. These reflections are beneficial for individuals entering the job market, as well as individuals who have significant experience who are considering a career switch. Working through what you want to do and why will help you assemble your "elevator pitch," your 30 second presentation on what you are looking for in a (perfect) career.

In a tough economy, it is even more important to clearly articulate what you want to do (and why) to a future employer. Companies want to know that you are passionate about their organization and the work you would be doing. They also want to know that you have the skills and potential to perform before they hire you. Reflecting on these areas will help you refine what you bring to companies and also focus you on the career paths which are most relevant for you. This should result in a more successful search.

Motivation: What makes you wake up every morning excited to begin the day? What keeps you going, persevering through challenges to get your work done? Motivations can take numerous forms including financial, intellectual, leadership driven, desire to support a team, desire to work with a strong team, desire to work independently, desire to be in an entrepreneurial environment and build something, need for scientific immersion, interest in business and commercialization efforts, interest to work locally or internationally, ability to give back, etc. Finding out what motivates you is critical to ensuring that you are choosing a career path which will align with your values leading to a more meaningful career. As you define what motivates you, you will be able to refine your career search and your elevator pitch based upon it.

Passion: Understanding what you are passionate about in your professional life is critical to ensuring that you will continue to be driven in the work that you are doing. Think critically about how you would describe an ideal day at work. Is this being in the lab focusing specifically on a certain research target/disease area, managing projects, working on the business side of science to commercialize technologies, writing publications and grants, developing business plans, sales and marketing strategies?

Figuring this out will assist you in identifying the types of career paths that you should consider as you apply for positions. If you are not sure where you see yourself, then you can perform informational interviews with individuals who are working in the types of positions that you are considering. This will help you identify the ones that seem the most appealing for you.

Transferable skills and strengths and weaknesses: It is very easy to become so immersed in the day to day that individuals only focus on their "hard skills" relevant to their current projects without much thought to the various other skills that they have. This is especially true for scientists who, in academia, are measured by publications and degrees without much consideration for their "other" skills. As they look to transition to other careers, presenting their other skills becomes difficult. Many individuals with deep scientific backgrounds do not realize, or articulate well enough, how many transferable skills they have that are relevant to positions they are considering.

As you think about transferable skills, consider the following: are you organized, detail oriented, a good communicator (verbally and written)? Do you have networking ability, strong presentation skills, project management skills, programming ability, artistic insights, Excel modeling and statistical analysis experience, or leadership skills? If you identified one or more of these, then you already have an example of your transferable skills.

For many scientific individuals, their research, clinical, and scientific domain experience is a given. It's the other skills that become critical to their success as their career path progresses. The other skills are what companies heavily focus on as they evaluate who to hire.

Culture: For an individual, understanding where you thrive is critical to success. Workplaces are not just about you, it is about the team and the environment. Alignment with the culture of an organization is a critical factor for the fit of a person within a company. Points you should consider are: Do you thrive in a culture that is team based or individualized, innovative or steady, result driven, competitive, supportive, work hard/play hard?

As you think about these areas, it also helps to clarify whether you would like to work in a large company environment where you are exposed to a specific area, an entrepreneurial organization where you wear many hats and grow immensely or a mid- sized company. The job search is all about being focused and refining where you fit. It is important to make an informed decision since this is more than just a job, this is your life. Being aligned at work sets yourself up for success in your professional and personal life and significantly increases your chance of having a significant growth trajectory in your career.


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