Graduation season is here. Now is not the time for science majors without job offers to panic.
Spring is an exciting time for many students. Some students know the next step in their professional path. Successful internships led to job offers that begin after graduation or due to pursuing careers in sectors known for early hiring decisions such as finance and consulting.
Many students, especially science majors, may feel anxious comparing themselves to their “business major” friends who have their first professional job secured. Some students may still be figuring out their plans for after graduation. This is entirely normal. The life sciences sector, especially many of the dynamic entrepreneurial biotech companies, are still actively hiring throughout the spring. If you're a science major who has not secured a position yet do not worry. There are still plenty of opportunities available to you. Below are a few insights to help you uncover opportunities for your career.
It is important to remember that there is no one path for a scientist. You get to chart your course as you grow in your career. Anything is possible... there is so much growth happening and so much value that scientists bring to a variety of organizations.
Take time for self-reflection to determine your path
People tend to be in a few buckets when it comes to job searching. Some of you may be looking at roles and feel everything sounds so interesting. Maybe you don’t know where to start because the number of opportunities is overwhelming. Or you may be somewhere in the middle where some career paths seem like a good fit, but you're trying to figure out exactly where you fit. Maybe you are one of the lucky few who know exactly where you want to work and what you want to do.
Don't make it harder than it needs to be. Ask yourself some questions and create a job search checklist to record your answers. This checklist will be a valuable reference tool when you are evaluating job opportunities to apply to, or evaluating a job offer. Outline what you want in a job. What items are "must have?" What are "nice to have?"
As you create this chart, assign a numerical value to each category. As you find openings or get job offers you can fill this in to see where the roles score for you. Job hunting can get very intense and emotional; this process can help ground you to find the right opportunities.
Another point that I think is worth mentioning is that you don't have to match all the requirements asked for in each job description. Sometimes a 60-70% match is perfectly fine. Typically, the top qualifications listed in the job description are the most important so if you are hitting the top 60-70% of the requirements for the job, then you should apply.
The Opportunities Are Endless!
In 2021, $13.7 billion was invested into the biotech sector in Massachusetts alone. Nationwide the number is a lot larger. Those funds are being deployed now to organizations and these companies need to fill new roles requiring a variety of backgrounds and experiences.
Where do you want to work? That may seem like a simple question, but in the life sciences and biotech, there are as many options for organizations as there are jobs themselves:
How to identify roles and titles: many names often mean the same thing
There are so many titles out there and levels of roles. Organizations are all structured differently. In one company, the VP may report directly to the president. Another organization may not have vice presidents, but the directors have the same level of responsibility. Don't get stuck on the title of the job; read through the job description to see the details of the role as well as the educational background required. That will help you see if this opening is a possibility for you.
The beautiful thing now about being in the sciences is that many organizations realize that backgrounds in the sciences lead to other important skills like writing and communications, leadership, collaboration, or data analysis. These skills lead to opportunities for teaching, operations, business development, research and development, marketing and sales, and so much more.
Leveraging all the tools available in your job search
There are so many tools available to you in your job search. Don't rely solely on your LinkedIn profile and the connections you have there but don't ignore them either. LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Indeed are useful, but so many jobs are not posted publicly or posted broadly.
State biotech associations
New graduates should certainly look at the state biotech associations to learn about roles that might be posted on their job boards. Here is a link to where people can find their respective state biotech association: https://www.bio.org/council-state-bioscience-associations.
In Massachusetts for example, there are probably more than 2,000 jobs posted right now on MassBio's career center https://www.massbio.org/career-center/ – some of which might not be on LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, or other general job sites.
Startups and entrepreneurial companies
Research startups and entrepreneurial companies in your area, or where you'd like to work. To find them, research venture capital companies that fund startups. Third Rock Ventures, as just one example, lists their portfolio companies by disease area: https://www.thirdrockventures.com/portfolio making it easy for talent to identify organizations of interest.
Business incubators are organizations that help young startups innovate and grow. They provide workspaces and a full range of services including mentorship, management training, and in some cases venture capital. Here is a link to the incubators in Massachusetts:
https://www.masslifesciences.com/resources/incubators/. Other states may have these types of lists available online as well.
Lab Central, which started in Cambridge MA, now has locations throughout the U.S. and the world. This incubator lists organizations that are currently operating in it and ones that have "graduated" from the ranks of being a startup. This can be a great place to find innovative organizations who may need people to perform research work
Non-profit organizations and disease foundations
Non-profit organizations and disease foundations hire people to do research or fulfill other roles, such patient advocacy, medical writing, program management, communications, outreach, and more.
Contract Research Organizations or Contract Manufacturing Associations
Often people who want to work in life sciences only think about working at a biotech or pharma company that develops the actual therapeutic – such as Novartis and Pfizer, but there are tremendous opportunities at CROs and CMOs. I worked for about 10 years at CROs and really enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the industry. CROs and CMOs work with biotech and pharma companies to help develop their drugs.
CROs and CMOs can focus on many areas – medicinal chemistry, cell biology, molecular biology, animal models, upstream and downstream process development, manufacturing of drugs, clinical trial conduct, etc. These can be wonderful places for recent graduate to start and grow their career.
As you can see, the opportunities for a career in the sciences are truly endless. Take the time to consider what is most important to you whether this is your first professional role, or the next move in your already successful career.
Propel Careers is a Boston based life science search and career development firm focused on connecting talented individuals with entrepreneurial life sciences organizations. Lauren Celano has a B.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Gettysburg College and an MBA with a focus in the health sector and entrepreneurship from Boston University. Celano serves on the boards of many organizations, including the Board of MassBioEd as Vice-Chair and the Board of the National Tay-Sachs & Allied Diseases Association. She is also on the Advisory Board for the Professional Science Master’s Program at Framingham State University, and New England Graduate Women in Science & Engineering (NE GWISE).