Lauren Celano, CEO, Propel Careers wrote this article for Bio Careers as part of her monthly contributions. To learn more about Bio Careers, see link: https://biocareers.com/
Let's face it, job searching is a tough, emotionally stressful endeavor. There are long hours looking endlessly for roles, time spent researching companies, networking to find people who could have roles that are a fit for you, sending your resume out and rarely hearing back, and going on interviews only to not get the job. Staying positive and focused during a job search is critical for your success, and you are the only one who can make sure this happens. This is not an easy task, but this article will provide suggestions for you to proactively approach your search so that your true personality shows through.
Use the job searching process as a time of self exploration Many people don't think of a job search as a positive or fun experience, especially if you are forced to search due to a layoff, downsizing, or lack of funding in your lab. However, you could look at the search as a chance to learn, find or rediscover your passion, network, and even build new skills. Looking for a job can actually be a fun experience if approached in the right way.
A search can be an opportunity to learn what you want to do, where you want to be, and who you want to work with. As you talk with people in industry about their careers, career paths, day to day responsibilities, companies, and culture, you may find that you like certain aspects of what you hear and don't like other aspects. These are great discoveries, as they will help you refine what you are looking for. The more you can focus on what you want, the easier it will be for employers to see your enthusiasm and realize that you are a fit for their role.
Be as focused as possible and stay open minded about your search. During each job search, companies see hundreds of applicants (or more) for a given job. They are looking for those people who show passion, drive, and motivation for the job being applied for. The more you can build your skills and network to show relevance to the role you are interested in, the more likely you are to be interviewed for the role. Your focus should help you standout from the crowd. One way to keep focused is to set goals for yourself and keep track of your progress. Below are a few goals that I recommend to individuals looking for a role.
Goal Option 1: Learn about companies of interest to you
One goal could be to learn about 5 new companies in your area of interest each week. Maybe this is biotech companies focusing on oncology research, or boutique consulting firms focusing in the life sciences area. Whatever the interest is, set a goal. You could research companies by reading through news sources like Xconomy (http://www.xconomy.com), or state biotech associations like MassBio (http://www.massbio.org) or conferences like AACR (http://www.aacr.org). You could use RSS feeds from google reader to keep track of companis/areas of interest. There are so many ways to learn about companies which may be relevant for you – you just have to start taking initiative and begin the process.
Goal Option 2: Learn about people in the industry of interest to you and talk with them.
If you don't know where you start to look for companies, then your goal could be to talk with 5 new people each week who work in your areas of interest. The goal here is to learn more about the industry, what these people do, what skills are necessary for them to succeed, and which firms they know of that could be a fit for you. It's important to remember that these people do not necessarily need to be scientists (if you are interested in science). They could be architects who build life sciences buildings, financial analysts who cover life sciences companies, accountants or lawyers who work with life sciences firms. All of these individuals have industry insights and connections that they could share with you. The goal is to start connecting with people who can get you closer to individuals who have the career paths that you are interested in. Over time, as you do this, you will suddenly realize that you are learning a lot and also meeting great people – some of whom you will develop a long term relationship with. Use the data collection to motivate you to keep going, making notes of what you are learning. It will be exciting to look back to those notes in the future.
Goal Option 3: Attend a networking event or a few
Another goal could be to attend 2 networking events per month in an area relevant to your interest. For example, if you are interested in oncology, perhaps you attend a local chapter meeting of AACR to meet with people who are in the oncology space. Many of the people at this meeting will be in industry, so it's a great way to start to build connections with people who can help guide you in your search and who may even know of roles in industry relevant to you. If you are interested in life sciences, and if you are a woman, perhaps you attend a local chapter of the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (http://www.hbanet.org/home.aspx). Attending these events will not only give you something to do, but they will help you build relationships with people who could help you find a role. You may even find that you like learning about different parts of the industry and the people in it. Who knows, you may even develop a few new friends!
After the process of exploration of the various opportunities by meeting and talking with people, try to use the connections you have built to gain a referral for a position. Hopefully, as you begin to apply for roles, you apply for positions that you want and are qualified for based on your experiences and transferrable skills.
Keep in mind that you are not the only one applying for a particular role and do not to take rejection personally. This is one of the hardest parts of the job search. Many of us take things personally because we feel programmed this way. However, companies are looking for the best fit for their firm, just as you are looking for the best fit for you. Companies can be incredibly selective since their goal is to find the right person for their needs to grow their business. In addition to hard skill fit (i.e. lab techniques you can do or relevant experience you have), companies often determine who they will hire based upon softer skills – culture fit, personality, and management fit. I know it's hard for people who have "on paper" a perfect fit, to not get a job, but many times, it's the "softer side" which makes a difference.
If you are fortunate enough to get personal feedback about why you were not a fit for a particular job, take this information to heart and use it to improve for the next time you interview.
One point to keep in mind is that to be successful in a job, both the employer and employee need to be the right fit. If you get hired into a job just to have one, instead of having the right one, you will not be most fulfilled, and this could hasten your search for a new job causing you to unfortunately repeat the job search process again. I know the job search can be a daunting, stressful experience, but with a little focus and initiative on your part, you could increase the chances of a successful outcome. Remember, you have control over your life with your actions, and your initiative will go a long way.