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The Search for Meaningful Work in Biotechnology

June 18, 2016
The time to begin your search for a rewarding employment position is the day you register to go to a post-secondary institution. Why? Because the whole point of getting educated is to be able to apply what you learned in school in a job that values the knowledge and skills that you have developed.

Dave_Conley_90x120Getting educated is an investment in your future. Finding challenging and rewarding employment is the reward for that investment.

When you find a job that engages your passions…then you have reached success, in my opinion. I want to help you shorten that path to success if I can.

Networking is the best way that I know to find a rewarding work situation. It is the process of meeting people that may be able to help you find opportunities that suit your skills, education and career objectives. A network of contacts in your chosen field of interest and related fields is like having your own professional support group…A large network is the best hedge I know against unemployment because the majority of job opportunities go unadvertised but are usually known to people in your network…

Things You Need To Do to Help Build Your Network

Design a business card - Do this right away and get 250-500 printed using Vistaprint or Staples.

Create a Profile on LinkedIn - Take a look at what others have done with their profiles and create yours; be brief but show what you have done and what you can do.

Join Professional Associations / Organizations – One of the best ways to find out what is happening in your field AND start your networking is to join a professional association. These are organizations composed of people that work in your industry with the goal of promoting the interests and goals of that industry. They will usually have a job posting section on their websites as well as e-newsletters that you can sign up for.

Volunteer at Biotech and Related Events - Volunteering is an excellent way to meet people in the biotech industry and to begin building your network. Not only will you meet interesting people but you will get into these events free, a real value considering the cost of admission to some events. Hand out your business card and gather business cards from everyone that you meet.

Attend Biotech and Related Events Whenever Possible - These events usually have job boards where you can learn about opportunities as well as post your resume for potential employers to see. Hand out your business card and gather business cards from everyone that you meet.

Interview People Working in Biotech - Instead of asking them if they have a position available, ask them if they have time to talk to you about their career and where they see the trends going, the skills necessary, and the qualities employers are seeking…

It can be done over coffee at a cafe close to where they work and try to limit it to 30-45 minutes so that it does not take them out of their office too long. Get their business card and give yours before departing. And ask them for three other contacts in their network that you might be able to interview; it’s a way to get more names to add to your network. But don’t push it if they do not what to provide these, it may be that they want to speak to their contacts first. Always give them the choice to email you later with such contact info. Always follow up with an email thanking them again for their time and for sharing their experiences with you.

Create  Networking Database - Put the contact information from all of the business cards you collect into a database, such as CamCard, or one of the other popular contact database apps/programs available, or an Excel spreadsheet. Use your database to keep in contact with people in your network, to let them know where you are, if you are looking for part-time work, if you are going to an event that they may be attending, and if you have moved and have a change of address, email or phone number.

Don’t Forget Family, Friends and Neighbors - It is always surprising to find out that somebody in your family or neighborhood knows somebody in the biotech sector, or a friend of a friend that does. Never overlook family or neighborhood get-togethers or events as potential networking opportunities.

Study Terms / Student Exchanges in a Foreign Location - Some colleges and universities offer study terms or exchanges in other parts of Canada, the USA and overseas in collaboration with their network of post-secondary institutions…Because these programs are set up for international students, you can meet people from many different countries that share some of the same interests as you. Some of these friendships may last a lifetime and may also have a huge impact on your career path by opening up a whole new network of contacts and opportunities.

Job Interviews - A job interview is a two-way discussion…Do your homework on the company and the position you are being interviewed for. Know as much as you can about the company, its products / services, strengths and weaknesses, major challenges and opportunities. If you know somebody at the company, then find out why the position is being filled, and if there is a lot of turnover in the position…Never be afraid to ask questions in an interview. If you don’t understand the question, say so. If you don’t understand something about the position that the interviewer has just said, ask for clarification.

When you don’t know something, do not fake knowledge of it because this gets discovered very fast and leaves a bad impression. Try to be confident but never overly so, everyone gets nervous so my advice is always to be you. The worst thing is to try to be somebody you are not, or say things to impress, or because you think it is what the interviewer wants to hear. Be genuine, be honest, and be yourself - it is what will give you the edge.

You will not get every job that you apply for but do not get discouraged. Every interview is an opportunity to get better at interviewing. Interviewing is a skill, like everything else that you have learned at school and in life. Not getting the job is not a sign of failure, only that you are not the person with the skills that the firm is seeking – at that moment in time. Move on, be graceful – know that your time is coming and prepare for it.