How to develop skills needed for industry and academia

 In PhD/Postdoc Blog

By: Alireza Tafazzol, Ph.D. Candidate in Biomedical Engineering, University of California, Davis

As a UC Davis FUTURE program participant, I attended seminars and workshops designed to develop skills needed for both industry and academia. The FUTURE career exploration program focuses on practical skills, as well as discussing and dissecting the components of a job search, including networking and LinkedIn, informational interviews, resumes, interviews, negotiations, and more. My participation in this valuable program gave me space to develop team-work skills and prepare my resume/cover letter package to apply for several internship positions at biotechnology and health-related companies.

I am proud to say, right after the program, I landed a 6-month internship at Regeneron pharmaceutical company at Tarrytown, New York. As part of the department of Formulation Development, with access to experimental and computational tools, I am developing predictive models to ease drug product development.

For those who don’t have access to a formal career exploration program, I will briefly share how I developed skills needed to get this position and critical tips to makes you a shining star in the job market.

Exercise the power of networking

Do not be shy! Try finding more and more people in your research area and connect with them on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter. You will appreciate the power of your network as it grows. The more people you know, the more knowledge you can draw on, and the greater the chance you will find your dream job.

Did you attend a conference or visit a company? Did you recently read an article by someone in industry or have an interview for an internship position? If your answer to any of these questions is “YES,” then you already know some people that you can connect with on LinkedIn.

Do not forget to send a personal message when sending your LinkedIn request. Most people appreciate getting personalized invitations, and it is also a way to remind them how you know them.

To illustrate the power of networking on LinkedIn: I remember while I was looking for internship positions, I could not find any email addresses for the company that interested me. What did I do? I searched that company on LinkedIn and connected with one of the lead scientists working there. Through sending my resume to him on LinkedIn, I was able to get a phone interview.

Don’t have a Twitter account? Make one as soon as possible. Even without posting anything on Twitter, it will let other people mention you in their tweets and passively raise your online profile.

Look into ‘darkness’ to find internships and full-time positions!

It’s not bad to start your search with job posting websites. However, it is a bit tricky to find the best keywords to find suitable job positions, and you might need to check the companies’ website regularly to see newly posted positions.

Sometimes, companies do not post internships or full-time positions online. If you know a company that interests you, email it your resume and ask if there are any positions available. This approach got me a few phone interviews.

Personalize your materials

It is VERY important that you personalize your resume and cover letter for each specific position. Do not send the same materials to different companies!

In your cover letter, you want to speak meaningfully to the hiring manager, which is why it should be customized specifically for that position at that specific company. This letter should emphasize how you are suited for that position and that company. The cover letter is not just about you; it is about the company. Do not make it as a summary of yourself! You want to make a bridge between your resume and job posting advertisement by talking about the specific benefit you bring to the company in the position.

Do not “recycle” cover letters!

While visiting a biotech company on a site visit arranged by UC Davis’s FUTURE Program, I found out some hiring managers skim resumes by searching for specific keywords. Here is another reason to customize your materials, adding exact words and phrases from the job description.

I also learned from this visit that the hiring managers have very little time to review materials.  Keep your resume to two pages. If the position calls for it, add a separate sheet of publications, but know that hiring managers might not read it unless you make the first cut.

Practice for your interviews

We spent a good deal of time in the FUTURE Program talking about interviewing strategies. Different companies have different systems of interviews. You might encounter simple screening phone calls. On the other hand, you may also be asked to use specific apps and online human resources platforms for technical interviews.

Practice will make you more comfortable. It is good to have as many interviews as possible, real or mock, to get familiar with different formats. Do not get anxious about interviews – it helps to remind yourself that the meeting goes both ways. It is a mutual opportunity for you and the company to know each other and know more about the posted position to see if you are a good fit.

Stay in touch!

Throughout your search, stay in touch with your professional network. They will cheer you on and have a valuable perspective on what’s coming up for you. I, for one, will stay connected with the FUTURE program, my fellow job searchers, and my growing professional community.

Good luck!

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