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 In networking, PhD/Postdoc Blog

The PhD/Postdoc blog series features two scientists at different stages of career development as they explore and plan for their next steps.  Over the course of six months, Lydia Morris and Divya Shiroor will give monthly updates on their progress. Check back every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month for new posts.

Current position: Postdoctoral research trainee with a Ph.D. in Genetics and Molecular Biology
Postdoc start date: January 2013
Institution: University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (affectionately referred to as UNC)
Goals for this month:Make the most of my new volunteer position; improve my LinkedIn page; continue to apply for medical writing jobs.

Update: Last week marked the end of my postdoc position at UNC. I put a check in the final box of my countdown, cleaned off my bench, packed up my office, and officially started the journey toward a career in writing. In today’s post, I’ll fill you in on what I’ve been up to for the last month.

Last Friday I attended the annual career symposium run by postdocs at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. I’m not going to recap the entire event, but I’ll give an overview of my experience (as a first-timer) and what I gained from being there. The symposium consisted of professional development workshops, career panels, CV/resume consultations, and a networking hour with human resource representatives from local and national companies. The career sectors represented included non-profits, academia, clinical diagnostics, science policy, start-ups, small colleges, and, most relevant to me, writing and communication. Overall, the symposium was an amazing experience, and I highly encourage any graduate students and postdocs in or near the Research Triangle region of North Carolina to check out next year’s event.

The keynote address, given by Keith Micoli, Ph.D., was titled, “Beyond the End of the Road: Career Advice from the Wilderness” and included lots of little nuggets of advice and inspiration. For me, the most impactful gem spoken by Dr. Micoli was, “It’s not what you know; it’s not who you know; it’s who knows you.” As I’ve written in previous posts, networking has opened my eyes to opportunities and helped me improve upon how I market my background and skills. I can now pique the interest of hiring managers with my resume and cover letters. I think attending the symposium allowed me to go one step further.

Some of my favorite workshops were the sessions on building a high-impact resume (presented by Tammy Collins) and leveraging LinkedIn for career opportunities (presented by William Blackmon). Each of these workshops provided practical tips for effectively presenting your relevant skills and accomplishments. The biggest takeaway for me was the advice to spend time on developing the Summary section of my LinkedIn profile. The importance of including a well thought out summary statement never occurred to me. After attending the LinkedIn workshop, I vowed to put more thought into the summary statement to make my profile stronger and more intriguing.

Networking with Human Resources Representatives
What ended up being one of the most helpful sessions of the symposium was the resume consultation I signed up for. I had the pleasure of meeting with a human resources director from a local pharmaceutical services company. Because she is the person screening resumes at her company, she gave me some advice about how to restructure my resume to put the most important information at the forefront. She also suggested I include a summary statement at the top of my resume. At the end of our meeting, she offered to look over my updated resume for additional feedback and gave me her card. I’m looking forward to any additional advice she may provide.

The need for a summary statement was confirmed by a conversation I had with a talent acquisition manager from a local medical writing company. She explained that the summary statement helps her determine if a person is a good fit before sending the application over to the medical writing team. She also offered to give my resume a look for additional tips she could offer. I spent several hours after the symposium working on my summary statement, and I’m currently waiting to receive further comments.

This month, I will be working on various writing projects for colleagues and friends. I’m most excited about my new position as a volunteer data coordinator (assisting a Clinical Research Associate) on a clinical trial in the Clinical Protocols Office at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. I will be working with patient records, organizing the data in the online database, and assisting with other data-related tasks. After three weeks, I’ve already learned a lot, and the work is really engaging so far. I’m hoping that gaining more practical knowledge about how clinical research is conducted will round out my skill set when applying for medical writing jobs in the future.

Come back next month, where I’ll present practical tips for biomedical researchers looking to improve their writing. To follow along as I work on perfecting my summary statement, visit my LinkedIn page here.

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