Mentors are helping Johns Hopkins students transition to careers in industry

 In mentorship, PhD/Postdoc Blog

Mentors are helping Johns Hopkins students transition to careers in industry.

A good mentor can open new opportunities to boost a student’s career. Graduate students who want to pursue a career in academic research often have many mentors available to them including their PI, their thesis committee members, or other faculty at their institution. But students who wish to pursue careers in the biotech or pharmaceutical industries may have a harder time finding mentors to help them break into those fields.

The Johns Hopkins Professional Development and Career Office (PDCO) is piloting a new program to help students solve that problem. The PDCO has partnered with CASSS, a scientific society of biopharmaceutical industry professionals, to match graduate students with an industry mentor. The mentors come from both small and large companies and the FDA, and have diverse roles ranging from policy to drug development. The goal of the program is to help students get some insight into the huge variety of careers available to them, and into how they can translate their skills to a career in industry.

To start the matching process, potential mentors from CASSS first answered a series of questions to help students learn more about them. Students used their answers and the mentors’ LinkedIn pages to evaluate if that mentor might be a good fit. After an initial phone call to assess whether it could be a good match, each student selected their mentor. Students and mentors are expected to meet at least once a month for six months. Although it is preferred that some of these meetings occur in person, they can also happen over the phone or video conference.

Each meeting has a specific goal and agenda, such as working on the mentee’s resume or cover letter, or conducting a mock interview. Priyanka Kothari, a fourth year student in the Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology Graduate Program at Johns Hopkins, said that the structure of these meetings allows her to make the most of her mentor’s valuable time. In their first meeting Priyanka and her mentor discussed her career interests and her current skills. Her mentor was able to provide advice on what jobs she’d be best at, and how to improve her resume and skill set to be an even better candidate for those jobs in the future. Priyanka’s mentor has even invited her for a visit to his office so that she can see what the environment is like and meet many of his colleagues across different departments at his company.

Another great benefit of having a mentor is that students can gain insight on the current trends in industry, such as specific areas of interest or techniques at the bench. When it comes time to apply for jobs, students can use this insight to better tailor their application materials to fill the current needs of employers.

Caroline Pounds, the Assistant Director of the Biomedical Careers Initiative & Employer Relations at the Johns Hopkins University PDCO, envisions that the students in this program will also form a network of their own. The PDCO will host events for the students so that they can socialize and trade ideas on what has gone really well when working with their mentors. This will also allow students to broaden their network across the entire program, not just their mentor alone.

Although this first cohort is strictly focused on careers in industry and is limited to students at Johns Hopkins, the program could easily be adjusted to other career tracks and other universities. If this first pilot program is a success, the PDCO plans to enroll a new cohort in the Fall and eventually expand the mentoring program to other career tracks. If you are interested in learning more or starting a mentor matching program at your university, contact Caroline Pounds at the Johns Hopkins University PDCO. Caroline can be reached by email at

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  • Douglas Knight New Canaan

    Nice Post. I really like it. This is a very informative & knowledgeable post. Thanks for sharing with us.

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