The Jobseeker’s Toolkit

 In PhD/Postdoc Blog

Over the last few months, writing for this blog has given me the opportunity to look back and reflect on the job seeking process. In my December post, I wrote about the things I wish I’d know when I was starting my job hunt. This time I’d like to share my ‘jobseeker’s toolkit with you. Although I don’t profess to have distilled the process of job hunting to a fine art, I am a firm believer in working smarter, not harder. As a friend of mine once put it, “This job hunt is like having a second job! I should be paid for this!” If only…   

General tools

The following tools and tips are things everyone can apply regardless of the job. It is by no means exhaustive, but these things helped me during my job search.

  1. Your Network! I put this first because everyone has one and everyone should use it when it comes to the job hunt. If you have a job or industry in mind, make a list of people you know who are working in that industry. Don’t personally know anyone that works in that industry? Look at the 2nd degree of separation. Once you start putting the word out you’ll be surprised at the kind of responses you can get. (You can find more tips for networking previous posts.)
  2. LinkedIn. If you’re anything like me you probably thought, “pfft, I’m a scientist! We don’t use this stuff!” If you think that, are wrong – like I was. Take the time to set up your profile properly, or at least make it look less scruffy. Trust me; once you start attending networking events, people will look you up! Tip: use LinkedIn to identify recruiters and hiring managers within the company that interests you. Don’t be afraid to cold call. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  3. Use Google Docs and Google Sheets to stay organized on the application process. I like to use a spreadsheet to keep track of the job title, company name, point of contact (name, email), application date, interview date(s), any additional notes on the company, and a hyperlink from the spreadsheet to the version of the CV and cover letter that I sent out. Just make sure no one can view your documents. You can find out how to review privacy settings here.
  4. Don’t be a stranger to your university’s career office. These guys are here to help you and can give an objective view on your application, as well as help you with interviews. Career offices will often help alumni and can connect you with other alumni in different industries. Take advantage of this service, and once again don’t be afraid to cold call! The University of Cambridge and University of Manchester career offices are fantastic.
  5. Mendeley This is a free reference tracker tool, that also allows you to keep notes. I used it to keep track of interesting labs and research throughout my Ph.D.. When it came time to start writing emails and contacting labs, it was helpful to have well-structured and annotated literature to base my correspondence on.
  6. The Drop Out Club is a great resource for those looking to transition out of the medical or scientific profession and apply their skills in a new setting. The site has slightly more of a medical doctor slant, but is just as good for the transitioning Ph.D..

The next few sections are a bit more specific and include websites and tools that I came across while personally considering different careers. If you’re not interested in an industry scientist, science writer, or consulting position, then you need not proceed. If you are like me, then read on!

Tools for biotech

  1. The BioPharmGuy website should be your first port of call when looking at biotech jobs. This site has a pretty comprehensive list of global biotech companies which can be narrowed by geographic region and industry subtype. This platform also provides links to all of the company websites.   
  2. To keep up-to-date with advances in the biotech and pharma sectors, I use FierceBiotech and FiercePharma. Both provide current news updates and are a good place to browse if you are preparing for an interview! They also have a jobseekers platform on the site.
  3. I also like to listen to the Nature Biotechnology First Rounders Podcast. The journal itself is good, but I spend a lot of time in tissue culture, so having something to listen to suits me. I recommend Christoph Lengauer’s interview if you need a little inspiration in your life; he is a remarkable individual. The conversation is wide-ranging and covers everything from refugee legal support to starting and running a biotech company.

Tools for science and medical writers/editors

  1. Consider building your portfolio by doing freelance writing. Websites like Upwork allow you to advertise your skills and connect with people looking to hire freelance writers and editors. The same applies to other gig-type work.
  2. You may consider bolstering your CV by getting a certificate in editing. Based on what I’ve read this might help, but it is probably worth consulting a scientific editor for confirmation before you take the plunge.
  3. Join the HittList and get medical writing jobs sent straight to your inbox.
  4. I was recommended The Open Notebook at a science writing seminar some time ago. This site reveals the stories behind the stories and is a great place to start for those interested in what it takes to be a science writer.
  5. Consider joining the National Association of Science Writers are well.

Tools for Consulting

  1. Looking to learn about business? Street of Walls covers consulting, private equity, and investment banking. It is a great place to build your foundations.
  2. As with the BioPharmGuy Website, Consulting101 does provide a list of firms by location and focus, but the website is a bit dated. Still, it is a good place to start your search. It has math drills and case interviews. The free version of the site is somewhat limited though.  

Hopefully, you got something useful out of this, dear readers. My only wish is to see you maximize your jobs seeking potential while minimizing your job seeking effort. If you have any additional tools that you think people might benefit from, drop them in the comments and help your community prosper! We’d love to hear from you. Or find me on twitter @SciMJHarris.   

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  • Jenny Ro

    I am a scientist turned entrepreneur, who has a passion to connect academic-born technologies to industry. To channel this passion, I founded a company called Curious Reactor. One of the things that I’m doing is building a networking tool that would be deployed in conferences. Helping PhDs seeking alternative career paths is one area that I envision this tool can help. Please check out the BETA and help me refine the algorithm!

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