Summer Reading for Science Graduate Students (and Maybe Postdocs!)

Posted in Career Advice

It is officially summer (July 4 was this past Tuesday) and things have slowed down as most people take their vacations during the summer months. Invariably, recommended summer reading lists have appeared in print, in podcasts and on radio shows.

One book that may be an interesting read for science graduate students (and possibly postdocs) is a novel entitled “Chemistry” by Weike Wang.  I heard about this novel on an NPR radio show during an interview with its author.  While I have not read the book (I’m on the downside of my  career and no longer an academic), a recent review of the novel suggests that it may be helpful for science graduate students who may be struggling with career options and future career choices.  As I mentioned above, it may be a good read for postdocs but they may be too far down the career rabbit hole to benefit from it.

The reviewer, Beryl Lieff Benderly (a professional freelance science writer), offered the following critique:

Though Wang doubtlessly does not intend her debut novel as a treatise on the ills and failings of scientific training at high-powered research universities, she poignantly highlights many of the issues that make that process so trying for so many ambitious and earnest young people. Among them is the “common knowledge … that graduate students make close to nothing and that there are more PhD scientists in this country than there are jobs for them,” Wang writes. In addition, there’s the lab member who “strongly believes that women do not belong in science because [they] lack the balls to actually do science.” And these aren’t even close to the most serious of the protagonist’s challenges.

Further she offers:

Wang clearly wrote this book as a character study, not as an academic analysis of the grad school experience. Still, I suspect that reading it could prove useful to academic officials interested in improving grad students’ often difficult lot. The protagonist appears to receive essentially no meaningful help or guidance in her travails from anyone associated with her university, and officials might do well to consider why this is so and what services could have proved useful.

I’m sure that many of you identify with the premise of the novel and may have even experienced some of the universally-recognized  ”ills” and “failings” of modern scientific training. That said, while reading the novel may bring back bad memories or make you think about your difficult current situation, it is always helpful to read about others who have shared your experiences and are intimately aware of your current plight. If nothing else, it helps to remind you that you are not alone and perhaps, more importantly you are not crazy!

Enjoy the book and your summer!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting.

 

Publish or Perish: Dealing With the Pressure

Posted in BioBusiness, BioEducation, Career Advice

The “publish or perish” principle of academia is certainly not a new one and is likely as old as scientific research itself. And, while persons who choose scientific research as a career are often motivated by curiosity and the desire to improve the human condition, they soon find out that academic research is highly competitive and oftentimes dominated by overly ambitious and egocentric individuals. I’m sure that most of you have been told that in order to excel your research must be published in the highest impact journal possible.  This, coupled with diminishing research funding can place enormous pressure on individual researchers to gain a competitive edge via less than ethical (and possibly illegal) behavior.

To that point, there was an article in this Sunday’s NY Times that described a postdoc who intentionally sabotaged the efforts of a rising star in a cancer research laboratory at the University of Michigan. While this is only one incident, I do not think that it is the only example of intentional sabotage taking place in academic research laboratories. In fact, this recent incident brings to mind a candid discussion that I had with a prominent academic researcher many years ago.  He confided to me and a colleague that he intentionally sabotaged a fellow postdoc’s work because he did not like his competitor and did not want him to get recognition for a discovery (BTW, this discovery led to a patent that made the researcher a very wealthy person).

There is no doubt that in present times, working in an academic lab can feel like working in a pressure cooker that is about to explode. That said, it is important to realize that you are not alone and that learning coping skills can be helpful in relieving stress and anxiety about future career opportunities and employment.  However, there is never an instance, when cheating, fabricating data or intentionally sabotaging a competitor’s experiments is acceptable.  In fact, any researcher who behaves in this manner ought to be called out, censored and disciplined for their actions.

We are living in uncertain times in which hypocrisy, lies and alternate facts are acceptable to large numbers of people. As scientists, we are responsible for facts and  ”the truth.” Any deviation from this obligation is unacceptable. In the end, people always look to scientists and researchers for answers, solutions and hints of the truth. It is important that we do not succumb to today’s economic and political pressures and continue to be the purveyors of facts and “the truth.”

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!

My Story: Taking the Path Less Traveled

Posted in Career Advice

I had always liked science but by age 10, I had already decided that I wanted to be a veterinarian. However, after seeing the film Ben Hur at age 11—during which two of the main characters who have leprosy are miraculously cured—I fantasized what it might be like to be able to discover cures for infectious diseases. As corny as it may sound, the movie convinced me that my true calling in life wasn’t veterinary medicine but microbiology. Nevertheless, I attended Cornell University as a pre-veterinary medicine undergraduate with a dual major in animal science and microbiology. During my senior year at Cornell, Dr. Brooks Naylor, my food microbiology professor at the time, invited me to do a senior research project in his laboratory. After several weeks in the laboratory I was hooked and knew that graduate school and not veterinary medicine was in my future.

I entered graduate school in 1974 and did my PhD work in Bob Deibel’s laboratory in the Department of Bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying the pathogenesis of Salmonella gastroenteritis. Because Bob was Chairman of the Department and a food microbiology consultant, he wasn’t around much. This forced me to become self reliant and an independent investigator very early in my scientific career. Interestingly, when I started graduate school, my goal was to earn a PhD degree and teach microbiology at a small liberal arts college.  However, after three years at Wisconsin, I decided to eschew a career as a science educator in favor of becoming a tenure track faculty member at a prestigious research institution.

I received my PhD degree in 1981 and chose to do a postdoctoral fellowship with Stephen Morse in the Department of Microbiology at Oregon Health Sciences University where I investigated the pathogenesis of Neisseria gonorrhoeae the causative agent of gonorrhea. After two years in Stephen’s lab, I realized that the field of molecular biology had finally taken off and I needed to develop molecular biological skills to compete for my coveted tenure track faculty position. In 1984, I joined Howard Shuman’s laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Microbiology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York City where I studied the molecular pathogenesis of Legionella pneumophila, the causative agent of Legionnaires Disease.

In 1987, after spending three more years as a postdoctoral fellow, my newly acquired molecular biology training coupled with a respectable publication record helped me to land a tenure track faculty position in the Department of Microbiology at the University Of Miami School Of Medicine. I spent the next seven years feverishly doing laboratory research, teaching medical and graduate students, publishing papers and mainly writing grants to establish an independent research program on the role of lipopolysaccharide in the molecular pathogenesis of Legionella pneumophila. While I was a productive researcher, who regularly published and was recognized on several occasions for teaching excellence, I failed to consistently win grant support to run my laboratory. Consequently, in 1994, I was denied tenure and forced to leave academia—an emotionally devastating event that that ended a life-long dream of becoming a world class research scientist.

Luckily, at that time, the American biotechnology industry had finally hit its stride and I landed a job as a scientist at a New Jersey-based biotechnology company where I managed an antibacterial drug discovery program. My time in industry—which lasted only two years—provided me with a firm understanding of the business side of science and perhaps, more importantly, convinced me that industrial research wasn’t for me. This, coupled with a yearning desire to teach again, prompted me to successfully apply for a job as Chairperson of Biology at a local community college. While a good idea at the time, I quickly realized that while I still loved to teach, administration wasn’t my strong suit and I left the community college job after a year.

Unfortunately, by 1998, I had effectively exhausted most traditional career options for scientists with PhD degrees and I desperately needed a job—mainly because I had a wife and three young children to support. Fortunately, while working at the community college, I successfully helped several professional recruiters place new hires into jobs at biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. This prompted me to seriously consider professional recruiting as a career option and in early 1999 I landed a job as a recruiter at a local recruiting firm.  As a new hire I had to attend recruiter school for six weeks. Surprisingly, this training would prove to play a pivotal role in many subsequent decisions that ultimately helped to shape my career.

After three successful years as professional recruiter, an Australian biotechnology company recruited and hired me as a science and business consultant to help guide their antibacterial drug discovery program. The new job led to an almost four year stint as an independent management consultant advising private and publicly-traded biotechnology companies on business, scientific and financial matters.  Also during this time, I decided to indulge my own entrepreneurial fantasies and in 2001 I founded BioInsights Inc (www.bioinsights.com), a bioscience education and training company. In 2003, Abe Abuchowski and I founded Prolong Pharmaceuticals (www.prolongpharmaceuticals.com) a drug delivery company with two drugs in early stage clinical development. Unfortunately, the rigorous demands of running BioInsights and starting Prolong ultimately led to the demise of my consulting practice and by 2004 I was forced to consider another career move.

Luckily, in 2002, I had begun to write for several biotechnology industry trade publications. Although I wasn’t getting paid to write, it enabled me to hone and polish my writing skills. In late 2004, a medical communications expert who I knew suggested that I take a stab at medical writing. At the time, I didn’t know much about medical writing but I quickly learned that it pays well and medical writers are always in demand. I took her advice and landed my first medical writing job in 2005. Since then, I have worked at a variety of medical communications agencies and pharmaceutical companies preparing manuscripts, posters, slide presentations and other work. Currently, I am freelance science and medical writer, blogger (www.biojobsblog.com) and social media enthusiast who, along with Dr. Vincent Racaniello started an online social network site for bioscientists called BioCrowd (www.biocrowd.com). Also, my colleague Mike Dudley and I recently launched a medical devices company called Artemes Technologies Inc. (www.artemestechnologies.com) that is developing a novel drug delivery device for lyophilized protein-based drugs.

Unlike most scientists, my career path has taken many unexpected twists and turns. I never intended it to be as convoluted as it has turned out to be. Nevertheless, I believe that my unusual career trajectory has transformed me into a more well-rounded scientist than I would have been if I had been able to pursue my intended academic career. In retrospect, I attribute my career successes to solid problem solving skills, an unrelenting desire to continue to learn and an unwavering choice to take risks. Finally, and perhaps most important, I learned that there is no right or wrong career path in the life sciences—only the one that you choose for yourself!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!

 

Workplace Politics

Posted in Career Advice

Many years ago when I first started BioJobBlog I wrote a few posts about workplace politics warning job seekers to beware.  While workplace politics are still with us, they have been amplified by the growth of social media and willingness of employees to express their personal opinions all over the Internet.

In the old days before electronic communication it took a while for office politics, comments and the like to bubble their way to the top and cause problems. And,if you were astute at playing the so-called game, it was easy to talk privately and be reasonably assured that your “friends” and colleagues who heard you would likely keep the things you said under wraps and not share them with others; particularly those who may have some control over whether or not you are gainfully employed. Today, you not only have to know how to strategically play the game, you also need to keep your opinions to yourself– if you don’t want them immediately posted to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, You Tube etc.

I think Alexandra Levit a well known workplace author, consultant and speaker offered some great advice about office politics when she suggested:

 ”… to generally steer clear of talking about anything you wouldn’t discuss with your religious officiant or grandmother – namely, sex, drugs, and politics. Unless you have a very specific type of job, these subjects shouldn’t be relevant, and by bringing them up you have a better chance of hurting your reputation than helping it.”

I also recommend not publicly criticizing your boss, colleagues or even politicians. Finally, do not say anything critical, negative or pejorative about anybody you work with in e-mail or text conversations.because these things are immortal and will outlive you and your time at a company or organization!

Until next time…

Good luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!

 

Tales and Musings From A Life Sciences Job Seeker: The PhD Industry Career Gap

Posted in Career Advice

Ryan Raver, PhD author of the Grad Student Way blog and formerly of the University of Wisconsin_Madison (my alma mater) posted a piece on his blog about his personal discoveries and revelations about searching for an industrial life sciences jobs.  In my opinion, Ryan’s piece is one of the best that I have read to date that provides a reality-based road map for recently-minted PhDs who want to eschew a postdoc and enter the life sciences industry (he is now working for Sigma in St. Louis, MO)

Ryan has allowed me to reproduce his brilliant piece on BioJobBlog.  Also, I recommend that you visit his blog which is choc full of great ideas and strategies for graduate students considering careers outside of academia.

5 Ways to Gain Valuable Skills Outside of Your Academic Training

November 14, 2013 by 

The PhD Industry Career Gap

We already know that the PhD Market is saturated, and articles that “promote awareness” or point out the PhD-Industry Gap are a dime a dozen. What’s missing from the equation are the solutions.  The reality is that the first job that you obtain directly out of graduate school is the most crucial. It is also the most difficult. Therefore you need to be aware of all of your possible options.

The odds are against you. You look like a science person. You want to go into industry but they look at you as an academic with only one marketable skill: bench science.

The doom and gloom articles aren’t going to help you get anywhere. And frankly, I think we are all just tired of reading them.  Many experienced working professionals are aware of what the market looks like, but as long as they are employed, who wants to think about what they could have faced?

The newly minted PhD is experiencing the hardships right now and searching for answers. The reality is that many just don’t know how to provide real practical solutions and the attitude is that “hard work” will get you to where you need to be. And it’s “good luck” to you because you are entirely on your own.

If you could rewind and go back a few years maybe you wish you knew all this sooner rather than later. Maybe you finally decided to join the 85% club and face reality (only 15% will land a tenure-track position within 5 years). But you need to put the past behind you and move on.

The bottom line is that if you have the right personality, drive, leadership, and strong interpersonal skills and the ability to work well in a team environment, then breaking into a field of your choice is very feasible. You just need the know-how. This ‘right personality’ will be valuable as you work in a team and develop your needed skill set(s) that will carry with you into your future career. Although there is a glut of capable job seekers, do not let this discourage you.

Before we dive deeper, you need to understand that there is no set career path, and everyone’s career path is UNIQUE. Many working professionals stumble into their current career path by accident, chance, change of interests/goals, life situation, or series of occurrences. But hopefully with the advice given, you will find your calling.

If you ask, let’s say an experienced manager in industry, how they got to where they are today-many will tell you that they did not plan on jumping into their field directly from their PhD. That’s because the majority of PhDs don’t really do any career planning. You’ll jump into the postdoc only to leave after you spent X amount of years figuring out what you truly want to do. During graduate school, the focus is on getting the PhD and the attitude is that things will just unfold and work themselves out. This can continue throughout the postdoc position(s).

There is a sense of entitlement among PhD’s. Their ego takes ahold of them. “I worked this hard, therefore I deserve this position or X amount of salary.”  Guess what? You have to pay your dues just like everyone else.  The PhD doesn’t guarantee you the job, and although you may have published a Nature paper, it doesn’t add any value to a company or client (and when you hand your business card to a customer, they see your name, company, your position title, letters next to your name, and nothing else). The real question is can you work well in a team? Can you communicate effectively without putting yourself above others? Once you realize there is a bigger picture than just YOU and how you are just a piece of the puzzle, than you will finally start to see the benefits.  Be someone who under-promises and over-delivers.

There is also a backwards strategy that many PhDs take on during their career search. They focus on the position and match that up to the company. The problem with this is that it takes the focus off how you can add value to a company. It becomes more about you. The point is that if the position that you obtain within the company will add the most value based on your strengths and contributions, then it is the best fit. Therefore, when doing your job searchfocus on the company first, how you can add value, then backtrack to find the correct position. This means you should have multiple roles in mind that play on your strengths and not just one. If you haven’t figured this out yet, here is what you missed earlier.

When it comes to a resume or cover letter, there is too much emphasis placed on these two items. They are simply a tool to get you an interview and nothing else. Once you reach that interview stage, you need to get over what is written on your resume and focus on the value that you can add to a company. Not brag about what you did with your thesis work. No one really cares to hear about your thesis anymore.  A PhD is a training program to help you develop as a scientist and launch your career.

If you are banging your head against the wall that’s probably because you aren’t doing it right. Or you just lack the marketable skills to crossover (which is discussed later in this article). Or it could be a combination of both.

To quote Donald Asher who is author of Cracking the Hidden Job Market, “You get a job by talking to people: You don’t get a job by having a great resume, a good interview look, a firm handshake, or a solid education. You get a job because you get in front of somebody and they decide to add you to the payroll. Most job seekers look for jobs by talking to computer software. It’s faster to talk to people. People are more likely to pass you along than computers are. Computers are picky. People are helpful.”

You can beat the odds. Frankly, you have to beat the odds.

“The United States quit creating jobs more than a decade ago. Then the Great Recession hit, which I date from September 14, 2008, when Lehman Brothers failed. This smacked down workers even more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 1999 and 2009 the U.S. economy created only 121,000 new jobs, a growth rate of .01 percent/year. A decade to create 121,000 net new jobs! It takes 125,000 new jobs per month  to keep up with the population growth alone. It will take considerable time to create enough jobs to absorb the 30 million people who are unemployed, underemployed, or discouraged and off the market.”

The economy is exacerbating anxieties. A survey done in 2012 in Nature shows the concerns of many scientists around the world as the global recession squeezes research budgets. The shortfall in grant funding is nothing new, but many will soon realize that industry offers many attractive ‘alternative’ career options.  On the bright side, the unemployment rate for PhD’s is below 4%. But getting a PhD doesn’t mean that you are immune to economic hardships or the struggles of finding a job.

Half of PhD candidates in the life science and engineering field still requireseven years or more to complete their degree. If you have invested all this time and have decided to finish, don’t you want to see a return on your investment without ‘giving up’ even more years of your life? In other words, if you don’t plan on staying in academia, why are you spending 5+ years as a postdoc?

So the question becomes, how can you beat the odds? What can you do NOW as a PhD student or postdoc that will give you the marketable skills to crossover? And when you gain these marketable skills, how can you couple this with NETWORKING so that you are tapping into the “hidden job market”?

Solutions to Beat The Odds

Now that you are aware of the problems and what you will be faced with or are going through, there needs to be solutions that give you an edge.

If you haven’t already, make sure you read the article: “The missing piece to changing the university culture.” The biggest challenge that we are faced with today as PhD students is a culture change:

70% of life science PhDs pursue a postdoc after graduation (based on 2010 data) which means that PhDs are unsure of their careers and/or unequipped for a nonacademic career. 40% of graduate students are indifferent or unsatisfied with their graduate school experience. Current PhD programs will continue to train primarily for an academic career. But this is a ‘false hope,’ and you may be in your mid-30’s until you’ve come to realize this and decided to make a change. It is time that Universities, faculty, and professors stop looking the other way when it comes to fixing the problem.

The Biotechnology and Life Science Advising (BALSA) group was founded in 2010 by a group of dissatisfied postdocs and graduate students. The result is that through their collaborative efforts, they have developed a model where post-docs and graduate students work with startups in the form of 6 to 8 week consulting projects. The result? BALSA has worked with 37 companies and 53 projects. Graduate students and postdocs are coming out with real world business experience.

Even researchers with NO prior business knowledge are making valuable contributions to both early and late stage companies. As a PhD student or postdoc, you are trained to analyze and think critically. The best part is that BALSA’s partnership with Washington University in Saint Louis and the Office of Technology Management has provided Universities and Principal Investigators as a means to commercialize their work.

Although BALSA’s efforts look promising, we are still left with the question as to whether these efforts can be expanded on a national level. Also, are they sustainable? Will Universities and Professors push more for the adoption of these efforts? Only time will tell.

The bottom line is that you aren’t going to sit around and wait for BALSA to come along to your University. So in the meantime, you have to go create these opportunities on your own. BALSA may give you hands-on experience (via projects) with industry challenges, business concepts, competitive intelligence and market analysis, technology due diligence, regulatory affairs, project management, and licensing/business plan development. Does this sound like a checklist of wishful thinking? Well, there is nothing stopping you from gaining some or a combination of these skills and experience during your time as a graduate student/postdoc.

So here are the top 5 solutions to gain valuable skills outside of your academic training and beat the odds once you get your PhD:

1)      Consider Consulting

There are many consulting opportunities available for scientists. These many options span freelance work, working for a consulting firm or even starting your own consulting company. Whichever that may be, I would highly recommend doing freelance consulting work during your PhD. This could shuttle you into a management consulting position upon graduation.

Find a unique skill set that you are good at and offer your services to a company. If you need an example, check out how a graphic illustrator/scientific visual communicator went freelance during and out of graduate school.

Another example is self-taught SEO or social media marketing consulting. Many companies (including start-ups) are blogging and doing digital marketing, and learning the ropes of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. If you are already running a professional blog (all PhD students should!), you have already learned how to effectively run social media and marketing campaigns, and chances are you could do part-time work offering your services. You are also developing your technical writing skills in addition to sharing scientific ideas and making worldwide network contacts.

**Management consulting can be an excellent way to put your analytical and scientific training to use while you develop your business expertise. If you have the passion to innovate, drive change, and help companies be more successful, it might be the career choice for you. You will learn how to lead teams, manage people, and take on challenging and interesting problems. The connections that you make with top business professionals will also open doors to future career opportunities. And, your hard work and efforts could also have a huge impact on the future direction of the company.

Further Reading:

http://www.branchingpoints.com/one-branch-ahead/phd-to-consulting/

http://www.phdcareerguide.com/consulting.html

http://www.phd2consulting.com/

2)      Consider doing a summer internship during your PhD studies or during your postdoc

As mentioned in a previous article, the most practical solution for many is to obtain a paid internship (ideally) during your time in graduate school. Internships are CRUCIAL and I cannot stress enough that graduate students and post-docs should take a summer off (or balance the internship 50% and graduate school 50%) and obtain industry experience. That way you will come out with real-world industry experience and some marketable skills. You need to negotiate and leverage this in any way that you can.

A lot of companies are willing to try you out for a short 3 months. That initial spark will come from their interest in you via informational interviews (see below). Chances are if they like you at the end of the internship, you might also have an offer waiting for you upon graduation at that same company.

The first step to land an internship position is to do informational interviews and start networking. You can read more about informational interviews here. Read: How To Network and Add Value to Yourself and Others to get a good starting point. Just because internship positions aren’t posted doesn’t mean they can’t be created or they don’t exist. Ask around and you’ll be surprised what you will find.

Internships also boost Postdocs’ skills and really add to their marketability. The challenge as any might imagine, is getting your PI to agree.

3)      Consider auditing or taking business classes, participating in workshops, or leading/organizing business events on campus.

If you are a science person, then take a business class and start networking with business professors and MBA students. If not business, find a secondary interest and step out of your comfort zone. Get involved in patent law, tech transfer, computer programming, or entrepreneurial classes. This will come down solely to you and your interests. Many business professors will allow you to sit in their class even if you aren’t taking the class for credit. Entrepreneurial management classes for example, will expose you to writing business plans and doing SWOT analysis, and growing local starts-ups via group projects.

4)      Start a side business, professional blog, develop a product, or find like-minded individuals preferably with an entrepreneurial mindset or business drive.

5)      Network every week. Then network some more.

Step 1: Network to obtain an internship and gain the marketable skills that you need

Step 2: Network to obtain a job post-PhD

Did you catch that? You need to network to create opportunities. Then you network to create more opportunities beyond that. During or after PhD, it doesn’t matter. If you lack marketable skills, you’ll need to network to obtain them or find out what those specific skills are. Even with internship experience under you belt, you will need to network beyond the PhD to land an industry position. Obviously, it is MUCH easier to use the power of networking when you already have the marketable skills to find an industry job versus networking from scratch (i.e. skipping Step 1 and jumping right into Step 2). But whatever stage you are in, it is never too late to start. There is no stopping when it comes to networking and the truth is that it is a lifelong process and requires continual effort.

PhD graduate students and postdocs simply don’t network enough. How can you understand the needs of a company if you don’t speak to people? How can you know the industry, the market, and the customer? Chances are a startup company in your area has a need. What value can you add to fulfill that need?  This ties into #2 above.

There are many more examples. The reality is that it is not impossible to create opportunities, take on an internship, do consulting, and/or run a professional blog during your PhD and come out with a huge leg up upon graduation. Those that do #1-#5 or a combination thereof will stand out from the crowd and will most likely beat out other PhD students who focused on nothing else but getting their degree. Chances are you will land a job in industry and work in a fulfilling career. Gaining the marketable skills to crossover is no easy task, but with hard work, patience, and the right connections anything is possible.

Keep pushing and you will see good things come your way.

Email me with any questions. Future article will be on how to transition into Product Management, Marketing, or Sales.


Further Reading:

Internships Boost Postdocs’ Skills, Worldliness, and Marketability

The PhD Industry Gap

Life after the PhD: Re-Train Your Brain

3 Things PhDs Leaving Academia Should Know About Business

Taking Charge of Your Career

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Seeking!!!!!!!!!

Parity for Women in the Workplace Is Still Lacking

Posted in BioBusiness

Despite the fact that women in the US earn nearly 60 percent of four-year college degrees and make up almost half of the American workforce, women held about 14 percent of senior executive positions at Fortune 500 companies. An even lower percentage of female scientists hold tenure track faculty positions. 

Sadly, the number of female executives hasn’t budged since 2005 nor has there been an increase in appointment of women scientists to tenure track positions. This phenomenon is analyzed in a recent article written by Phyllis Korkki entitled “For Women, Parity IS Still a Subtly Steep Climb.” Experts interviewed in the article contend that the inability of women to reach parity in the workplace can be attributed to “entrenched sexism” in the workplace that is present both sexes. Ms Korkki describes how this plays out in the workplace and how it can be overcome by both men and women. 

The article is a fascinating and insight read: I highly recommend it!!!!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!

 

A Glimpse Into The Lives of Five Successful Women Scientists

Posted in Career Advice

Workplace diversity, whether gender or racial, is critical to the success of any scientific or business venture. Yet, while the number of women entering graduate school in the sciences is now greater than the number of entering male students, tenured male scientists continue to outnumber female scientists at almost every US academic institution. The same is true at most science, technology and engineering companies where the number of male executives and managers far exceeds the number of female ones. Unfortunately, gender inequality in the sciences still exits despite years of concerted efforts to rectify and correct the problem.

With this in mind, Gina Kolata, a well known science writer for the NY Times, published an article in today’s Science Times that showcases five highly regarded and established female scientists who share their insights into what it takes to be a successful scientist in today’s highly competitive world.

Read and learn!

Until next time,

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!

 

The Job Search: Transcending the Transition from Academia to the Real World

Posted in BioJobBuzz

The ever-increasing competition for faculty positions is forcing many graduate students and postdocs to consider careers outside of academia with a likely eye on industrial jobs. Unfortunately, many of these would be industrial scientists lack the appropriate training and qualifications for entry-level jobs at pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. This is because most undergraduate and graduate programs do not offer training to their students in drug development, quality systems and manufacturing. The reasons for this include: 1) lack of well informed and qualified faculty members to initiate and develop specialized curricula on these topics and 2) a belief that job training is the responsibility of prospective employers, not academic researchers. Unless substantive curricular change is made to existing academic programs, the road to employment for many students will continue to be bumpy and fraught with difficulty. 

In contrast with academic research, industrial research is highly regulated and guided by legally-enforceable rules and regulations, e.g., Current Good Laboratory Practices (cGLP), Current Good Clinical Practices (cGCP) and Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP). These rules and guidelines were created by regulatory agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure the development of safe and efficacious products. In recent years, the FDA has begun to enforce these rules and regulations more strictly. As a result, many life sciences companies now require that prospective employees understand cGLP, cGCP and cGMP guidelines and how to apply them in industrial laboratory settings. Because these rules and regulations are specific to industry and relatively unknown in academia, most academically-trained job candidates fail to qualify for these industrial jobs. Finally, over the past five years, there has been a growing emphasize on the importance of so-called "soft skills" e.g., good oral written and communication skills, teamwork, professional behavior, etc. in existing and prospective employees. These skills are increasingly important as life sciences companies grow larger, more diverse, and increasingly multidisciplinary in their approach to drug discovery and development. Unfortunately, few academic programs develop these skills in a systematic way; this failure hinders the ability of students to obtain industrial jobs.

Although the transition from academia to industry can be difficult, students can do several things to improve their odds. First, take advantage of available resources in preparing your resume and learning how to interview for an industrial position. A well written, carefully crafted resume can result in an interview, and a professional interviewing style can increase the likelihood of a job offer. Working with a skilled and well-connected professional recruiter may also increase the probability of securing an industrial job.

Second, many community colleges and several companies now offer specialized training in quality systems, regulatory affairs (cGLP, cGMP and cGCP) and other areas. Finally, there is no better way to get an industrial job than to have previous industrial experience. To get industrial experience, seek out training opportunities that include an industry internship as part of the curriculum. Some biotech and pharmaceutical companies may offer volunteer opportunities,  paid internships and some still have postdoctoral positions available for qualified applicants.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!

Transcending the Transition from Academia to Industry

Posted in BioJobBuzz

It is becoming  increasingly difficult for undergraduate and graduate students to secure entry-level jobs at biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. This is because these students lack the appropriate training and qualifications for entry-level jobs at pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Unfortunately, most undergraduate and graduate programs do not offer training to their students in drug development, quality systems and manufacturing. The is likely due to: 1) lack of well informed and qualified faculty members to initiate and develop specialized curricula on these topics and 2) a belief that job training is the responsibility of prospective employers, not academic researchers. Unless substantive curricular change is made to existing academic programs, the road to employment for many students will continue to be bumpy and fraught with difficulty.

In contrast with academic research, industrial research is highly regulated and guided by legally-enforceable rules and regulations, e.g., Current Good Laboratory Practices (cGLP), Current Good Clinical Practices (cGCP) and Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP). These rules and guidelines were created by regulatory agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure the development of safe and efficacious products. In recent years, the FDA has begun to enforce these rules and regulations more strictly. As a result, many life sciences companies now require that prospective employees understand cGLP, cGCP and cGMP guidelines and how to apply them in industrial laboratory settings. Because these rules and regulations are specific to industry and relatively unknown in academia, most academically-trained job candidates fail to qualify for these industrial jobs. Finally, over the past five years, there has been a growing emphasize on the importance of so-called "soft skills" e.g., good oral written and communication skills, teamwork, professional behavior, etc. in existing and prospective employees. These skills are increasingly important as life sciences companies grow larger, more diverse, and increasingly multidisciplinary in their approach to drug discovery and development.

Unfortunately, few academic programs develop these skills in a systematic way; this failure hinders the ability of students to obtain industrial jobs. Although the transition from academia to industry can be difficult, students can do several things to improve their odds. First, take advantage of available resources in preparing your resume and learning how to interview for an industrial position. A well written, carefully crafted resume can result in an interview, and a professional interviewing style can increase the likelihood of a job offer.

Working with a skilled and well-connected professional recruiter may also increase the probability of securing an industrial job. Second, many community colleges and several companies now offer specialized training in quality systems, regulatory affairs (cGLP, cGMP and cGCP) and other areas.

Finally, there is no better way to get an industrial job than to have previous industrial experience. To get industrial experience, seek out training opportunities that include an industry internship as part of the curriculum. Some biotech and pharmaceutical companies may offer volunteer opportunities, and some have postdoctoral positions.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!

 

Interviewing 101: "What Are Your Greatest Weaknesses?"

Posted in Career Advice

Over the course of a 30 year career and countless interviews, at one time or another I have been invariably asked: “What are your greatest weaknesses?”

The first time I was asked this question (1994) I almost said to the interviewer “Say what!!???!!!” Needless to say, the question took me totally by surprise and although I fumbled my way through the answer, I knew that I had blown it. A job offer never materialized.

The reason the question “through me for a loop” is because nobody had ever asked me that question while I worked in academia. After all, academics are taught to never reveal their weaknesses because that would be tantamount to admitting that they may be fallible which, in turn, may give others a reason to question their data…but I digress!

So, here is the bad news. For those of you seeking industrial and non-academic jobs, I guarantee that you will be asked the weakness question. Typically, it is delivered by Human Resources (HR) representatives who are asked to meet with job candidates during the interview process to go over things like salary, vacation time, benefits etc. However, based on my own experiences over the past few years, more and more non-HR folks seem to be asking the question.

Now, here is the good news; the question is not that difficult to answer if you think about it in advance and prepare a well thought out answer. The goal of the exercise is to identify (or create) a weakness that, if correctly crafted and presented the right way, can actually be perceived as a strength or positive personal trait.

During my “Interviewing Insights and Tips” seminar I usually give participants a few examples of strong weaknesses. Unfortunately, I’ve been using the same examples for the past five years or more and I think many HR professionals may be onto to my “answers. “ Consequently, I think it may be time for all of you smart and creative folks out there to come up with your own weakness.  To help with this, I recommend that you watch the following video.

Addendum: Never, ever tell an interviewer about a REAL or RECOGNIZED weakness, e.g., I don’t like interacting with people or I don’t like being told what to do. This will eliminate any possibility of a job offer. I know that the whole weakness thing may sound silly to many of you, but I can assure you that in the real world it may mean the difference between employment and living with your parents!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!