Fixing the Disconnect Between Academia and Industrial Life Science Jobs

Posted in BioJobBuzz, Uncategorized

Dave Jensen’s article in a recent edition of Science Careers entitled “Tooling Up: The Big Disconnect” aptly and cogently pointed out why it has become increasingly difficult for academically-trained PhD life scientists to find jobs in the life sciences industry.

Dave is spot on in his assertion that most life science hiring managers engage in what he terms “pinpoint hiring”— a practice in which employees are hired based on their extant skill sets rather than long term scientific potential and possible contribution to the success of a company.  In the good old days before globalization, companies would frequently hire the “best and the brightest”, train them and take the long view that well trained employees will ultimately benefit and add value to their organization.  Unfortunately, those days are long gone. Today’s mantra is “what can you do for me today because there may not be a tomorrow.”

As Dave rightly points out, graduate students and postdocs are simply not being trained to meet the needs and demands of most life science companies.  An essential ingredient that is missing from current training paradigms is a fundamental understanding of the life sciences industry and how it works. Put simply, students who lack a basic understanding of the pharmaceutical/biotechnology drug development processes will find it increasingly difficult to land an industrial job; regardless of the number of Cell, Science and Nature papers or where you may have received your graduate or postdoctoral training.

In his article, Dave asserts that determining (as early a possible) that an industrial career is right for you may be your ticket to success. Unfortunately, while conducting informational interviews and landing a competitive unpaid company internship may be helpful, only small numbers of graduate students and postdocs have the flexibility or access to these activities.  More importantly, most academic researchers engage in basic rather than applied research (which is what life sciences companies are looking for). Consequently, while many students view industry jobs as possible employment opportunities, there simply may not be enough PI or mentors who can help to acquire the applied skill sets demanded by most life sciences hiring managers.

By now, many of you may be thinking: okay we know about the problems how about some practical solutions. So, here goes:

First, there are many online biotechnology courses and certificate-earning biotechnology/pharmaceutical/regulatory affairs course at local community colleges that graduate students and postdocs can take. Yes, I know that you are extremely busy and working 80 hours plus in the lab, but it is your career and nobody else can do if for you. These courses will provide graduate students and postdoc interested in industrial careers with a basic understanding of how the life sciences industry functions. Also, these courses can provide a rich lexicon of industrial jargon—when correctly used in a face-to-face job interview — can make a difference between a job offer or not.

Second, graduate students and postdocs can work together to organize career development symposium, seminars and workshops to obtain a better understanding of the requisite skill sets and training required to improve their competitiveness for industrial jobs.

Third, there are a number of PhD programs that now offer joint degrees in science, business and other disciplines. Choosing to enroll in these programs rather than traditional graduate life sciences programs may be an option for students who already know that an industrial rather than an academic career path is right for them.

Finally, organize and then talk college administration to demand that changes be made to existing graduate training paradigms to improve job preparedness. To that end, it would not be unreasonable to request that alternate career training courses (regulatory affairs, medical writing, project management etc be) be offered to all graduate students and postdocs who may be interested. Also, it may be appropriate (depending upon geographical location of an institution) to request that formal industry-focused company internships are established to allow interested and qualified graduate students and postdocs to participate. And, last, request that all faculty members be required to engage in career development counseling to help them to better understand the job market realities that their graduate students and post docs are currently facing.  While this may sound like an odd request, it is important to remember that tenured professors are guaranteed a “job for life.” Consequently, most of them are not particularly concerned about whether or not their PhD students or postdocs find gainful employment after they leave their laboratories. Sadly, many of them (and perhaps rightly so) believe that finding a job is not their problem but yours!

Until next time…

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

 

 

Managing Troublesome Co-Workers During a Recession

Posted in Career Advice

Everybody who works for a living has to learn how to deal with annoying co-workers who, either directly or indirectly, may have an effect on your career trajectory.  However, we are living in uncertain financial times, when having a job–no matter the circumstances–is more important than personal happiness on a day-to-day basis.  Nevertheless, office politics are a reality regardless of how good or bad the economy is. To that end, managing difficult co-workers is essential if you want to learn how to adroitly deal with workplace politics sand advance your own career. 

I previously came across a well-crafted post that identifies 6 unique, annoying co-worker personality types and offers advice on how to effectively leverage these troublesome personalities to your benefit.  While we are living in financially challenging times, it  doesn’t mean that you are powerless or have no recourse when it comes to annoying and disruptive co-workers who make your daily work day unpleasant or uncomfortable.  I hope your find the following tips useful and use them to make your "time on the job" more pleasant and bearable!

1. The Naysayer. This office dweller delights in shooting down ideas. Even during "blue sky" brainstorming sessions, where all suggestions are to be contemplated with an open mind, the Naysayer immediately pooh-poohs any proposal that challenges the status quo.

The right approach: Because great solutions often rise from diverse opinions, withhold comment — and judgment — until the appropriate time. Moreover, be tactful and constructive when delivering criticism or alternative viewpoints.

2. The Spotlight Stealer. There is definitely an "I" in "team" according to this glory seeker, who tries to take full credit for collaborative efforts and impress higher-ups. This overly ambitious corporate climber never heard a good idea he wouldn’t pass off as his own.

The right approach: Win over the boss and colleagues by being a team player. When receiving kudos, for instance, publicly thank everyone who helped you. "I couldn’t have done it without …" is a savvy phrase to remember.

3. The Buzzwordsmith. Whether speaking or writing, the Buzzwordsmith sacrifices clarity in favor of showcasing an expansive vocabulary of clichéd business terms. This ineffective communicator loves to "utilize" — never just "use" — industry-specific jargon and obscure acronyms that muddle messages. Favorite buzzwords include "synergistic," "actionable," "monetize," and "paradigm shift."

The right approach: Be succinct. Focus on clarity and minimize misunderstandings by favoring direct, concrete statements. If you’re unsure whether the person you are communicating with will understand your message, rephrase it, using "plain English."

4. The Inconsiderate Emailer. Addicted to the "reply all" function, this "cc" supporter clogs colleagues’ already-overflowing inboxes with unnecessary messages. This person also marks less-than-critical emails as "high priority" and sends enormous attachments that crash unwitting recipients’ computers.

The right approach: Break the habit of using email as your default mode of communication, as many conversations are better suited for quick phone calls or in-person discussions. The benefit? The less email you send, the less you’re likely to receive.

5. The Interrupter. The Interrupter has little regard for others’ peace, quiet or concentration. When this person is not entering your work area to request immediate help, the Interrupter is in meetings loudly tapping on a laptop, fielding calls on a cell phone, or initiating off-topic side conversations.

The right approach: Don’t let competing demands and tight deadlines trump basic common courtesy. Simply put, mind your manners to build healthy relationships at work.

6. The Stick in the Mud. This person is all business all of the time. Disapproving of any attempt at levity, the constant killjoy doesn’t have fun at work and doesn’t think anyone else should either.

The right approach: Have a sense of humor and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself once in awhile. A good laugh can help you build rapport, boost morale, and deflate tension when working under stressful situations.

Do you recognize any of your co-workers who fit the bill? Or, perhaps more worrisome, do you fit into any of these categories. Food for thought……..

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting (remember those workplace politics)!!!!!!!!

 

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Office Politics: Handling and Managing Annoying Co-Workers

Posted in Career Advice

Everybody who works for a living has to learn how to deal with annoying co-workers who, either directly or indirectly, may have an effect on your career trajectory. Managing difficult co-workers is essential if you want to learn how to adroitly deal with workplace politics. I came across a well-crafted post that identifies 6 unique, annoying co-worker personality types and offers advice on how to effectively leverage these troublesome personalities to your benefit.

1. The Naysayer. This office dweller delights in shooting down ideas. Even during "blue sky" brainstorming sessions, where all suggestions are to be contemplated with an open mind, the Naysayer immediately pooh-poohs any proposal that challenges the status quo.

The right approach: Because great solutions often rise from diverse opinions, withhold comment — and judgment — until the appropriate time. Moreover, be tactful and constructive when delivering criticism or alternative viewpoints.

2. The Spotlight Stealer. There is definitely an "I" in "team" according to this glory seeker, who tries to take full credit for collaborative efforts and impress higher-ups. This overly ambitious corporate climber never heard a good idea he wouldn’t pass off as his own.

The right approach: Win over the boss and colleagues by being a team player. When receiving kudos, for instance, publicly thank everyone who helped you. "I couldn’t have done it without …" is a savvy phrase to remember.

3. The Buzzwordsmith. Whether speaking or writing, the Buzzwordsmith sacrifices clarity in favor of showcasing an expansive vocabulary of clichéd business terms. This ineffective communicator loves to "utilize" — never just "use" — industry-specific jargon and obscure acronyms that muddle messages. Favorite buzzwords include "synergistic," "actionable," "monetize," and "paradigm shift."

The right approach: Be succinct. Focus on clarity and minimize misunderstandings by favoring direct, concrete statements. If you’re unsure whether the person you are communicating with will understand your message, rephrase it, using "plain English."

4. The Inconsiderate Emailer. Addicted to the "reply all" function, this "cc" supporter clogs colleagues’ already-overflowing inboxes with unnecessary messages. This person also marks less-than-critical emails as "high priority" and sends enormous attachments that crash unwitting recipients’ computers.

The right approach: Break the habit of using email as your default mode of communication, as many conversations are better suited for quick phone calls or in-person discussions. The benefit? The less email you send, the less you’re likely to receive.

5. The Interrupter. The Interrupter has little regard for others’ peace, quiet or concentration. When this person is not entering your work area to request immediate help, the Interrupter is in meetings loudly tapping on a laptop, fielding calls on a cell phone, or initiating off-topic side conversations.

The right approach: Don’t let competing demands and tight deadlines trump basic common courtesy. Simply put, mind your manners to build healthy relationships at work.

6. The Stick in the Mud. This person is all business all of the time. Disapproving of any attempt at levity, the constant killjoy doesn’t have fun at work and doesn’t think anyone else should either.

The right approach: Have a sense of humor and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself once in awhile. A good laugh can help you build rapport, boost morale, and deflate tension when working under stressful situations.

Do you recognize any of your co-workers who fit the bill? Or, perhaps more worrisome, do you fit into any of these categories. Food for thought……..

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting (remember those workplace politics)!!!!!!!!