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.


Researchers Beware of Fake Journal and Conference Companies

Posted in BioBusiness, BioJobBuzz, Career Advice

Fake news seems to be de rigueur these days and apparently academia is not immune. In fact, increased competition for grants, publications and exposure may make academic researchers more susceptible to fake journals and dishonest conference organizers.  This is according to an article in today’s New York Times entitled ‘Fake Academe, Looking Much Like the Real Thing’

One of the leading fake purveyors of fake journals and bogus conferences is a Hyderabad, India -based company called OMICS International. I’m sure may BioJobBlog readers have been contacted or solicited by the company to attend a conference or submit a paper to one of its journals. This year, the Federal Trade Commission formally charged OMICs with “deceiving academics and researchers about the nature of its publications and hiding publication fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.”

According to the Times article, fake journals and bogus conference schemes;

…exploit a fundamental weakness of modern higher education: Academics need to publish in order to advance professionally, get better jobs or secure tenure. Even within the halls of respectable academia, the difference between legitimate and fake publications and conferences is far blurrier than scholars would like to admit

Another fake or close to fake organization is a British company called Infonomics Society which publishes 17 journals and organizes conferences. Interestingly, all 17 journals and conference organized by the company are run and managed by a single individual from a modest home in one of London’s outer suburbs. Other companies and several universities that have been scammed by these companies are also mentioned in the article.  

It is becoming increasingly important in the digital age to carefully vet websites and organization you do business with.  While the pressure for grant monies and publication in high impact journals continue to grow, it is important to remember that there are no shortcuts that can be taken to expedite a successful academic career.  The only things that will ensure success are commitment, hard work and some blood sweat and tears.

Until next time…..

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting

Career Advice: Why Social Media Can Make A Difference!

Posted in Articles, Career Advice, Social Media

Back in the old days, I scolded job candidates for having an active social media presence especially those persons who posted party pics or politically-charged comments on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc feeds.  However, the advent of fine-tuned privacy settings,Snapchat (where things go away without leaving much of a digital trace) and a broader understanding of the importance of social media for those entering job market or looking to transition to the next opportunity has changed the role that social media can affect a career.

While I can drone on about it here on my blog, I highly recommend an article that appeared this Sunday’s NY Times business section. The points that the author maker are valid and I recommend that new job candidates and experienced job seekers take a look at it.

Until next time…

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

The State of the Job Market for Recent College Grads

Posted in Career Advice

The U.S economy has been steadily improving for college graduates since the Great Recession. Salaries appear to be rising and the demand for college-level skills is becoming increasingly competitive. These signs are good one for person who have graduated from college or who will be graduating this spring.

Donna Norton just recently published a blog post entitled “The Job Market for Recent Grads: 50+ Promising College Employment Statistics.   It is definitely worth a read for college graduates who are contemplating their next career choice or options.

Until next time….Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!!

Alternate Careers: How To Become a Clinical Research Professional

Posted in BioBusiness, Career Advice

I am often asked about “hot” alternate career paths.  Sadly, even alternate career opportunities for PhD-trained scientists have waned in recent years. However, there is and will continue to be a rising demand for clinical research professionals. This is because life sciences companies are more keenly focused on drug development (which includes human clinical trials) than they are on drug discovery.

The transition from a basic to clinical research career is not an easy one; mainly because clinical research encompasses a wide and diverse range of skills that are often not offered to most graduate students or postdocs during their training.  That said, those of you who are willing to take the plunge should read a great article  entitled Training New Clinical Research Professionals To Work On The Front Line by Eduardo F.  Motti, MD in the July/August 2013 issue of Pharmaceutical Outsourcing Magazine.

Dr. Motti offers an incisive view of the burgeoning clinical research field and the skills sets and training that are required for persons interested in gaining employment in this field.

Until next time…

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

Negotiating a Job Offer

Posted in Career Advice

Because of the challenging job market, I spend most of my time advising jobseekers about ways in which they can improve their chances of landing a face-to-face job interview. However, one of the trickiest parts of the whole job seeking process is negotiating an employment offer if one is extended. And, for whatever reason, there is a lot of anxiety, trepidation and misinformation surrounding the entire job negotiation process. This post provides some insights into negotiating a job offer and debunks some of the urban legends about the negotiation process itself.

One of the more important (perhaps THE MOST important) aspect of the job offer negotiation process is starting salary. While many people tend to downplay its importance, at the end of the day, it is always about money. And, there is no reason why a jobseeker should not try to get the best possible salary from a prospective employer. Therefore, it is incumbent upon jobseekers to gather as much salary intelligence about a possible position before the interview and after an offer is extended. Websites like and, which list salary ranges based on industry and geography, are a great place to start. However, because these are self-reporting websites, a better option may be to talk with employees working at the company that extended the offer or with others who work for its competitors.

An urban legend that I feel compelled to debunk is the notion that a job offer will be rescinded if the person who received the offer dares to ask for higher pay. Companies spend a lot of time, effort and money to get to the point to extend an offer to the “right fit” candidate. The prospect of starting the job search process all over again or settling for the “second best” candidate is usually not a viable option for most employers. For this reason, I advise persons who receive job offers to not immediately accept them (unless of course they fit into the category of “too good to refuse” which admittedly are very rare even in the best of times). In fact, since this is the last time that a jobseeker will be able to negotiate with his/her employer, I highly recommend “getting as much as you can.” However, as my financial adviser and longtime friend once told me, “the bears and the bulls make money, but pigs always get slaughtered!”

Until next time,

Good Luck and Good Negotiating!!!!!!!!

Fed Up at Work? Before You Quit Consider This

Posted in Career Advice

I know it may appear a little odd that I am writing a post about leaving your current job given the state of the US economy and the dismal job market. However, believe it or not, there are folks out there whose skills are in demand who may have grown weary of their current job situations. With this in mind, those of you who may be considering a job change ought to ask a few questions before taking leap.

Are there opportunities for growth at your current company?

If the answer to this question is yes, then it may be prudent to explore these options before deciding to look for new opportunities at other companies. While you may think you have the skills and qualifications to land a new job at another company, word on the street is that it takes anywhere from 6 months to a year for qualified and in-demand employees to secure new positions.

Is the work that you that perform on a daily basis excruciatingly boring?

If the answer to this is yes, then it may be time to consider your options. However, if you are qualified to do the job that you do at your current company then it is likely that doing the same job at a competitor will also be as boring as your current job. To that end, maybe it is time to consider additional training or education to learn new skills a new trade or occupation. There is a saying in the recruiting business about persons who change jobs “Better pay but the same old crap”

How available are jobs for someone with your skills?

The job market is extremely tight right now and pundits believe that it will not improve for several years. Therefore, it is vital to seriously evaluate the number of job openings out there for someone with your skill sets. For example, there are still shortages of nursing and healthcare personnel. If you are a nurse or physician’s assistant, then it may not be a bad idea to look around and see if you can get a better deal at a new company or hospital. If on the other hand, you are a pharmaceutical employee, I would not recommend any job change at the moment. The market is extremely volatile and leaving your current job for a better opportunity at a competitor company may actually put you at risk for layoff. This is because the last hired are usually the first employees that are eliminated during reorganizations and layoffs.

Does your current job impact the quality of your life?

If you are miserable at your current job, it is likely affecting or hindering your performance at work. And despite your best efforts to hide those feelings, it is likely that others are picking them up. Further, if your job is stressful and interfering with your emotional well being it is also likely that you will not be able to perform at your best (especially if you are not sleeping well or the anxiety is interfering with personal relationships).  This is an extremely difficult situation especially if you or your family is counting on your paycheck to make ends meet. However, if your mental or emotional health is in jeopardy, it is time to start looking around for other opportunities. Obviously, do not quit your job until you land a new one. Alternatively, if you are in a good financial place, it may not be a bad idea to go to HR to ask for a “package” or simply give notice (if a package is not an option). Again, do not do this until you have devised a plan to look for a new job. Also, it is imperative that you take a hard look at your finances to insure that you budget is consistent with your job search strategy.

Is your current job what you want to do for the rest of your life?

It is not uncommon for people to work for years in the same profession and then decide that it is no longer for them. Also, many people have lifelong passions that they want to pursue but were either too afraid or not in a financial position to attempt them. If you know that your current job is not consistent with your long term career goals, then it is time to consider your options. Again, this requires a substantial amount of research, thinking and weighing the pros and cons of a career change. One of the best ways to confirm or rule out the possibility of a career change is to chat with people who are already pursuing the careers that you are considering. It is amazing how much you can learn from these people to better inform your decision about a career change. Once you have talked with these folks, researched the degree requirements and skill sets necessary to land jobs in your new career and chatted with your partner, family etc about the impact of the career move on your life then go for it! There is nothing more rewarding then waking up every day and looking forward to going to work because you love what you do!

Until next time…

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

Alternate Career Options: Working For CROs and Biotech Startups

Posted in Career Advice

In today’s tough economy, one of the more challenging things after graduating college or graduate school is finding a job. Many life sciences graduates are beginning to realize that skills and training that they received in college have not adequately prepared them for jobs in the real world. Furthering, “previous industrial experience” is almost always a requirement for most jobs at pharma and biotechnology companies. As many students ask me “How can we get previous industrial experience if nobody will hire us to get that experience?”

While this may appear to be a typical “Catch 22” situation, it is not an insurmountable one A convenient way to acquire the requisite previous industrial experience is to volunteer or land an internship (paid or otherwise) at a small, local life sciences company. Many of these companies can use the help and will gladly give you an opportunity as long as they don’t have to pay you much. These companies conduct research for their pharmaceutical and biotechnology clients and are frequently willing to hire relatively inexperienced but talented scientists into entry level jobs. This is because the demand for well-trained scientists continues to grow at CROs as more and more pharma and biotechnology companies outsource R&D activities and continue to shed jobs.

Another option is to look for entry-level jobs at local start up companies. Typically, most of these companies are venture-backed and have limited financial resources. Consequently, salaries offered by these companies to employees are generally lower than those at CROs, biotech and pharmaceutical companies. Nevertheless, while you may not get paid as much as you expected or like, working as a research scientist at a start up company definitely counts as industry experience and it may help to jump start your career in the life sciences industry.

If you cannot get a job at aCROor a local start up, you can always start your own company! However, while this may sound like an exciting idea, it is probably a good idea get some entrepreneurial training before you take the leap.

Finally, it you cannot land a job at aCRO, a local start up or you are not interested in starting your own company, you can always go back to graduate school (not science related) or professional school. However, if you choose this path, then I highly recommend that you do some research to determine which jobs are likely to be in high demand over the next 5 to 10 years! While going to graduate school may help to defer repaying your undergraduate students loans, you run the risk of incurring more debt and possibly not have a job after you graduate unless you choose your next career option wisely.

Until next time…

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

AbbVie to Fire Hundreds of Sales Reps

Posted in BioBusiness

AbbVie, the prescription drug spinoff of Abbott Laboratories revealed that it will be laying off several hundred cardiovascular sales reps. The fired workers will be a mix of full time sales personnel and contract workers.  The reason: generic encroachment of its cardiovascular drug franchises. Among those drugs is TriCor, which began facing generic competition in November. TriCor, along with related medication Trilipix, generated $1.1 billion in U.S. sales for AbbVie last year.. Niaspan, an extended-release version of a medicine to raise HDL also will face generic competition this year It sold $911 million for AbbVie in 2012

AbbVie is shifting its focus from primary care, such as drugs that treat a patient’s cholesterol, stroke or diabetes, to so-called specialty medications in areas of unmet health needs

AbbVie is jumping on the elimination of sales personnel bandwagon and joins Eli Lilly which late last week announced that it plans to dismiss hundreds of sales reps tomorrow, a spokesman confirms. The cuts may amount to 30 percent of the companywide sales force in its BioMedicines division, which includes the cardiovascular, neuroscience and Men’s health units Likewise, last Fall, NJ-based Bristol-Myers Squibb layed off 480 sales reps.

Based on the events of the past five years, it may not be a good idea to pursue a career as   a PhD-trained life scientist or a pharma sales rep!  Surprisingly, however, there is a growing need for biopharmaceutical/biotechnology sales reps….go figure!

Until next time…

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

Finding A Recruiter Who Is Right For You!

Posted in Career Advice

I am frequently asked by life sciences job seekers about the value of using a recruiter to aid in a job search.  Generally speaking, experienced life sciences job seekers (those with prior industrial experience) are the only individuals who may benefit from working with a recruiter on a job search.  In reality, recruiters tend not to work with more junior job seekers (e.g., graduate students or postdocs) because they lack prior industrial experience and a majority of the searches conducted on behalf of their clients specify that prior experience is an absolute requirement!

Before you begin the exercise of identifying a recruiter you may want to work with, it is important to understand a bit about the recruiting business works.  First, there are two kinds of recruiters–retained or contingency– and both are paid by the  hiring company not the job candidate.  Retained recruiters are paid an upfront fee (retainer) and a hiring fee whereas contingency recruiters are paid ONLY when their candidate is hired.  While hiring fees can vary widely, they are usually 15% to 30% of a candidates total compensation package.  However, in many cases, the hiring fee is a percentage of a candidates base salary rather than the total compensation package (which can include sign on bonuses and other cash incentives).

When searching for a recruiter, the best approach is to get a referral from a friend or colleague or to search Google or LinkedIn for recruitment firms or recruiters.  If you have heard a recruiter’s name mentioned before or read about them in industry publications that is a good sign that he/she is good at what they do and probably can yield positive results. Once you have identified several prospective recruiter candidates, it is a good idea to read their LinkedIn profile (they will all have one) or Google their names to see what has been written or said about them before making a final decision.

In my experience (as a recruiter and job candidate), it is best to work with only one or two recruiters at a time.  If you work with too many recruiters, your CV will be plastered all over the Internet and probably find its way (in duplicate, triplicate etc) onto the desks of every hiring manager in the life sciences industry. When different recruiters submit the CVs of the same candidate, it signals to prospective hiring managers that the job candidate is desperate for a job, over-exposed, under qualified and certainly not worth hiring.

After identifying a recruiter, send your CV along with an introductory note specifying the type of job that you are looking for, the reason(s) why you are looking for a job, whether or not you are willing to relocate and your compensation requirement.  If the recruiter is willing to work with you, he/she will get back in touch with you via the phone to conduct an interview to get to know you.  It is important to be as honest and as upfront with a recruiter as possible regarding your job requirements and professional and personal circumstances.  This information is confidential and it will enable the recruiter to identify job opportunities that may be right for you.  Withholding information will hinder a job search and also may interfere with job offers.

In many instances, recruiters will contact potential job candidates directly either through referrals from colleagues and friends or via your visibility in your field of study.  Ways to improve visibility include: 1) Articles in trade publications; 2)blogs;  3) activity on social media platforms including LInkedIn and Twitter; 4) Attending industry conferences and 5) Giving seminars and participating on panel discussions.

Finally, it is important to establish some ground rules with the recruiter you decide to work with. First, insist on confidentiality.  If a recruiter cannot guarantee this then it is not a good idea to work with them.  Second, demand that the recruiter contact you with each opportunity that he/she finds for you before they officially submit your name and CV to prospective hiring managers.  In other words, they must get you permission before they submit your name as a job candidate. Also, it is a good idea to tell the recruiter not to post your CV to job boards like Monster, Career Builder, SimplyHired etc. This allows you maintain control over your job search and to ensure that you are not over exposed.

Third, it is important to remember that most recruiters are contingency recruiters and because of this, there is a tendency to show your CV to as many hiring managers as possible so that the likelihood of successfully placing a candidate (and get paid for it) increases.

Fourth, good recruiters will initially ask for a copy of your CV to insure that it is properly formatted and constructed in the best way possible to showcase your talents and strengths. In many cases, recruiters will ask you to rewrite or modify the CV to maximize your candidacy for particular job opportunities. In my experience, recruiters who ask for you CV and provide little or no feedback are likely to be the type of recruiter that simply passes your CV  to as many hiring managers as possible with the hope that it may “stick” somewhere. I highly recommend not working with this type of recruiter.

Fifth, it is important to remember that recruiters are not miracle workers. It is true that they may have contacts at certain companies or have long standing relationships with others but at the end of the day it is really about what strengths, talents and skills that job candidates bring to the table.

Finally, working with recruiters is a good way to learn how to build relationships and it can help to expand your professional network and make connections. It is not uncommon for recruiters to contact persons that they have worked with in the past (successfully or unsuccessfully) for recommendations for a particular position that they are working on. And, if that job is one that you may be interested in, you can always tell them that you want to be considered for the opportunity!

Until next time…

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