Cannabis Testing Services: A New Alternative Career Opportunity For Life Scientists

Posted in BioJobBuzz, Career Advice

Increased use of medical cannabis, coupled with a growing trend to legalize cannabis for recreational use, has created a niche for companies that offer analytical cannabis testing services.  Not surprisingly, the cannabis testing market is dominated by North American companies with an annual market size of roughly $822 million in 2016 (1).  The size of this market is expected to reach approximately $1.4 billion by 2021 (1).

Typical services offered by cannabis testing companies include:

  • Potency testing
  • Terpene profiling
  • Pesticide screening
  • Residual solvent screening
  • Heavy metal testing
  • Genetic testing
  • Microbial analysis

Most of these analyses involve the use of standard laboratory instruments (and related software packages including 1) liquid chromatography (LC), 2) gas chromatography (GC), 3) mass spectrometry, 4) atomic spectroscopy and 5) automated DNA sequencing/genomic analyses.

While the analytical services offered by these companies may sound esoteric to  lay cannabis audiences, they are very familiar to life scientists with backgrounds in biochemistry, organic chemistry, molecular biology, pharmacology, botany, plant pathology and a host of other life science disciplines.  That said, the rapid growth of the cannabis testing industry has created job opportunities  for life scientists who are trained and skilled in the above mentioned analytical methods.

Industry leaders in cannabis analytical services  who may be looking to hire new employees can be divided into two distinct categories; companies that develop hardware and software to conduct the analyses and companies that actually provide analytical services to clients.  Companies involved in hardware and software development  include:

  1. Agilent Technologies Inc (hardware/software)
  2. Shimadzu Corporation (hardware/software)
  3. PerkinElmer, Inc (hardware/software)
  4. Millipore Sigma (hardware/software)
  5. AB Sciex LLC (hardware/software),
  6. Waters Corporation (hardware/software)
  7. Restek Corporation (hardware/software)

Leading companies that offer analytical services to clients include:

  1. Accelerated Technologies Laboratories Inc (hardware/software)
  2. LabLynx Inc. (hardware/software)
  3. Steep Hill Labs, Inc (analysis)
  4. CannaSafe Analytics (analysis)
  5. Pharm Labs LLC (analysis)
  6. Digipath Labs, Inc (analysis)

Because  the number of traditional life sciences job continue to decline and remain highly competitive, now may be a good time for entry level life life scientists to consider a career shift to the cannabis testing services market. However, do not wait or linger.  This market, like the traditional life sciences job market may be quickly  over subscribed!

References

  1. Cannabis testing market expect to reach $1.4 billion by 2021. http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/cannabis-testing.asp Accessed August 7, 2017

Is Another Degree Necessary After Your PhD?

Posted in Career Advice

There was an interesting article in Science Careers Magazine this week entitled “Should you consider another degree after your PhD.” The article traces the journey of several people who earned PhD degrees in science-related fields who transitioned into new careers including law, regulatory affairs, business development and science writing.

The gist of the article is that if you can afford the costs of earning another degree, it may be worth it for persons with PhD degrees who want to get “out of the lab.” However, based on my own experiences and those of the persons mentioned in the article, most graduate students and postdocs lack the financial resources to enroll in professional degree or certificate programs after completing their PhD programs. Consequently, most of the people showcased in the article were able to leverage unpaid internships and volunteer work into new jobs that paid for additional training or professional degree programs.

I have long posited that obtaining another degree after a PhD degree may not be in a  best interest of PhD degree holders for a variety of reasons. First, as mentioned above, the financial obligations of a degree or certificate program may be too onerous  or unrealistic for graduate students who worked for minimum wage for many years to obtain their PhD degrees; the funds simply are not available. Second, by the time a PhD degree is award and postdoctoral training is completed, most science PhD degree holders are in their mid 30s to early 40s and ,in many cases have families,which may not be conducive to going back to school full time. Also, who wants to be a student for most of their adult lives? Finally, the mere exhaustion and stress associated with spending close to 10 years in a laboratory may discourage even most ambitious individuals from pursuing another degree or certificate. Put simply, there may not be “enough gas left in the tank” to obtain another degree in the hopes of possibly a changing a career trajectory.

Based on my experience as an instructor in a program offered to PhD students and postdocs who had already decided that a research career was not for them, internships, volunteer work and an unrelenting pursuit of an alternate career is probably the best way to navigate a career change. What I observed about all of the students in this program (over 70% of them obtained non-research jobs after completing their PhD degrees with no postdoctoral training) was that they were highly motivated and did whatever was necessary to network and leverage the resources offered to them by the program (which included mixers, invitations to professional meetings, and guest speakers outside of the research world including pharmaceutical executives, venture capitalist, medical writers and clinical study managers) to get “where they wanted to go”.  For example, one student, who was interested in regulatory affairs, went to the dean of her medical school to get the funds necessary to go to a national regulatory affairs meeting rather than attending an annual society meeting to present her research findings. Today, she is a director of regulatory affairs at a major biotechnology company. Another student, wrote reviews for an online financial services company regarding the technology behind various private and publicly traded biotechnology companies as a graduate student, now works for a financial service company as an analyst. Finally, another student who was interested in technology transfer was able to leverage an unpaid internship in his university’s technology transfer office into a full time job (he is now a director of the office).

The bottom line: while obtaining another degree or certificate may better position you for a possible career change, it may not be emotionally or financially possible or likely. That said, rather than fantasizing about what may have been if you simply chose law or medicine or business over a graduate career in science, you best shot at changing the direction of your career may be to identify alternative career options and obtaining the necessary skillsets, qualifications and real life experience to make it a reality, Once you have identified those things, the next step is to devise a financially-viable plan to obtain them and then spend the majority of your waking hours successfully implementing the plan. It won’t be easy but as the old adage goes “if there is a will then there is a way.”

Until next time……

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

 

Wanted: Applicants with Problem Solving Skills

Posted in Career Advice

There was a very interesting article in today’s NY Times Business Section  entitled “Want to Work for Jaguar Land Rover: Start Playing Phone Games that caught my eye. The article stated that the carmaker would be recruiting 5,000 people people this year. To be considered for employment, prospective employees must download an app with a series of puzzles that they must solve.  Those who score well on the app will be able to progress to the interview stage.  While this may be somewhat unique to companies that are looking for engineers and computer personnel, I think the point here is that the ability to solve problems or puzzles is the single most important attribute that any employee must possess if they want to be hire.  To that point, companies like Marriott Hotels, Axa Group, Deloitte, Xerox, The BBC and Daimler Trucks all use playing games and virtual reality to identify potentially-qualified job applicants.

Companies once relied on job fairs and advertising to court prospective applicants but they have been forced to become much more creative in order to identify the technical skills and business savvy they need.  I will use my son, who graduated from college last month as a case in point.

He applied for a job with a non-profit venture firm. The first thing they asked him to supply was a picture of himself that encapsulated him as a person. After submitting a picture of him and his Cross Country college team after a big meet (and making it to the next round) he was sent a hypothetical and given several days to respond.  He spent an entire day on the hypothetical, submitted it and was subsequently told he would not be considered for a face-to-face interview.

What does this all mean?  Based on my years as a career development consultant, these exercises suggest that while college graduates and advanced degree professionals may have met their academic requirements, there is no guarantee that those degrees qualified  them for jobs in “real life”. Although unemployment is at historic lows in the US, it does not mean that employers are not being selective about who they hire. That said, starting an app company that uses artificial intelligence and virtual reality to assess a candidate’s problem solving ability may be a great idea!

Until next time… 

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

Is A PhD Degree Worth It?

Posted in BioEducation

There is no longer any question that it is becoming increasingly difficult for PhD life scientists to find jobs. Further, there is no longer any doubt that the academic system responsible for the current glut of PhD life scientists on the market is broken and needs to be fixed. However, it is important to point out that the decision the get a PhD degree is a very personal one and, in most cases, is not based on the prospect of future long term employment.  In fact, most graduate students and postdoctoral scientists that I have talked to over the past 10 years, don’t think about the need to find a job until they learn that their funding is running out.  The point  is, that just because you have a PhD degree it does not entitle you to a job. Further, looking for a job takes commitment, time and a lot of work and unfortunately some PhD scientists mistakenly  think that the “jobs will/should come to them.”  Put simply, if you aren’t willing to put in the work to find a job, which may mean additional training or a possible career change, then you have nobody to blame but yourself.

In 1974, shortly after I was admitted to the graduate program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I received a congratulatory letter from my soon-to-be PhD adviser. In the letter he made a comment about “the blood, sweat and tears” that are required to earn a PhD degree.  At the time, I was a youthful, ambitious 21 year-old, who thought he could do anything and I had no idea what he was talking about!  Seven painful and often tearful years later, I finally understood what he meant by those words; because I had lived them!  I  have no doubt that many who are reading this post have had similar experiences. However, earning your  PhD degree is only the very beginning of your journey. And, like it or not,  the only thing that a PhD guarantees is that others will call you “doctor”and that you can add the letters “PhD” after your name!

For the past several months I have been following a question on a LinkedIn group that asked: “If you had to do it all over again, would you have still chosen to get your PhD degree”. For me, the answer is an unequivocal YES!  And, like the first time, that decision would not have been based on the notion that there would or should be a job waiting for me at the end of my training.  My decision was a personal one based on my “love of microbiology” not the guarantee of future employment.

So,  to those of you who feel like the system has let you down and that you have been abused, I feel your pain but offer the following. If you wanted a guaranteed job at the end of your training than you ought to have considered a career in medicine, nursing, law, engineering, physical therapy, carpentry, plumbing or any other profession where a license is required to practice. These professionals offer a “service” to people and, in exchange for services rendered, they get paid for their efforts.  Like it or not, laboratory research is a not a service or fee-based industry and consequently has minimal short term personal value to people. And, not surprisingly, the demand for PhD life scientists, well trained or not, is not high.

In closing, nobody said getting a PhD degree was going to be easy. And, as somebody once said to me, “if getting a PhD degree was easy, then everybody would have one!”  That said, be proud that you earned your degree; but the hard work has only just begun!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!

Healthcare and Social Media

Posted in Social Media

I received this infographic from an organization that is promoting a Masters of Public Health program.  It is interesting and I thought I would share it with BioJobBlog readers.
Healthcare and Social Media
Source: Healthcare and Social Media

Until next time…

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

Informational Interviews: Do They Really Work?

Posted in Career Advice

I first heard about informational interviews several years ago at the Annual Biomedical Research for Minority Students (ABRCMS) at which I was reviewing resumes and offering career advice. I asked the student who mentioned the interviews exactly what they are. And, much to my surprise, I learned that the process involved approaching a “professional” to set up a meeting to discuss possible career paths at a company that a jobseeker was interested in.

At first blush, it sounded like a terrific idea to me. Unfortunately, the concept presupposes that jobseekers have done their homework and identified prospective companies that seem “like a fit” for them.

Second, it also presupposes that job candidates have a clear understanding of the duties and responsibilities of career options available at prospective companies. For example, several years ago many scientists who wanted to get out of the laboratory frequently mentioned business development as a possible alternate career options. In response to the question, I always ask “Do you know what business development professionals do on a daily basis and what skill sets are required to be successful at that job? Not surprisingly, the most frequent response to the questions was no!

Further, while corralling a so-called profession at a meeting or conference to chat about possible career options at his/her company or institution is a possibility, asking the same person to take time out from their busy daily schedules to have the same discussion with you becomes increasingly difficult.

Finally, the notion that most professionals want to help others achieve career success is unrealistic and pretty much not the way things work.

As you may have guessed, I am not a big fan of informational interviews. And, I suspect that most professionals who are asked to participate are not either. Nevertheless, these types of interviews are growing in popularity and apparently are de rigueur. That said, the purpose of this post is help folks who participate in informational interviews to manage expectations. To that end; will an informational interview result in the possibility of getting hired at a particular company—probably not. Will it provide jobseekers with valuable new insights and information about possible career choices? Maybe; if you ask the right questions. Will the interview be worth the time that you took out of your day to participate? Possibly, but you don’t know until you try it.

For those of you who may still be interested in informational interviews, I found an article that provides readers with a step-by-step approach to informational interviews (see below)

Open a Door With an Informational Interview

What is an informational interview? An informational interview is a meeting between you and a professional. The purpose is to help define your career options or research a company where you want to work. It is NOT a job interview. Do not expect anyone to make you an offer.
What is my role? You are the interviewer. Prepare plenty of questions to keep the conversation moving.  Include questions about the occupation or business, but ask about other things too: Do they enjoy their work? How do they spend their day? Open-ended questions are best to avoid yes or no answers. See a list of sample informational interview questions.

How do I set one up?

  1. Find people ask everyone you know for potential contacts in a field, company or job that piques your interest.
  2. Make contact Pick up the phone and make contact. Possible phone script:

“Mrs. Smith, Brad Johnson suggested I speak with you. My name is Steven Olson and I am interested in the ________ field. I could use advice from someone who is in this field. Do you have any time this week when I could meet with you? I know you’re busy, so I only need about 15 minutes of your time. I would really like to learn more about your company and the ________ field from someone like you.”

What else should I remember?

  • If meeting in person, dress and act professionally.
  • Make a good impression. This person may provide additional leads or referrals that could lead to a job.
  • Keep it short. Limit your initial interview to 15 to 30 minutes based on how the conversation is going.
  • Feel free to schedule the interview with someone without hiring power. They often know more about day-to-day activities and have more specific information for you.
  • End the interview with an action plan. Ask the interviewee if you can contact him or her again.
  • Remember to send a thank-you note after your interview!

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!!!!!!!!!!

Life Sciences Job Market Outlook: Is the Future Brighter?

Posted in BioEducation, BioJobBuzz

According to a report published in Nature last week, 72% of drug makers surveyed (respondents included company executives and recruiters) intend to boost their research capacity in the next 12 months by hiring scientists, creating partnerships or improving infrastructure.  Further, additional survey results suggested that jobs will grow by 30% among US medical scientists, biochemists and biophysicists by 2020.  While I have not read the entire report, it seems to me that asking company executives (responsible for company growth and maintaining stock share price) and recruiters (who make a living finding difficult to find employees for drug companies) may not provide survey readers with  accurate information that one could use for trend analysis.

Nevertheless, despite the rosy proclamations made in the report, there are a few caveats. First, the 30% increase in hiring by 2020 includes mainly medical scientists (clinical personnel), biophysicists (how many biophysicists are there anyway) and biochemists (are there any really left?).  What about all the molecular biologists, bioinformatics and genomics scientists, physiologists, pharmacologists etc etc?

Second and perhaps most revealing, survey respondents noted that the types of scientists that they want to hire are those who 1) “can develop and manage external partnerships” (translation: business development, marketing, brand managers etc); 2) “know about regulatory science”  and 3) “can manage and analyze big data sets and outcomes research.”  I don’t know about you, but I did not learn any of the above mentioned desirable skills while working on my PhD degree.

Finally, one of the report authors opined that early career scientists looking for employment opportunities need to “think about the entire value chain  that leads to the development of a drug or medical device.”  Really?  First, what is a value chain and second who is going to teach graduate students and postdocs how drugs and devices are developed when nobody at their institution knows how to develop drugs and devices since they work in academia and not industry?  Interestingly, I know many pharmaceutical and biotechnology company employees who don’t really understand the complete drug/device development process because things are done in silos at most drug and devices companies.

The point that I am trying to make, is that nobody can predict what the job market for life sciences professionals will be in 2020.  The best advice that I can give is to develop a career plan, remain flexible and have at least two or three contingency in place!

Until next time,

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

 

 

Its Official: The US Doesn’t Need Any More PhD Life Scientists

Posted in BioJobBuzz, Uncategorized

I have been blogging about the glut of life sciences PhDs in the US for the past five years. Sadly, not many people paid much attention to my claims despite repeated discussions with graduate students, postdocs and even tenured faculty members.  Recently, however, there has been a spate of lay media articles shedding light on this very recent phenomenon (yeah right).

One that caught my attention was written by Jordan Weissmann an associate editor at The Atlantic who also writes for the Washington Post and the National Law Journal.  Although the title “The Ph.D Bust:America’s Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts” was not particularly inspiring, it does contain some very interesting data (provided by the National Science Foundation); and as we scientists know the data are incontrovertible (unless fudged or applied to certain esoteric statistical analyses).

Here are the highlights (unfortunately, lowlights for many of you).

First, the big picture view: employment opportunities for all American PhDs including those graduating from humanities, science, education, and other programs.

The pattern reaching back to 2001 is clear — fewer jobs, more unemployment, and more persons doing post-doc work — especially in the sciences.

Second, let’s take a look at employment rates for life scientists (including biologists, chemists, biomedical engineers etc) upon completion of their graduate training.

Since 1991 the number of PhD scientists who choose to engage in postdoctoral training has hovered around 45% (it just seems like the number should be higher).  Interestingly, the number of PhD scientists who were able to secure jobs at the completion of their training (without doing a postdoc) has dropped from a high of almost 30% in 2006 to roughly 19% in 2011. However, the most telling statistic is that the number of PhD scientists who are unable to find employment after receiving their degrees has skyrocketed from 27% in 2006 to almost 40% in 2011.  These data clearly indicate that there were many fewer job opportunities for PhD life scientists over the past five years.  Yep, I started talking about the life sciences PhD glut five years ago.

Finally, Georgia State University Professor Paula Stephan has broken down NSF data on biology Ph.D.’s five or six years after receiving their degrees.

As many of you may have heard, less than 1 in 6 are in tenure track academic positions. What is must troubling, however, is how low the overall employment rates were for most PhD trained scientists as far back as 2006 (before the recession began and US pharmaceutical companies began laying off hundreds of thousands of employees!)

The Bottom Line: There is a glut of PhD-trained life scientists (duh) and we do not need to mint anymore PhDs: there simply aren’t enough jobs. And supply side economics suggests that the only way to make PhD life scientists more valuable to prospective employers is to reduce their overall number.  Sorry guys, the data do not lie!

Until next time…

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

BioJobBlog Surpasses the 2.0 Million Reader Mark!

Posted in BioEducation

I started BioJobBlog in 2007 primarily as a means for me to express myself about life science careers and issue and challenges confronting the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical devices industry. That said, I never thought that BioJobBlog would ever amount to much; it was simply a vehicle for me to rant and rave about things that were important to me! It is a daunting challenge to begin a blog with no readers and then realize that 5 years later over 2.0 million unique readers have visited to read my thoughts and ideas about a wide breadth of topics.

I want to thank the readers who continue to visit BioJobBlog. And, I hope that what I have written over the past five years has either helped or induced you to think about issues in the life sciences industry. While I have no plans to stop blogging; my schedule is becoming increasingly challenging and I can no longer post articles as frequently as I have in the past. Nevertheless, I will continue do what I can to keep the content at BioJobBlog interesting, fresh and thought-provoking. 

Please feel free to contact me with ideas, thoughts or comments about the blog (or anything else for that matter). 

Thanks for supporting BioJobBlog!

Until next time…

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