Career Pathways in Biotech and Pharma: Launch your Career in Industry: Become the Standout Candidate

Recently, I attended a panel Q&A discussion at the American Biomedical Research Conference for Minority students (#ABRCMS2017) with speakers from several biopharmaceutical organisations (Biodesix, Genentech and Novartis) sharing their personal experiences as candidates and recruiters and offering advice on how applicants can be standout candidates.

The discussion was aimed at delegates from all aspects of the bio and medical sciences and included undergraduate, postgraduate, post-doctoral candidates and faculty members.

According to the speakers, there is no one size fits all approach to recruitment and attraction of candidates by employers in the biotech sector however, these employers generally are attracted to stand-out attributes and skills.

The panelists included –

Dr Alex Gaither (Novartis),

Dr Garry Pestano (Biodesix),

Jonathan Zarzar ‎(Genentech) and

Pam Leung (Genentech)

The range of the questions were on CV/resume, culture fit, personal branding and interviews. I have collated some of the questions asked in the session and included some of the responses from the panel.  

For advice on writing a great CV, do read our previous post here

ABRCMS
Image source – E. Adukwu

 

Question – Should I provide CV or resume and is there any need for the covering letter?

The employers generally advised that it is important to provide the #CV and #coveringletter when contacting an employer. One of the employers mentioned that if it is relating to an application, the employers would normally indicate what you as a candidate would need to provide e.g. CV and covering letter or completion of an application process.

One bit of advice offered was for candidates to “Build your CV as early as you can” as this should be an ongoing process to remember the activities you have taken part in and a record of the skills gained

Differences between with academia and industry. Are the skills required similar or different?

This is a very common question asked by students and according to the panel, they look at it differently.

“Obviously your record of accomplishment is important but what we really want to know is how much more can you do?”…”When we hire, in our thinking, we are looking for the person a year or two in advance”…”We also want to know that you can last for the years ahead” – Alex

” if you are determined, you can pick whichever path you want to follow and go for it.”- Garry

Can you expand on culture-fit and what it means?

This question was asked because one of the employers had mentioned that sometimes there is a hidden conversation around “culture-fit” in some organisations he had encountered.

“I have worked with some brilliant scientists that are unable to work well in a team”….we really cannot have such people. You need to be able to fit our culture of teamwork, be a team player and be excited about developing the science and pushing the industry/organisation forward….What we want to know is how well you are going to react and move the company mission forward” – Alex

“You get to work with people in other areas and sometimes you might be the only scientist in your team so the skills you need to have are; how to negotiate, get data from others, communication etc… sometimes we do bring in consultants to help transition our culture and help us create values to shape our culture. Culture allows you the opportunity to have a safe space to excel” – Garry

A short presentation about the importance of branding was delivered by Jonathan (Genentech). He talked about the “elevator pitch” but also mentioned the importance of defining the concept of YOUR personal brand and highlight how it can benefit you at the job or workplace.

For articles on elevator pitch and how to use the elevator pitch to land a job, the Forbes article by Nancy Collamer  is a good place to start.

Anything you do not recommend someone talks about with regard to his or her personal brand?

the idea of a personal brand is about “messaging”, “getting yourself through the door…..think about it in terms of aligning yourself to what the company or your contact is looking for” – Jonathan

“we all have a brand; how we dress, how we carry ourselves and how we engage, these are all parts of that brand. It is something you need to pay attention to; it is the eye contact, level of voice, tone etc. Like it or not, we are constantly being watched and assessed by someone.” – Garry

“every single interaction in a professional space is a part of your brand” – Alex

How do you know it is too much information (TMI) in terms of branding?

“don’t talk about money; don’t continuously talk about what you did in the past; do not always revisit where you were especially if you are at an interview – recognise why you are there!” – Alex

“there is a fine boundary on what you should be sharing and maybe what you should not” – Garry

Should I be applying to a company where there is a lot of competition and many applicants?

“if you did not choose not to apply to university or a specific programme even though it was competitive, you should not shy away from applying for a competitive position.” – Garry

“actually attending a meeting or conference already puts you in a competitive space, you are likely to be recognised, and you can make a good impression, which can go a long way” – Alex

Phone and/or video interviews. Any advice?

One of the key suggestions given here was the importance of preparing like you would if you were going to a face-to-face interview.

Also, speak slowly, it is easier to talk on the phone. Also, make sure you do research the company. (Pretty simple!!) – Jonathan

Interviewers tend to ask, what your biggest weakness is. How do you advise applicants to answer this question?

According to the employers, this is a question that can often trip a lot of applicants and candidates however they remarked that it is a question that candidates can be smart about and be creative.

“it is about recognising what you need to work on and telling the employer what you are planning to do to” – Jonathan

“there is no right answer. What I am impressed by is the creativity in those responses. This question can show how you think, your behaviour and also create interesting conversations or further discussions at the interview.” – Garry

How should students explain gaps in work history when applying for jobs?

biotech is looking for more people at the moment so sometimes we do not look at these when we recruit – Jonathan

The other speakers suggested that it is dependent on the circumstances!

Do you accept international applicants for internships? 

“Genentech does accept international interns. We have about 500 interns and constantly looking for the best” – Pam

Quite a fascinating session and lots of great advice I wish I had as a student. The #ABRCMS2017 is a great four-day conference which had over 4000 student delegates from over 350 colleges and presenting in twelve STEM disciplines. You can find out more and see information about the conference, organisers and sponsors by visiting their website here

Hope you enjoyed reading this article. If you would like to discuss any aspects of this article or have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us at info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com.

EAdukwu

About the writer – Emmanuel Adukwu, Ph.D. is an academic, scientist innovator and content writer and co-owner of the aspiring professionals Hub . He has a PhD in Microbiology and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK). For more about Emmanuel, visit the about us page here.

Career Focus – eSports Industry

What do you think of when you hear eSports? If you’re not in the computing or gaming world, maybe not much. In this article, Marcus Clarke from Computer Planet shares some insight into the range of careers options available in the eSports industry? Enjoy!

Climbing the career ladder is no small feat. Luckily, the modern world has created a new industry for jobs within the eSports market. This multi-million dollar  industry revolves around competitive video games that are played online and streamed to thousands of fans internationally. The industry is becoming lucrative and is opening to not only professional gamers and tech-savvy roles, but also for typical career roles in finance, marketing and design.

Getting Into…Neurosurgery

An important part of our mission here in the APH is to demystify the world of work and careers. We often take for granted how difficult it can be to access information about what is required to succeed in a particular discipline.  This is why we routinely interview aspiring professionals and share their personal stories of the steps they took to excel in their careers.  Recently, Amara had the opportunity to interview Dr Andrew Alalade, a neurosurgeon with a subspeciality interest in skull base tumours and discuss his #MyCareerStory of building a successful career in Medicine in the UK as an international medical graduate. 

APH: Please can you tell us about your educational and professional background? 

AA: My  school education started in the United Kingdom but I moved back to Nigeria and studied Medicine at the University of Ibadan. I returned to the UK to work on rotation as a Foundation Year 2 doctor.  My neurosurgical residency training was done in the London North Thames rotation and I had the privilege of training in some of the United Kingdom’s top neuroscience centres. I am a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, England (FRCS SN) and a Fellow of the European Board of Neurosurgical Societies (FEBNS). On completion of my training, I obtained my Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) in July 2016. The CCT confers the title of specialist Neurosurgeon at Consultant level, which gives permission to practise as one in the United Kingdom.

Navigating a #Career as a Makeup Artist – Lessons Learned

It’s near spring and this year has been busy so far but we are very pleased to be back with our readers. In this article, Christelle Pellecuer, expert make-up artist with tremendous experience and high many high profile clients and events across the UK shares her experience as a make-up artist and lessons she learnt along the way 

Did you know? –  In 2015 alone, the beauty industry generated $56.2 billion in the United States, with hair and skincare growing very fast and projected to generate revenues of near $11 billion by 2018.

Christelle was born in Madagascar, raised in South of France and now lives in the UK. Christelle has been working as a makeup artist specialised in the fashion and editorial since 2010. Christelle has worked on many different aspects of the fashion industry including music videos, TV shows, magazine shoots, product launch and fashion shows. Her work has been published in several magazines for example The Resident, a South West London magazine.

#CareerChat – 4 Ways to Kickstart your Productivity in 2017!

productivityHappy New Year! It’s the second week of January and we are;
on our detox diets, #wholefoodchallenge, cringing when we look at our credit card statement, waiting for a treadmill at the gym (give it a few weeks) etc. We are also being bombarded by a plethora of adverts about the latest books, articles, podcasts etc. teaching us how we can lose weight, get a better job, find love etc. in 2017!
In the spirit of our tradition in the Hub of starting every year on a reflective note, I started thinking about how I would like 1 January 2018 to look like. Then I worked back to what I would need to get done in 2017 to ensure I hit my target(s). This ‘Beginning with the end in mind’ exercise was a great reminder that to have different outcomes in 2017, I would need to do things differently. In the words of Maya Angelou, ‘Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better.‘ In this article, I’ll share four things I am determined to do differently in 2017.
1-computernotepad‘Not resolutions but determinations!‘ – I have no problems with making resolutions at the beginning of the New Year because it indicates at least an exercise in reflection! I didn’t make any resolutions this year because sometimes my list of resolutions ends up looking like a wish list. I decided to change my verb from ‘resolve’ to ‘determine.’ If you have a list of resolutions, try adding ‘I am determined to…’ in front of every action. Making it personal is a reminder that we have an important responsibility in ensuring we get the outcomes we want.
How many people start each year with a resolution to find another job? If January 3 was a tough day for you because it took everything to drag yourself out of bed to a job you hate, why not make 2017 the ‘I am determined to get a new job’ year. There is a way using the word ‘determined’ forces one to set realistic goals. Make a list of 3 things you are determined to do this year and set at least two Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound goals underneath them.
For example, for someone determined to start a new job in 2017, some goals could be,
a. Update CV and LinkedIn profile by January 31 2017.
b. Upskill by attending x number of training workshops.
c. Send x number of job applications off each month.

#CareerChat – 7 Steps for preparing your first lecture

corkboard5

This was the statement made by a friend of mine who was invited to deliver her first lecture on an important but sensitive lecture topic. This feeling is not uncommon amongst early career academics. Unlike professionals developing their careers in primary and secondary school teaching who tend to be more prepared having gone through teacher training, for those going into lecturing in academia, your training comes on the job, usually after you have started teaching!  In many cases, after completing a Masters degree or a PhD/postdoc,  you could land your first lecture invitation. So what should you keep in mind if you find yourself in this situation? The handy tips below will give you a good starting point.

STEP ONE – Find the guidebook: The first bit of research you’ll need to do if you are about to teach at University, college or school is the curriculum. At University, this will the course/module specification. Here it will  be important for you to know what the anticipated learning outcomes are for the students within the year group. What type of assessment(s) have been designed for the course? How does the topic you are about to lecture on connect with the learning outcomes and assessment? Do you have the skills to deliver this material?

#CareerChat – 5 Ways to Deal with a Passive-Aggressive Colleague

alone-62253_1280It’s Monday morning and rather than being excited about the start of a new work week, your heart drops because you wonder what is in store for you from a passive-aggressive colleague. Will it be a snarky email, sulking, unreasonable behaviour, not responding to emails or full on aggressive behaviour? In this article, Grace shares some ways to deal with difficult colleagues while keeping your sanity.

Thud! I looked up to see the retreating figure of my colleague as she walked out of the office slamming the door behind her. She had just thrown a pile of paperwork on my desk. Ten minutes later I received an email informing me what she would like me to do with the documents. 
This was not the first time she had acted aggressively towards me and I knew it wouldn’t be the last.  However, this incident proved that things were escalating and  and it was time to do something about it. The strategies I share in this article are based on my personal experience, particularly from the mistakes I made. I hope these steps can help someone else going through a similar experience.