PhD Candidate? Develop a Career Plan or Stack Shelves…

After several conversations with some  PhD students recently, I was struck by one common thread, the lack of awareness or astuteness in planning or developing their own careers and lack of confidence in seeking help. Note, in this article, I use candidate and student interchangeably!

PHD labourSo why this article?

Many PhD students whilst studying for a higher degree approach their careers in a manner no different from undergraduate (UG) students i.e. they typically wait to the end of the PhD and then panic stations which manifests itself in last minute CVs, poor application outcomes and pressure to make career choices.  With a PhD comes high expectations and sadly poor post-PhD career outcomes. Thus, it is imperative that PhD candidates understand the importance of the PhD.

As a PhD candidate, you need to view your project as a form of Project Management – think about it, you are given an idea or a project, you investigate challenges around the idea, often work with different stakeholders (sponsors, supervisors, other students, graduate school, community, peers at conferences etc.), proffer solutions and produce a report which you are expected to and usually defend to an expert committee.

Salary Negotiation 101 – Are You Ready for Your Next Interview?

Editor’s note – Over a decade ago I was at an interview and got asked the question “how much would you like us to pay you?”. This question came in halfway through a deep dialogue about technical issues and to be honest, I choked. I had come in for one interview and ended up with three (I’ll share another day!). Although I thought, I had been prepared for this question, I had not been as prepared as I should have been. As a result, I felt I didn’t do myself justice. In my conversations with many students, graduates and early-career professionals, it is evident many are unprepared for this question before and after interviews. In today’s article, Mr Paul Mutengu (PM), shares some pointers on what to be aware of with regard negotiating salaries. Enjoy reading – EA

Negotiating salaries are not the easiest of conversations to hold yet so crucial to ensuring we earn what we are worth. Everybody’s experience and approach will differ, but some principles apply, and these tips might help you as a guide – PM

Know your worth

On the Career Carousel – Rethinking your Career Plans

We are all aspiring professionals seeking that awesome and exciting career. But what does it mean to have a career? Are we thinking about it in the right way?

I see my career as a fair ground ride – at times a carousel with its inevitable ups and downs, but also at times a roller-coaster ride with unexpected turns and maybe even complete changes in direction.

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Carousel – Image Source: pixabay.com

What is a career?

When we are leaving college or university we think of that “dream job”, what career will I have? We’ll enter our first job, which might be a short-term contract and we have to leave, or we might take the decision that it isn’t for us. Therefore, isn’t it more sensible to think of a career not as that perfect, dreamy route to retirement 40 years hence, but that roller-coaster ride where we need to stay alert to negotiate it?

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.

Uncertain what to do next? – Career Options for Life Science Graduates

Science and education iconsWondered what to do after completing a degree in the Life Sciences? Have you considered the variety of opportunities available for you after you graduate? Over the next weeks, we will showcase a range of career options open to graduates of different disciplines with guest posts from professionals in some of the sectors. However, as scientists, we will start with some of common and not-so-common career options available to life sciences graduates and in some cases to non–graduates interested in working in the life sciences.

Teaching – Teaching remains one of the oldest and long standing professions. Be it primary or secondary school teaching, we have come across many people who have commented on how exciting and rewarding teaching can be although like any other career, it comes with its challenges. To work as a teacher in either primary level or high school, you will need patience. If you do not like children, perhaps teaching may not be the best fit for you. There is always a need for teachers with a science background and with the declining number of people taking mathematics, there is a big gap to fill in the STEM subjects. To qualify for a job as a teacher, beyond your degree (2.2 or above), you will need to enrol on a teacher training program. Check out Routes into teaching (UK) for more information. If you would like to teach abroad, do some research on what teaching qualifications you will need.

Lecturing – To work as a University or College Lecturer on the other hand, the minimum requirement is a master’s degree qualification. A lot of Further Education institutions (colleges) accept Masters Degrees and in some cases, you can work as an Associate Lecturer at a University. In the Life Sciences, it can be difficult to get into lecturing in Higher Education without a PhD degree due to the high number of PhD graduates and Post-doctoral researchers in this area. If you feel lecturing is what you would like to do, consider doing a PhD first as you will need it to progress through the ranks. You will also have the opportunity to develop your research profile – which you will find important when supervising students projects and dissertations. If you are currently studying for your PhD and have no interest in postdoctoral research but would like to teach, consider undertaking a postgraduate teaching qualification at your University – usually for free! This qualification is usually called the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Completion of the teaching qualification leads to the professional recognition as Associate Fellow or Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in the UK.

Research – For graduates interested in innovation, development and the technical side of the life sciences, research is a very appealing option. Remember that research is not limited to working in a University laboratory where you can work as a research intern, research assistant or technician. As a Life science graduate, you have a wide variety of options and location where you can be employed to conduct research. This could be in a drug development company, national health research centre such as National Institute of Health Research, NIH (USA), product development companies such as Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Medical Device companies or even SMEs. In these organisations, you can be employed as a Research Scientist and expected to conduct research in different areas. An advantage of a career in the sciences are the specificity of the technical skills and the array of transferable skills you have developed, which means you can work in similar organisations worldwide. For a career in research, a good degree qualification and the ability to demonstrate your laboratory and technical skills are the minimum requirements at entry level.

Sales – Are you a science student or graduate involved in charity events, soliciting donations from other students and academics (a tough crowd to get money from!!), or do you work as a sales person in a clothing store and not sure what to do after your degree? Well you are already developing skills in sales! With a good degree to belt, your communication skills, passion for selling and ability to convince difficult customers, you can embark on a career which could involve selling modern and hi tech diagnostic or scientific technologies to other companies and academic institutions. A career in sales can be very rewarding financially with many added benefits such as bonuses, car allowances etc. Remember that a role in sales will most likely involve travelling, but what’s not to love about travelling eh?

Transition to Medicine –  A life science degree or a background in the life sciences can be a route for those who retain interest in practicing as medical doctors. As an International educational activities adviser, I am often confronted by parents and young students who are particularly interested in a career in medicine but find it difficult securing places on medical degree courses due to limited places and competition. Achieving a first class or 2.1 degree in the life sciences presents another opportunity into medicine either though the standard route (UCAS) or via the four year accelerated graduate entry programme (GEP). Some of the Universities and medical schools in Australia, the UK and Ireland require that you pass the Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) to be considered. Whilst GAMSAT is one of the main routes into GEPs in the UK, the MCAT test is the required test for entry into medicine in the USA. Keep in mind that graduate entry into medicine is not limited to the UK or the USA, although they are preferred options. If you are passionate about getting into Medicine, put your research skills to work and find out what option works best for you.

Business management and Entrepreneurship – Yes, you can! Don’t be alarmed! As a science graduate, one of your career options is definitely in the commercial sector. The analytical skills of science graduates appeals to both scientific and non-scientific organisations. Employers can provide training on aspects of business and business management which as a science graduate, you may not have. Do you have a great idea and want to start your own business? A number of Universities are now embedding entrepreneurial training in their science courses as well as providing support for students who want to transform their ideas into a business.

If this is an area you would like to develop whilst undertaking your degree or as a graduate, why not approach your careers department and ask for advice on what type of training programs or free workshops are available to help you develop business skills. You can also volunteer with business organisations, giving you an opportunity to see their operational challenges and how you can use skills you have developed from your science degree to solve them. To get into the business and commercial sector, you will still be expected to have a good degree (2.2 and above), good communication skills and be willing to take up the challenge of working under pressure in what is usually a fast paced environment!

Have you considered working as a Business Development Executive? in Project Management? as a Proposals Associate? These are opportunities open to science graduates and requires several skills such as excellent communication, initiative, attention to detail, flair for numbers and of course professionalism as well as the ability to work independently and in a team

We hope you have enjoyed reading this article and found it helpful. If so, please like, share and follow! In part II of this article, we will conclude on other career options and pathways for life science graduates, so be on look out. If you would need further advice on how to get into these sectors, do not hesitate to contact us via  email (info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com).

Watch this space for our career profiles, providing information on how to get into different career ‘spaces’ from people who have been successful at doing so. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us @AspProfHub.

Your Job Search – Who you know matters but who knows you matters even more!

Looking for a job can be challenging and an arduous process. It is easy to feel discouraged when things are not working out but please hang in there! In today’s post,  Dr Genevieve Regan, Laboratory Coordinator at the University of the Sciences, Philadelphia,USA shares some strategies for job seekers focusing on the importance of networking.

I should start this with the disclaimer that ‘I am no expert in job searching, career planning, or ladder climbing.’ I am just a person who, after a year of serious searching, has successfully gotten a new position that is better than my previous position and will hopefully lead to better and better things. I can also say that prior to getting my new job,  those qualifications would be all I needed in an author because job searching is gruelling and having gotten a job means something went right for the writer so I would love to hear what they had to say.

In the last 4 months, I applied to 26 jobs, followed up on my application when I could, went to 4 interviews, and got 0 of the jobs I had applied for. My current job came from being in the right person’s mind when a good opportunity became available. Hence my title, “Who you know matters, and who knows you matters even more”.

There are three main points to my networking strategy that I think worked to my advantage. The first is to have a network. You have to think about who you know. I know I lamented, “But I don’t know anyone” but it wasn’t true. I had former classmates and professors, co-workers, and family.

The second point is to have real relationships with these people. I needed to know them but they also needed to know me. Don’t just cold call people and announce you need a job, connect with them. If they are doing the kind of work you are interested in, find out how they got there, find out what interests them about the work, and find out what you can do to help them. Let them know you are looking for work but don’t be demanding about it, give a good picture of your interests and what is going on with yourself. A good relationship needs sharing between both parties.

This leads to the last point; be memorable. People remember people who help them. It doesn’t have to be helping them out with big things, just be a friend or good colleague. Things like sharing an article you think they would like, volunteering to help out on a project or event, or being a sounding board when they need one all can help your relationships.The overriding theme to the strategy would be not to treat it like strategy.  Be the kind of person you would legitimately help to find a job and people will want to help you find a job. They will think of you when they hear of an opportunity the same way you might think of someone else you know when you hear of one. There is an added benefit to my non-strategy strategy. You are connecting with people, and that should be fun. Going for coffee, meeting up at a happy hour, having discussions about topics you both are interested in, these should be fun. In all the job search stress you need fun, so consider it to be part of the process.

If you find networking challenging, you are not alone. Please check out our articles on Networking here and here. If you would like to share an article in The Hub, feel free to contact us @ aspiringprofessionalshub@gmail.com. Follow us on Twitter @AspProfHub.

#UniAdvice – 5 Things you never get told about graduate employment!

5-job-applicationA common theme that arises in our conversations with ‘soon to graduate’ students is that of employment. Whilst graduation is undoubtedly something worth celebrating, that thought of ‘what happens next’ can evoke a range of emotions from excitement to panic! Things are beginning to look up after the global recession in 2008, however, a large proportion of graduates ‘churned’ out every year are now finding that the hardest job for a recent graduate is actually getting that first job. One of the many reasons we started this blog was to empower graduates with knowledge to navigate the often murky waters of graduate employment.

This article is for all graduates, regardless of level of education (A Levels, BTECs, Bachelors, Masters and PhD). In our experience, the more advanced your education, the more challenging it could be when job hunting. This is because while you are becoming more specialist in your knowledge base, you tend to be focusing in one particular area. It’s not all doom and gloom though, before you think of throwing in the towel, we hope this article will be able to provide some advice to help in your job search. These are things while seemingly obvious, we wish someone had told us at some point while studying.

Start early! – While you don’t need to start job hunting in Fresher’s week, how many of us actually thought about how our CV needed to look at graduation whilst undertaking our degree? How many opportunities to enhance our CVs do we miss because it seems like too much work at the time. Activities such as volunteering, being a student representative, starting or running a student society, joining a Learned Society, undertaking an internship, learning a new language, being a peer mentor, writing a blog or research article etc. Begin to stand out from the crowd!

Graduating is only the beginning! – Achieving your degree should be the beginning of your journey as an aspiring professional. As a friend got told after completing his doctoral studies ‘Well done, now it is time to go prove yourself’. I bet many who have gone through this stage would echo the same sentiments following their experiences. So, if you are coming to the end of your bachelors degree, masters, or even PhD, remember this is only just the beginning. So you’ve got a degree? Welcome to a club that includes millions of others…start thinking about what your unique selling points (USP) are!

How hard can it be? – Well, don’t get me wrong, some new graduates succeed in their first attempt at applying for a graduate job. This is not the norm though as most people apply for an incredible number of jobs before they get a reply or are considered for interview.  A point to mention here is that application for and seeking graduate job opportunities is very time consuming. This is something that takes many by surprise. To get a good job, you’ll have to invest a great amount of time and pay a great deal of attention to the job specification and requirements. Future posts will cover techniques to approach job applications such as filling in forms, preparing personal statements and conquering the interview.

But I don’t have a 2:1! – To many graduates, the degree classification is the end point. Well, sorry to burst your bubble. Some graduates believe their chances of a job are limited because they lack the ‘first class’ degrees or ‘distinctions’ at postgraduate level. We’ll do a post (so many things to write…) on ‘Success after a third class degree.’  Whilst educational qualifications are very important; depending on your discipline; they may not be the most important thing.  As a graduate, it is important you identify your unique selling point (USP) as this will determine how you approach prospective employers and job opportunities. Employers are looking for skills, not just what you know but what you can do. This is why getting experience in your field whilst studying is one of the best things that can boost your chances of getting a job when you finish.

 Your inability to articulate your ability can make you a liability

The scatter-gun approach to job application – For anyone reading this article, you might recognise this as your style of job hunting. If you are confused by what we mean by the scatter-gun approach then I’ll explain. Many graduates get frustrated applying for jobs and make the mistake of sending the same CV and covering letter to every job under the sun. It’s like chatting up every guy or girl at a bar using the same chat-up line. You wouldn’t do that would you?  If that is your approach, well, its 2015 so it’s a new year and we won’t judge you this time! On a serious note, it is lazy practice to use the scattergun approach hence the key advice here is to be innovative and adapt your CV, covering letter and profile to suit the specific job(s) you are applying for.

Yes, yes, it’s tough out there and we won’t attempt to suggest otherwise. However, not knowing what one is able to do is more limiting than the paucity of the job market. For example, a lot of biological or medical science graduates generally assume the only jobs available to them are laboratory or hospital based roles, teaching or lecturing or if fortunate within the scientific or pharmaceutical industry. As we addressed in our last article, the skills you have developed are key to your success in the job market and “your job market is only as big as the skills you possess” thus, as a science graduate, you could work in several environments such as media, financial institutions, politics, communications and so on (we will address these specific core areas in subsequent articles). When you identify your transferable skills, you realise that the world can really be your oyster.

It is important that whatever your field of employment, that you start making good contacts as early as possible and Networking. We’ve found that many opportunities come through recommendations, individual and group networks so whatever your current situation, start connecting with others using various media such as LinkedIn, Twitter to develop your professional network.

The time to plan your career is NOW. It is important that you always think about what you can offer rather than what can be offered to you

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