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

Knowing your skill sets and capabilities will be your bargaining chip. Use it to highlight why you think you are worth that much.

Do your background research on what people of a similar profession and level of experience are earning. How much companies are paying depending on the location as these will vary. Often recruiters and employers will use a salary banding which encompasses a wide range of salary as a negotiating tool. Having this information to hand will help set a figure that you expect to earn when you go for interview.

Knowing your worth helps you to market yourself right, i.e. not to overtly and not under market. If you overstate the salary for the level of experience and skills, this will only deter the employer from seeking your skills. The worst part of not knowing your worth often results in under selling yourself. Remember your best chance of earning what you are worth is at the point of first contact with the company.

It’s a collaboration not a fight.

Remember it is a negotiation between you and the company or agency. Therefore, be prepared! Allow some room for manoeuvre. This means you will need to allow some room to go above and below your target. This is because it is not always about the money 😊 think outside the box in case the company won’t budge.

I find that expressing interest in what the role has to offer than the emphasis on money diverts the mindset of “s/he is only interested in the money” to one of “s/he wants to work for us! Try and use the situation to your advantage. Vision beyond the salary.

Be honest about your salary needs.

Contrary to the second point, Be honest. If the money doesn’t meet the need, then don’t just accept it. Be honest and state your requirement and let the chips fall where they may.

  • Don’t be shy, speak up. Speaking up is the only way the company or agency will know of your expectations. Stick to the facts.
  • Be prepared to wait but don’t quit.

You may not get what you desire at the first seating or asking, but do not give up. Be prepared to make amendments where need be that will ensure you get the salary you are asking for. Don’t give up at the first refusal, ask and find out why they refused. Be prepared to work towards your goal.

And from your editor, if you are unsure about where to begin with salary negotiation, why not visit the LinkedIn salary tool to identify what salary you could be earning or what your peers are earning in your sector before your next interview.

About the author – Paul Mutengu is a Senior Process Specialist/Team Leader at PCI Pharma Services in Newport, UK. He currently leads a team of scientists on tech transfer and development of oral solid dosage forms covering various stages of the product development life cycle. He has extensive industry experience where he worked in the area of Formulation Science for many years.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please share. Would you like to share an article in The Hub? We would love to hear from you. Please get in touch – info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com.

 

 

 

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?

Perhaps a career is a linked set of adventures!!!

I can illustrate the point by thinking about my own career – a hotch-potch of roles. I started out in medical research in a hospital, entered the pet food manufacturing industry, then academia for 15 years, and this year, back to the tea industry. Some of the changes were out of my control. The hospital work was a 2 year contract, at other times left to relocate or because I didn’t like the job or the environment.

How has it worked for me?

My adventures have resulted from me grasping opportunities rather than following a set plan.  I think I’m incredibly adaptable to different environments, I love new challenges (and the more challenging the better), and I seek out positive and inspirational people that I want to work with. The downside is having to keep starting again, but so far I haven’t taken a step down the salary ladder.

So maybe we need to think differently.

I think here is where we may have a problem. Colleges and Universities always talk about ‘skills’. This skill. That skill….University degrees and courses are ‘validated’, that is, quality assured by a panel of people, and part of this is reviewing a checklist of skills – literacy, numeracy, transferable and other. My gripe with this is institutions are turning out students that broadly look the same. Employers tell us that graduates quite often aren’t meeting their needs.

What colleges and universities should be celebrating and enhancing are YOUR DIFFERENCES – this is what will make you unique to an employer. Have a think. What are your talents, motivations and values? What is your sense of humour? How do you express yourself artistically or through sports?

In my last two interviews I was asked about how my values align with that of the company. I was unprepared!

Look further than your careers fair.

Careers fairs are either good or bad in my book depending on the dedication of the staff running them. At their worst, you may get a distorted impression of what jobs are out there and things that interest you may be under-represented.

Ask yourself – does your university careers fair reflect all the potential employers in your city or area? Or are there other companies out there, including small ones like social enterprises? I’m not an expert in this area but a 2017 government report highlighted nearly half a million social enterprises in the UK.

See the report here

This work was done to help define what a social enterprise is, and generally they are organisations with a social purpose, that might put back some profit to the wider benefit of society, who operate with clear ethical values.  So being small, they might not readily appear on jobs searches, but I’m sure there are many of them out there that could offer really exciting and worthwhile career opportunities, and they will be well worth investigating. You could approach one offering to collaborate as part of a project? What about writing and asking for a summer internship?

Are we preparing for interviews in the correct way?

I’m not sure I’ve ever been taught how to really keep a decent record of my experiences and talents. Digital tools like LinkedIn are great for capturing who you are and what you’ve done and are becoming the ‘new CV’. I’m a big fan of blogging where you can be more creative with photographs and media. Having all of your experiences / qualifications and attributes to hand is essential for that job application where you’ll then go on to map what you offer to what the role demands. Highlighter pens are a must for this task. You take the job description – highlight the main points and then tailor your application to those points right?

But is this enough? I’ve seen real changes in selection processes in recent years. The use of personality and performance questionnaires are becoming more common which you’ll be invited to complete before the interview. These are quite terrifying I think, but you can do some research on the company supplying the tests and find some mock questions online. On one occasion I paid for temporary access to their online training so that I could practice the questions.

I’ve also experienced a complete contrast where a company requests you write a covering piece about yourself expecting you to be personable and creative. Some companies today are looking for the ‘right person’ first, and may ask about your knowledge much later on. So be prepared for a mad variety of selection processes. The best advice I can give is to be honest and be yourself.

Your portfolio of You!

So what does a portfolio of ‘you’ look like? Yes, keep records of your qualifications and achievements, and do express them as ‘skills’. But what more do you offer? What type of a person will you need to be to jump onto and succeed at the career carousel?

Dr Vivien Rolfe (Writing in a personal capacity) is the Head of Herbal Research at Pukka Herbs and an experienced academic and scientist. She is also internationally recognised as a key expert in Open Education Learning and Resources and has authored many peer reviewed journals and has spoken at many conferences worldwide.  

Many thanks to Dr Rolfe for her contribution to the APH. At APH we are keen to enable the career development of early career professionals worldwide and welcome our readers to send us articles on their experiences or advice for other professionals or students. You can find other career related articles on the hub or visit our career resources pages for more.

  1. Identify and Articulate your skills on your CV (APH Special – click here)
  2. Successful Transition from PhD to Industry by Dr Monika Stuczen (click here for article)
  3. Does International Relocation mean starting your career all over? by Lola Adekanye (click here for article)
  4. How I got my first Graduate Role by Zohra Ashim (Click here for article)
  5. Graduate Employment: The Things you never get told (Click here)

Don’t forget to share and subscribe to our network! If you have an article you would like to share with our readers, please get in touch with us at  info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com.

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.

#NationalInclusionWeek –Inclusion, Diversity and Equity in the Workplace, How are you Performing?

It is hard not to notice globally the topic of race and gender taking centre stage due to recent political  decisions in Europe, the UK and of course the US.  The impact of the politics has and continues to affect professional and work environment e.g. the uncertainty around #brexit and research, job mobility between the EU and the UK, #Charlottesville and the after-effects  etc.

What might have gone unnoticed, was that last week was #NationalInclusionWeek in the UK. This is an annual campaign to raise awareness of the importance of inclusion in the workplace and the benefits of an inclusive and diverse workforce to business growth.

What is #Inclusivity and why is this important?

“Inclusion” in itself as a term is self-explanatory and is “about making sure that people feel valued, respected, listened to and able to challenge. It’s about recognising and valuing the differences we each bring to the workplace and creating an environment where everyone has equal access to opportunities and resources and can contribute to the organisations success.”

Sounds easy doesn’t it? That should be the minimum expectation in any workplace however the reality is different. In all aspects of professional engagement: workplace, research and governance etc. there are several identified barriers to inclusion (NIHR)

  • Cultural and institutional barriers
  • Attitudes and beliefs
  • Emotional and psychological barriers
  • Issues of mental capacity
  • Financial barriers

In the educational sector, inclusion is also a key problem with some barriers more deep-rooted e.g.

  • Physical barriers and accessibility still remains a major barrier in the UK and beyond. Students with learning and physical disability are less likely to access education and resources due to unavailable ramps, doors and well trained personnel.
  • Curricula is a key barrier to inclusion as closed or region-centric curricula does not cater for students from diverse background. In the UK, the National Union of Students (NUS) has started a campaign “Why is my curriculum white?”  aimed at challenging what had been identified as a non-diverse curriculum as a means of shining a light at the lack of diversity in education in the UK.

Overcoming the barriers of inclusivity is undoubtedly not a straight-forward process however there are suggestions to how to achieve this. The NIHR paper on diversity and inclusion in research highlighted three key ways that these barriers can be overcome through:

  • Organisational policies and procedures
  • Flexible ways of working
  • Innovative ways of working

Are there benefits to inclusion?

The evidence suggests that inclusivity and diversity are important in developing a richer culture in the workplace and very important, organisational growth. A recent report by the worldwide management consulting firm McKinsey & Company in 2015 showed that companies in the top quartile with gender diversity were 15% more likely to have financial returns above the industry means and where the ethnic and racial diversity were in the top quartile, the figures were around 35%.

Other benefits of inclusion include

  • Diversity of thought
  • Wider reach and wider network
  • More innovation

For more about the benefits, see the Forbes article here

Personal views

In the years I have been actively involved with the issue of diversity and now inclusivity, I have found that this conversation is often viewed through many lenses and it is important to engage with these different viewpoints however what should not be lost is that diversity/inclusion/equity for all should be a human right for all and the ethos of any good organisation should embody that.

Here are some lessons I have learned that might be of benefit for organisations interested in supporting and developing a diverse and inclusive workforce

  • Inclusion cannot be achieved without “Intentional” initiatives and thorough policy review. A lot of organisations attempt to address diversity without evaluating the impact of historical policies on promoting exclusion.
  • Inclusion, diversity, equity is not about deficit. It is about “It is about valuing all individuals, giving equal access and opportunity to all and removing discrimination and other barriers to involvement.” keystoinclusion.co.uk
  • The message of inclusion needs to start early e. children and young people need to be taught to embrace, welcome and respect the views of others and the abilities of the “different” others. In organisations or departments where diversity is lacking issues such as bullying, harassment and gang-mentality in the workplace are very likely.
  • One of the surprising threats to inclusion and diversity is fear! You are more likely to exclude others when you have “doubts”, feeling of “uncertainty”, questions about whether others will “fit in”. To achieve inclusion, organisations need to have bold and emotionally strong leaders.
  • Finally, leadership is an important drive of inclusion. Leaders need to understand the value and importance of inclusivity and to be champions of inclusion and diversity as it is very difficult to achieve without that.

A recent example of a leader using his platform to engage the conversation and promote the discourse was seen last week when Lt General Jay Silveria superintendent of the Air Force Academy addressed 4,000 air force cadets saying “What I wanted the cadets to see…I wanted them to see all of them as an institution protecting these values…I wanted to have a direct conversation with them about the power of diversity, about the power of our make-up. …we need those diverse ideas and that’s the message I wanted them to hear”.

The video of his address has gone viral and whilst the army operates differently from other organisations, the speech/initiative by gen Silveria has not gone unnoticed and shows there is mileage in taking a stand as a leader and it is possible for leaders to lead from the front on the issues of diversity and inclusion.

Is your employer  inclusive or diverse, or are you a new employer interested in developing a diverse workforce, you might find this simple checklist useful. See full article here

Simple checklist for inclusivity
http://diversityintheworkplace.ca

To my knowledge, the #NationalInclusionWeek went almost unnoticed across many organisations in the UK. Did your organisation celebrate or put on an event last week to celebrate inclusion? Do share with us! To find out about organisations who are participating in this campaign, see the link here

You can also read

 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. 

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About the writer – Emmanuel is an academic, scientist and regular blogger. He has a PhD in Microbiology and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK). He is actively involved in supporting, developing diversity initiatives at organisational level and is keen to support local, national and global initiatives to encourage inclusivity.  For more about Emmanuel, visit the about us page here.

 

 

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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