Tips for Finding Employment in Biotechnology
By Samantha Scott
MS in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Toby Beth Freedman, biotechnology recruiter, and esteemed author recently came to Georgetown to speak about the biotechnology field, and how to get your foot in the door. The entire process of looking for a job to accepting a position was covered in a jam-packed hour of detailed insider-information.
Getting Hired Without Work Experience
Though someone about to graduate may not have professional experience, all graduate students possess traits and skills that will be desirable to employers. Dr. Friedman highlighted a few:
- Technical skills. Many biomedical graduate students have rigorous lab classes. The skills learned there should be front and center on your resume.
- A lack of “bad habits.” Without any prior professional experience, a company can mold you into their ideal worker.
- Incredible work ethic. Good work ethic is a characteristic of someone who is coming straight from a graduate program.
- Low cost. It is less costly to hire for an entry-level position, which is always a plus.
Dr. Friedman shared that the vast majority of jobs are given to those who network, who access those routes to a job by the people who control the tolls. Since many don’t know where to start with networking, she gave the audience tips to help everyone get started:
- Attend conferences and workshops – they are filled with people in the industry, working closely with you, watching as you shine.
- Send LinkedIn requests afterward meeting someone (at a conference or elsewhere).
- Become active in professional associations, not just attending meetings, but making sure that your face is seen and that people see that you are capable and willing to work as part of an organization.
- Volunteer at events.
- Perform random acts of kindness. By doing something nice, you open up a line of communication, starting relationships with a fantastic first impression, and meeting random people who might change your career track five or ten years down the road. Contact alumni! You can reach out to Georgetown alumni via LinkedIn or HoyaGateway. You can also ask your career advisers for help in identifying alumni who are working in fields of interest to you. Alumni are more likely to talk to you and employers are more likely to take you when someone from your school has already impressed them.
Search & Apply
Although networking may help your chances, it is still important to conduct your job searches. Dr. Friedman gave an overview of this process as well:
- Find companies that specialize in your area of interest
- Research the companies to learn their goals, views, and values
- Edit your resume and cover letter accordingly
- Submit ASAP! The closer to the job posting date, the better
Attention to detail
Recruiters get thousands of resumes, so Dr. Friedman stressed the importance of proofreading your resumes and cover letters and making sure your resume has white space. Documents that have spelling errors or are too cluttered could be discarded without further review of your experience. Make sure to include key words in your resume that align with skills required for the job, so that your resume can be scanned quickly for essential skills and abilities.
Where to Look
One of the more unique pieces of advice that Dr. Freedman gave was to join or start a startup company. Yes, these jobs have the most risk, but if you are after industry experience, it guaranteed that you would get plenty.
For those looking in the industry, Biotech and Biopharm companies will be the ideal; however, it’s okay if you start out somewhere else. D.C. is rich in government jobs and non-profits. Medical device companies are incredibly stable places of employment, and academia has a comfortable and durable environment. Find what most fits your goals and personality.
LinkedIn is a great place for professional branding. There should be no political posting, and there should be a plethora of keywords so that recruiters can find you, and so those people interested in your growing research interests can see you. One tip for your LinkedIn profile is to post your email address, since recruiters are charged $5 for every LinkedIn job inquiry that they send. The less money they have to spend on you, the better you look.
Throughout your search, Dr. Friedman encouraged us to show enthusiasm. Interviewers want to know that you want the job. Be prepared and do your research before you get to the interview. Ask questions about the company, about the trials that they are running and confirm that you are excited and want to work with them. The process to get a job is long and tiring, but as you gain experience with resumes, interviews, and networking, your confidence and your network will build!