5 Tips for Winning Job Search Strategy

By Pearl Freier

Scientists in the midst of a job search today face quite a few challenges: a tight job market with fewer advertised job listings; a high number of industry layoffs, which has resulted in increased availability of candidates with strong work histories and solid academic and technical backgrounds; and a hiring process that can take anywhere from three months to a year. Perhaps the greatest challenge is a more personal one: getting a job search started and taking a more proactive approach in the search. Here are some tips for putting together an effective job search campaign.

Do a self-assessment. What is your vision for yourself? What are your short-term, long-term, and financial goals? Update your job description and resume so that you have a full understanding of your responsibilities and contributions to your employer.

Research potential employers. First, think about the qualities you would value in your next employer, and what you like and don’t like about previous employers. Then, research job descriptions and company profiles in journals such as Science and Nature, magazines such as MIT Technology Review, and Web sites such as Science Careers, Monster.com, Biospace, and Bioview. If you are considering biotech companies, look for companies that have an experienced management team, significant intellectual property, financial resources and investors, and their product pipeline.

Review potential contacts. After compiling a list of potential companies, think about who you might know with connections to these companies. Consider colleagues, alumni connections, and your academic advisor’s contacts. Expand your network by participating in conferences, committee meetings, scientific association meetings, receptions, alumni events, exhibit halls, and job fairs.

Create a marketing kit. Select a system for keeping business cards and contact information organized and accessible. Always carry business cards with you (create consultancy cards if you are a student or currently unemployed). Develop different resumes for different positions so that the appropriate skills are featured as close to the top as possible. Have references available who are willing to speak to future employers on your behalf.

Set milestones. Keep organized and on-track by setting schedules and goals that have beginning and ending dates. Consider keeping a journal and using a contact-management program, similar to what sales and business development professionals use to keep track of “prospects” and follow-up schedules. Establish some major milestones such as having a target list of employers completed by a certain date. Achieving these milestones as close to schedule as possible will bring you closer to reaching your goals and also give you a sense of accomplishment.

Pearl Freier is an executive search consultant with a life sciences practice based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She works with clients ranging from pre-IPO early stage biotechnology companies to Fortune 500 corporations. She presents career and recruiting workshops for groups including the AAAS, the AAPS, and Yale Medical School, and sits on advisory boards for the New England Business and Technology Association and the Massachusetts Staffing Association.