Get Your Job Search in Gear

Large gearsRecent news reports Exit Disclaimer suggest that the economy is slowly recovering, and that unemployment figures are falling. While this news is hopeful, it may be difficult to hear for those of us currently on the job market.
If you have been searching for a while, or are planning to start searching for a job, there are several methods you can use to increase your chance of being successful. Following are some points outlined in a talk I gave at last year’s NIH Career Symposium in Bethesda.
1. Plan ahead
Trainees often ask about the best time to begin a job search. My answer to that question is always the same: It is never too early to begin searching! According to the Labor Force Statistics for 2009, taken from the Current Population Survey developed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (U.S. Dept. of Labor), the average length of time people have been unemployed—i.e. roughly the length of a job search—is 24.4 weeks, or almost 6 ½ months.
2. Know what you want
It is critical to make a decision on what type(s) of career(s) you are targeting before you search. It is a waste of time to sit in the lab, on your computer, searching endlessly through job listings. It is a far better use of time to visit a career counselor at OITE to conduct some self-assessment and find a career field that suits you. I also strongly encourage you to attend the upcoming NIH Career Symposium on Tuesday, May 18th, from 8:00am – 4:30pm at Natcher Conference Center in Bethesda. Rather than a typical job/employment fair, this is a professional development event with panel discussions and skills workshops that will assist you in the next phase of your career.
3. Create a support network
To assist you throughout the job search process, visit OITE often. Get to know the staff there. Also, consider starting a job search support group with friends or colleagues. In this setting, you can brainstorm ideas with one another, offer encouragement, share job leads or networking events, etc.
4. Use many strategies
Do not limit yourself to using one or two job search strategies. Use a myriad of approaches, as this will increase the likelihood of finding out about job openings. Consider using the following strategies for your search.

  • Network
    • Tap into alumni/ae databases at undergrad and grad (and potentially postdoc) institutions
    • Join professional associations, which often have student/postdoc discount rates
    • Join local networking groups in your area (some resources for this are listed below)
    • Network online, using LinkedIn Exit Disclaimer and other resources. And be sure to complete your profile on LinkedIn—and keep it updated with any changes.
  • Identify specific organizations
    • Be aware of trends in career fields of interest. To do this, use local and national journals linked to your areas of interest.
    • Check broad, sector-based organizations for employer listings by geographic area, such as biotech council sites. (see below for link)
    • Once you have identified specific organizations, apply for jobs directly on their sites. This strategy is more effective than applying on mega-job listing websites.
  • Consider temp to perm
    • Think about applying with several temporary agencies. Working as a temp gives you a chance to check out the organization, and vice-versa.
    • When you apply, ask agencies about their record of temp-to-perm hires. (Listings of some agencies follow below.)
  • Attend local job fairs
    • Check local newspapers and community journals for listings.
  • Consider professional fellowships
  • Contact placement agencies
    • Most agencies assist job seekers with several years of experience – and this may include postdoctoral work.
    • If you do opt to put an application on file with a placement agency, be wary of fees, as these organizations are well compensated by the firms that employ their services and should not be charging you, the candidate.
  • Resume/job listing “banks,” databases, boards
    • Consider the pros and cons to using these mega-sites:
    • Pros: easy to use, free
    • Cons: time drain, one of the least effective job search methods (so don’t spend much time here!)

Here are some final tips for a successful search:

  • Get organized! Create a system to keep track of your search: notebook, online, etc.
  • Use a calendar and set short-term, achievable goals every week
  • Keep in touch with people

And check out the resources below. Best of luck in your search!
DC Job Search Group: Exit Disclaimer
One-Stop Career Centers: Exit Disclaimer
Grant/fellowship listings: Exit Disclaimer
Online networking: Exit Disclaimer, Exit Disclaimer
DC/MD Business journals: Exit Disclaimer, Exit Disclaimer
Tech Council of Maryland Membership Directory: Exit Disclaimer
Temp and Placement Agencies:
Kelly Scientific Resources (Specializes in placing scientific professionals): Exit Disclaimer (Resource for employers and job seekers in chemistry, pharmaceuticals, biotech, and the chemical sciences industry): Exit Disclaimer
Evolution Recruitment Consultants (Provides recruitment services, positions, and candidates for all areas of the biotechnology sector): Exit Disclaimer
Scientific Placement, Inc. (Specializing in recruitment of candidates with commercial product development experience in the microcomputer and commercial software industries): Exit Disclaimer
OneScience (Biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and scientific job listings, career insight, and news): Exit Disclaimer

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