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Waiting for a sign? Well this is it – start your career exploration now

Jan 14, 2022

by Dr. Joanne Kamens

By now, you are probably aware that there’s great value in using your network during a job search. Connections correctly and frequently ask me to forward a resume in response to a posted role. These are highly desirable roles for PhDs and perhaps I know the applicant well enough to even recommend them to the hiring manager or the organization. As always, I’m happy to do this as it is an easy networking win. Unfortunately, by the time I’m asked for this easy favor, it’s usually too late as the job was posted weeks or months earlier.

I know that the hiring manager is probably already sorting through a pile of resumes and phone interviewing is well underway. They aren’t likely to entertain any new resumes unless they strike out on the first batch. Which does happen. So I’ll still send the resume with my recommendations, but I’m a little sad because I knew it was likely too late.

Getting your first, post-academia job takes time. Most graduate students and postdocs have few connections outside academia (this is a related issue – start building your network a lot earlier). Moreover, most science trainees have no idea about the many diverse opportunities that are available so they aren’t familiar with paths to pursue. I posit that it is never too early to start getting a feel for the job market and even for the positions being posted.

Here’s what I hear:

  • “I can’t afford to take time off to explore the job market now”
  • “I can figure out what I want to do after my next set of experiments in 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, whatever…”
  • “One more paper, just one more paper”

No excuses. At least one year before you anticipate wanting a job, you should be checking job boards daily, investigating job requirements and learning the lingo of the field you’re pursuing. It’s never too early to start maintaining a current LinkedIn profile and a resume ready to submit in case you see your dream job listing. Even if a job comes when you are not ready to take it, exploring an opportunity can open doors for the future when you will be ready.

Preferably you have built enough connections to help you get your resume to the desk of a hiring manager and you apply for the dream job(s) in the first few days after the position listing appears. This is your best chance of being considered. Even better, perhaps you learn from a connection that a job is available before it’s even listed so you get your resume in before the rest of the pack. Every application and interview provides more experience for the next one.

Another option to explore what hiring managers are looking for these days and practice your interviewing skills is to register for the free AWIS Virtual Career Fair on February 10. The AWIS Career Center also offers valuable insights into STEM career options and a complimentary resume review service to ensure you are putting your best foot forward. What are you waiting for?

About the author: MASS AWIS founder and an AWIS Director, Dr. Joanne Kamens is Interim Executive Director at the Gloria Cordes Larson Center for Women and Business at Bentley University. Dr. Kamens was trained as a molecular biologist and has had a varied career in academia, pharma, biotech and nonprofit. She founded the AWIS Massachusetts chapter almost two decades ago and has been a staunch activist for diversity and inclusion in STEM. She also has a deep knowledge of STEM careers gained through her own STEM career and mentoring work. She was Executive Director of Addgene for a decade, and in that time she increased the company’s work force, diversity, and employee job satisfaction to the point it won several best place to work and diversity workplace awards during her tenure. She serves as a Director or Advisor to many STEM organizations and is currently the Chair of the Seeding Labs Board of Directors.