Job search tips for positions in other career pathways
To prepare for getting a job in any career pathway, you will need to learn more about pathway-specific conventions by reading and talking to people in those careers.
A few examples of career pathway-specific conventions
- For management consulting: Stand out in the application by showing interest in the commercial side of science. Perform well in the interviews by acing the case studies. View resources and tips for applying to management consulting positions and check out resources from Harvard's Graduate Consulting Club.
- For positions in science/medical/grant writing: Be prepared to submit a formal writing sample or previous publications. Emphasize writing and communication skills in your resume and cover letter, and treat all of your application materials as samples of your writing.
- For government jobs: Most government employees work through contractors. The best places to search for contract government positions are Kelly Services, Juju.com, and Leidos. If you find an interesting posting on USA.gov be aware that jobs are posted for only 5 days, so it may be useful to prepare a general application ahead of time that you can quickly tailor to new postings. View resources and websites for applying to jobs in government.
- For more tips specific to government positions see the slides from the "Careers in Government for Biomedical Ph.D.s" event with representatives from the NIH, Dr. Patricia Labosky and Dr. Alison Hall
Find open positions
- Be aware that some career pathways primarily use particular job posting websites. Find out from insiders where it's best to search for your career of interest.
- Your network!
- Apply for jobs that your experience level and skills are a 60-70% match for. Don’t worry if you don’t satisfy all the job requirements, no one is perfect.
Prepare application materials
- Sample application materials can be found here (UCSF) and here (Harvard). Do not copy the wording in these documents. Doing so is considered plagiarism.
- Carefully read and interpret the job description. Ask yourself – am I over-qualified or under-qualified? Save time by honing this skill early in your job search.
- Customize your resume to reflect the job description. Key areas you need to tailor include the Summary and Skills sections.
- Write a compelling cover letter. Specify how your prior experience complements the position, your ability to do the job successfully, and include your motivation for applying to the specific position.
- Ask friends/colleagues/mentors (ideally including someone in the career path you are pursuing) to review your application materials. Send the job description as well to your reviewers, and ask, “Is it clear how my experience and skills fit the expectations for the position?”
- Be bold to get noticed during the job search. Signal to a potential employer that you are a creative problem solver and willing to take risks to achieve success.
- If the position you are applying for no longer requires your specialized scientific research background, be prepared to address/discuss your motivations for pursuing a career direction beyond your and specific transferrable skills you bring to the table for your new career path.
- Submit your application through personal correspondence as well as through the online HR process.
- Identify the likely hiring manager using LinkedIn, Google, and possibly through your connections and address your application to her/him directly. Don't start your cover letter with "To Whom it May Concern."
Phone or Skype interviews
Interviewer’s goal: Select the top candidates for in-person interviews by having a short conversation to confirm the candidate’s qualifications for the job, perceived strength, ability to communicate professionally, and if you would enjoy doing the work
- The interview process often starts with a phone or Skype interview. Prepare for typical questions asked during interviews. You may be asked technical questions and/or behavioral questions.
- Schedule a quiet space with a landline or wired ethernet connection if possible. The GSBS conference room can be reserved by contacting the cBCD.
- Put a note on the door, “Interview in progress. Please do not interrupt.”
- At the time of the interview, have your resume, the job description and a pen and paper ready for taking notes, and water.
- Expect to talk with several interviewers. Be ready to write down their names. If you are interviewing via Skype, write the names on a sticky note and place it next to the video camera ahead of time, so you can maintain eye contact.
- Watch tips for how to look good for a Skype interview and setup your computer and space properly.
- Be clear when you have finished talking by ending each of your responses with a definitive statement. On a phone call this is especially important because you are missing visual cues.
- You will probably be given the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview. Be prepared with thoughtful questions that clarify the position.
- Be confident and professional. Stand or sit in a power pose.
Interviewer’s goal: Determine how your specific skills, experience and interests fit with the needs and goals of the position and your role within the team/organization and gauge whether you are a good fit with your supervisors and colleagues
- When invited for an in-person interview, be prepared. Ask the HR representative or hiring manager what the format of the day will look like.
- When talking to people individually, start with your brief value statement (aka elevator pitch). This prepared statement serves as a starting point for conversation.
- For positions outside of your specialized scientific research background, it is unlikely you will be asked to present a job talk. If you are, ace the job talk by tailoring to your audience. Discuss the broader impact of your research and your ability to join the team successfully and hit the ground running.
- Dress appropriately. It is often said that you cannot over-dress for an interview, but be flexible. Check out interview attire tips and view examples.
- Reflect on your experience. Will it fit you personally and professionally?
- Write a thank you e-mail for each person you met with during the interview day within 24 – 48 hrs. Express appreciation for their time and also comment on something interesting that you learned from your conversation.
- Nervous about negotiation? A common misconception in negotiation is that you have no bargaining power. Negotiation is part what you say and all about how you say it.
- Negotiate with confidence by first researching typical salaries.
- Be prepared to negotiate during the interview. Read typical questions and suggested responses for negotiation success.
- When you are offered the job, express enthusiasm about the offer and the job. Then ask for the offer details in writing.
- Prepare for your conversation by knowing which topics you will negotiate and which variables you are willing to concede. Read strategies for negotiating compensation packages.