As a graduate student nearing graduation, the prospect of job searching has started to loom on the horizon for me progressively more ominously over the past year. Regardless of your specialty, the job market is increasingly competitive, and even a short search in the matter of employment makes it clear that to secure that coveted position, one needs to set him or herself apart from the scores of other eager applicants. One of the best ways to start tackling this is by networking with industry professionals – this allows you to make a personal connection with someone in your desired field, as well as learn more about what the job entails. However, the prospect of networking with strangers can seem daunting and overwhelming; after all, these are busy professionals. Why would they spend the little free time they have talking to a grad student? It is for this reason, among many others, that the annual LSCDS Networking Reception offers such a great opportunity for life sciences grads – it allows them to meet professionals from a variety of industries in a setting that is far more intimate than most networking events. Moreover, the guests who attend the event do so precisely because they remember being in the position of looking for jobs themselves not too long ago, and are happy to give back by offering some advice to those just starting out.
This year the networking reception took place on February 22nd, with an impressive 25 speakers attending from a variety of industries. Students who registered were given the option to select four guests whose positions most closely align with their interests. For instance, since I am hoping to pursue science communication and/or healthcare consulting, I registered to speak with a consultant, a healthcare marketing specialist, and two medical writers. Once at the event, the students were handed their personalized schedules, listing the panels they will be attending throughout the night. As a result, we got a chance to speak with each guest as part of an 8-9 people group for about 20 minutes, before moving to a new table with a different industry professional. This structure allowed each student time to ask the speakers their questions without the pressure of competing for his or her attention with a crowd of other keen attendees. Included between the panels were two 30-minute open networking sessions, letting students speak more in depth with those guests that they connected with.
For someone trying to get into the field of medical writing, the prevailing advice was to “get writing”. All of us as graduate students have experience with academic writing in the form of papers, lab reports, and theses. Yet, as pointed out by Kristine Jolliffe, the Director of Scientific Content at Six Degrees Medical Consulting, “It is important to get some exposure to non-scientific writing; starting a blog for example could be a great way to get some writing experience, while at the same time building up your portfolio ahead of applying for writing positions.” Most science communication job applications involve doing a writing test, so getting some practice writing for a variety of audiences can be instrumental in this process.
The Networking Reception takes place annually, and it is equally useful to those in the midst of applying for jobs, as well as to those just starting to figure out which career path they would like to pursue. The industry professionals who attend are generally happy to connect on LinkedIn or over email to continue the conversation after the event. Some are even willing to meet for an informational interview to discuss their positions in more depth. In the end, you might make a connection that could make that crucial difference when applying for your dream job, or at the very least learn more about the many career paths out there.
Learn more about the annual LSCDS Networking Reception here, and watch out for the 2019 reception next year.