NEXT STEPS - Biochemical Society

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CONTENTSThis booklet was produced by the Royal Society ofBiology in collaboration with thefollowing learned societies and associations:Association of the BritishPharmaceutical 2Job seeking strategiespage 4The importance of skillspage 12Postgraduate study optionspage 18Making applicationspage 26Going for interviewpage 34Resourcespage 37Biochemical Societywww.biochemistry.orgBritish Pharmacological Society for Immunologywww.immunology.orgSociety for Endocrinologywww.endocrinology.orgSociety for Experimental Biologywww.sebiology.orgMicrobiology Societywww.microbiologysociety.orgThe Physiological Societywww.physoc.orgYear published: 2011 Fourth edition: 2018 2018 Royal Society of BiologyLearned societies are organisations that promote andsupport people working in a particular academic field,whose members can include academics, researchersand students. Bioscience learned societies offer a rangeof services and support to their members. They organisescientific conferences and publish specialist journalsand books.Many of the larger learned societies also offer travel grants,studentships, bursaries, competitions and awards to theirstudent and early-career members. They are committed tothe communication of science to schools and the widerpublic as well as within the bioscience community, andthey also offer other specialist support such as careersinformation and guidance.

INTRODUCTIONThere are many career opportunitiesavailable to bioscience graduates.Two of the main career routes which the majority ofgraduates choose are shown in Figure 1. Whilst manychoose to enter employment directly, others (approx. 25%)continue their education further. This booklet aims to helpyou with your next career step by giving you practicaladvice and information specifically tailored for plomaMaster’s degreePhDBiosciencesdegreeWhat next?Possible careerroutes on completionof a first degree inthe cecareer2

As a bioscience student or graduate,you will have already made someimportant decisions in your lifeconcerning your career. Thinkback to how you chose your degreecourse and university, for instance.Many courses were available to you,so how did you decide? Perhapsyour choice was based on the coursecontent, the geographical locationof the university and its reputation?Or maybe your choice was linkedto a particular career you are keento pursue?Whatever influenced your decision, you are now facedwith a new set of choices which will be based on afurther set of factors. Your degree course and universityexperiences are likely to be factors which have a majorinfluence over your next career step, but others will figureto a greater or lesser extent. These may include workexperience you have gained during the course of yourdegree, your interests, skills and personality. In addition,other factors such as your personal situation, network ofcontacts, job market knowledge and understanding ofgood career planning will play a part.3This booklet will help you to plan your next career moveand enhance your chances of success. Your strategywill depend on your career plans, e.g. for a career as anacademic researcher you will need to apply for a PhDor Master’s degree. For other careers, a postgraduatecourse may also be advisable (or even essential). Toenter some careers, you may have to consider a periodof short-term or voluntary work. More general graduaterecruitment programmes require early applicationduring your final year, whereas for some science-relatedwork, you can only apply as jobs are advertised. Thisbooklet includes advice and information on the mainaspects which contribute towards your career planning: Job seeking strategies The importance of skills Postgraduate study opportunities Making applications Interviews ResourcesWhatever your career plans (and you may not knowwhat you want to do at this stage), this booklet aimsto help you move forward to your next career stage.Being flexible and proactive are key factors to succeedin what has become a very dynamic and changing jobmarket. Your degree has given you unique knowledge,experience and skills which you can now use to moveinto your first graduate job. With help, support and aproactive approach you should find this new challengeis an exciting and rewarding experience.


JOB SEEKINGSTRATEGIESBox 1: A sample of some of thejob sectors available to youLooking for a job can be a dauntingand time-consuming experienceso it’s important you remain focussedand as organised as possible inyour search.Bioscience-related jobs include:This section provides you with someideas on places to start and tips toensure you make the most of theopportunities available. Patent attorneyThe way you conduct your job search will depend on thetypes of career you are considering, as different job sectorsuse different methods to recruit people. You may not have aclear idea about your career plans right now so researchingvarious options and assessing whether they might suit youwill be your priority. Box 1 gives a snapshot of the types ofcareers on offer sub-sectioned into bioscience-related andnon-bioscience related. Research & development (industry/academia) Clinical biochemistry/immunology/microbiology Technical e.g. quality control, research technician Specialist e.g. ecologist, pollution control,bioinformatician Medical doctor/nurse/physiotherapist Regulatory affairs/technology transfer Teaching (school/college/university) Science communication/journalism/publishing Research management and administration Scientific sales and marketingNon-bioscience jobs include: Accountancy/finance Management e.g. retail, operations Administration e.g. university, Civil Service Sales and marketing (non-medical/scientific) Librarian/information management Security/armed forces Legal services Personnel Non-science communication/publishing/journalism/PR Market research/analyst Self-employment5

WHEN SHOULD YOUSTART YOUR SEARCH?VISIT YOURCAREERS SERVICEThe short answer is the sooner thebetter! If you’re not sure what youwant to do, it may be more a caseof ‘research’ than ‘search’ at thisstage. You can carry out yourresearch in various ways:A good place to start your search is your university careersservice where you can speak with a careers adviser.Although they can’t make decisions for you, they will giveyou guidance on the best course of action to pursue. T alk to people within your immediate network(e.g. friends, family, lecturers) L ook at jobs advertised on the internet – see theResources section for websites on pages 37– 38 Visit your university careers service Attend careers eventsOnce you have researched your chosen career area(s), startthinking about your job search. Planning ahead is key toensure you are not left without a job when you finish yourdegree. If you wait until after you have graduated, you willhave missed out on many opportunities advertised duringyour final year.Your careers service will also run workshops and informationsessions to help with your career decision-making andpractical aspects such as CV writing, interview techniquesand applying for postgraduate study. They should also haveadditional resources available both in the centre and on theirwebsite to help your search, including a current vacanciesboard, information on applying for jobs or funding furtherstudy and details of careers events.CHECK OUT YOURALUMNI OFFICEYour university alumni office holds a database of graduates,some of whom are willing to be contacted to give you adviceand information about the work they are doing. This couldhelp you to extend your network of contacts further andimprove your employability.Many larger companies that run graduate recruitmentschemes, and some postgraduate courses such asteacher training, have application deadlines early in theacademic year from October to December. If you areinterested in applying for this type of position, make sureyou have researched the application deadline in plenty oftime. However, other organisations will have opportunitiesavailable throughout the year, so keep your eyes open.6

CAREERS FAIRSVisiting a careers fair is an excellent opportunity todiscover more about companies currently recruitingand the skills and attributes employers look for ingraduates. Organisations exhibiting at careers fairs tendto be large employers such as finance, managementand retail companies or public sector and governmentorganisations. Science careers fairs tend to be dominatedby engineering firms and you may be disappointed atthe lack of opportunities for bioscientists. Small andmedium sized companies (SMEs) are large recruiters ofbioscientists, but with fewer vacancies available, they donot usually attend careers fairs but rather advertise on jobwebsites or via recruitment agencies. Therefore, althoughyou may not find your perfect employer at a careers fair, itis still worth attending to research different job areas andbuild your knowledge base.Some careers fairs also put on presentations on careers indifferent sectors, which can be useful in your job research.Careers fairs can be organised by your university,specialised learned societies or individual employers.Look out for posters and emails and ask your careersservice for more information.7Did you knowThe Royal Society of Biology and its MemberOrganisations run specialised life sciencescareers fairs?These events provide presentations coveringa wide range of biology-related careers, a CVworkshop and a chance to talk to careersexperts in the exhibition.Find out more about upcoming events

JOB ADVERTSThe majority of jobs are advertised on the internet, forexample on university careers websites, specialisedgraduate websites, specialist journals and magazines,newspapers or individual company websites. A list ofwebsites to start your search is included in the Resourcessection on pages 37– 38. Depending on the type of jobyou are looking for, you could start your search either ona general graduate recruitment website or aim for a morescience-specific site. If you want to work in a particularlocation, also check out the job section in the local press.If there is a particular sector you want to work in, find outif there are any specialist publications for that sector thatadvertise vacancies. Prospects ( isa good site to start your search as it gives descriptions ofcareer areas, case studies of people working in the sectorand links to associated job sites.In these days of highly varied jobs, don’t rely on the jobtitle but examine job adverts in detail to see exactly whateach role involves. The job description will give detailsof the skills and attributes the employers want. This willhelp you to decide on the type of work that may suit youas well as identifying any gaps in your skills and experiencewhich need filling.SPECULATIVEENQUIRIESto talk to them informally and to find out the name of anappropriate person in the company to send your CV to.Make sure you have researched the company thoroughlyand highlight in your covering letter why you think you aresuited to work in their organisation.RECRUITMENTAGENCIESMany employers register vacancies with specialisedrecruitment agencies. If you are thinking of registering withan agency, carry out some research first to make sure theyspecialise in the area you are interested in.You should sign up to two or three different agencies toensure you have access to a broad range of jobs. Youshould not have to hand over any money when signingup. Remember that using a recruitment agency shouldn’tbe your only option – keep searching for positionsindependently too.When registering, it is important to make a good impression,as you would in a job interview. When the agency puts youforward for vacancies, they will be better able to highlightyour skills and abilities to the employer. Keep in regularcontact with your recruitment agency to make sure theycontinue to actively look for positions for you.If there is a particular organisation you would like to workfor, but you haven’t seen any vacancies advertised, it maybe worth contacting them on a speculative basis. Ideally,contact the company in advance to ask if you can visit8

WORK EXPERIENCEYou may have already secured somerelevant bioscience-related workexperience through a placement onyour degree course, or relevant workexperience during your vacations.If you have had no such opportunity,you have a number of options. Look out for internships and placements advertisedthrough careers services, specialist organisationsand within your university department. These canbe for science or non-science related roles. Thereare usually a large number of applicants, so treat theapplication as seriously as you would a job application. M ake the most of any non-science work experience(e.g. bar/shop work), or involvement in voluntaryorganisations or university societies, by selling thetransferable skills you have acquired. See ‘Importanceof skills’ section on page 12. Take time out following your degree to do somevoluntary/short-term work to enhance your CV. Inparticular, sectors such as conservation, sciencecommunication and administration can offerinternships and voluntary placements to help yougain experience. These can be used as evidence ofyour suitability for the job for which you are applying.9SUMMERSTUDENTSHIPSMany learned societies offer studentships to undergraduatestudents (mainly second year students), which fund themto work in a university laboratory during the summervacation. Societies that may run this type of scheme include:Biochemical Society, British Pharmacological Society,Genetics Society, Society for Applied Microbiology,Society for Endocrinology, Microbiology Society andThe Physiological Society. Visit the learned societies’websites on page 1 for more details.

MANAGING YOURONLINE PRESENCE TOBOOST YOUR CAREERManaging your online presence is becoming increasinglyimportant when job seeking. The professional image youpresent to potential employers is no longer measuredsolely by what your CV, covering letter and referees sayabout you – it is also based on how you present yourselfonline. As online information about people becomes easierto access, it is often the first port of call for employers whenseeking out potential employees. It can also be a powerfultool to build up a network of contacts and engage withgroups with shared interests.When job seeking, there are some activities you can do toensure your online presence is communicating the profileyou want. Below are some top tips to help:Where to start?1. Reflect on your current online presence and see if theway you are portrayed is what you want.2. Consider what you want to gain from your onlinepresence. Do you want to find a job, network in yourcurrent role, publicise your work to the general publicor others in your field, or to create a well-known onlinepresence for yourself to engage with key groups?3. Ask yourself if your online presence is findable andeffective.Perform a web search for your nameThere is often more information than you think, and not all ofit is from yourself. Remember, most people (including a busypotential employer) will likely only look through the top-tensearch results to make decisions about you. Try differentsearch terms; for example, your name but also your subjector institution, or a term that people may use to find you.What if you don’t find ‘you’ in an internet search?If there are lots of people with the same name as you, thereis little you can do to get ‘you’ appearing in the top results.You need to look for ways to distinguish yourself from otherswith similar names or roles. Using your full first name and/ormiddle initial (e.g. Jonathon P Smith) in your online profilesand CV would lead a potential employer to use this as theirsearch term and more likely bring up the results you want.Don’t like what you see?You are the only person who can ensure good items showup when searching yourself. Never put anything onlineyou would not want a supervisor /future employer tosee. Actively manage your privacy settings on all socialmedia channels you use. Some less-positive items can beremoved, or you can ensure there’s more good than bad sothese things are found more.4. Look at the online profiles of your colleagues and peers tosee what others are up to. Find examples of what you likeand use these to set the tone for what you do.5. When planning, remember it is better to do a few thingswell than lots of things badly.10

CREATING APROFESSIONALPROFILEOn the right are a few examples ofthe numerous social media platformsthat can be used to help raise yourprofessional profile:Managing your online presence andbuilding your professional profile isa continual process. Now you’ve gotyour online presence communicatingwhat you want it to, keep it up andbuild on it. Share interesting andengaging content, which could includedetails of your work/research. Butbe sure to check with your employerthat this is okay to do so first.LinkedInThis is often the preferred platform forprofessionals working in the science sector,and is the most widely used as a career tool.You can share your CV, professional skillsand publications, and demonstrate networksand links in a very visible way. For example,if you speak to someone at a conferenceand obtain their business card, you can thenmake this link visible by adding them to yourprofessional network.TwitterThis microblogging site is an exceptionaltool for finding information quickly. You canengage in two-way conversation wherebyyou communicate your thoughts andinterests but also listen and learn fromthe expertise and ideas of others.Writing a blogThis is a good way of establishing yourself asa “communicator” in your sector. It gives youthe chance to demonstrate your specialistknowledge and show your engagement withyour subject outside the lab. It also builds onyour communication skills and you canupload pictures, have guest bloggers, andwrite your own topical posts.FacebookIn general, this platform is best kept forpersonal use, and it is rarely used to helpraise your professional profile. Althoughorganisations will have groups and pagesyou can link to, it can be difficult to preventthe line between personal and professionalbecoming blurred.11


THE IMPORTANCEOF SKILLSAll job advertisements, and theirassociated job descriptions, askfor particular qualifications andknowledge.In addition they will list a whole rangeof skills. These can be technical andspecialised research skills as well asinterpersonal and transferable skills.The more closely related to bioscience a job (orpostgraduate course) is, the more specialised knowledgeand qualifications are required, as opposed to transferableskills. Conversely the less specialised a job is (for example,a non-science related graduate job), the less scientificknowledge and qualifications are needed and the morenecessary are the transferable and interpersonal skills.As an example, look at the three advertisements infigures 2, 3 & 4 on page 14.13Box 2: Top 10 skills employers seek(in no particular order) Analytical and research skills Communications skills (listening, verbal, written) Computer and technical literacy Flexibility and ability to multitask Initiative and self-motivation Interpersonal abilities Leadership and management skills Planning and organisational skills Problem-solving and creativity Teamwork

THREE EXAMPLES OF JOB ADVERTISEMENTSFig 2: Postgraduate studyThree year PhD studentship:Molecular biology of the eyeRole and regulation of proteolysis in the retinal pigmentepithelium and its significance for age-related maculardegeneration.University of Liverpool – Department of Eye and Vision ScienceApplications are invited for a fully-funded PhD studentshipin Ocular Molecular Biology investigating molecular andcellular processes involved in gene expression and regulationof proteolysis in retinal pigment epithelial cells linked todevelopment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).AMD is the leading cause of visual impairment in the elderly.The project will explore the molecular mechanism involved inthe re-direction and function of variant B cystatin C and otherproteolysis-related molecules associated with AMD.The student will benefit from interaction with otherpostgraduate researchers in the group addressing keyquestions regarding fundamental cellular processes, such asthe intracellular trafficking of secretory proteins, misfoldingof soluble proteins and (re)modelling of extracellular matrix byRPE cells, which are likely to be important for progression ofdegenerative processes.Candidates should hold a First or Upper Second class Honoursdegree in a relevant biochemical or molecular biology subject.Applications from candidates with an additional relevantMaster’s award are also welcome. You should be able to workindependently and as part of a team and possess excellentacademic credentials, enthusiasm, good organisational skillsand initiative. The opportunity to develop skills in molecular/cellular biology, cell culture/cellular assays and imagingtechniques will provide excellent career prospects for thesuccessful applicant.Fig 3: Bioscience jobSCIENTIFIC OFFICERA life science graduate, ideally with a practicalbackground in virology, immunology, molecular biologyor related discipline.However, for the right candidate, enthusiasm and awillingness to learn may be a substitute for experience.You will be a self-driven individual who is pro-active,creative and goal-orientated with excellent oral and writtencommunication skills. In return we offer a challenging rolein our newly established laboratories.Fig 4: Non-bioscience jobOutreach OfficerThe successful applicant will develop and manage projectsto support the University’s widening participation strategy.The postholder will plan, organise and deliver activities toraise the aspirations and achievement of young people,providing information and advice about opportunities thatexist in higher education.Applicants should have excellent interpersonal andorganisational skills, be enthusiastic and have the abilityto motivate young people from diverse backgrounds.Applicants should have a degree or significant vocationalexperience and a good understanding of wideningparticipation in higher education, along with the abilityto manage projects and budgets.14

ANALYSIS OF THEADVERTISEMENTSsomeone who is self-driven with a willingness to learnindicates they want to employ a graduate who can adaptto new projects, learn new techniques and who will befocussed on results.If you look at each advertisementfeatured on the previous page, youwill see that they have differentemphases according to thequalifications, knowledge, skillsand attributes they require fromprospective candidates. However,they also have commonalities too.Can you spot what they are?Non-bioscience job (Figure 4)Finally, the outreach officer post requires a graduate ofany discipline as long as they have an even wider range ofinterpersonal skills. They expect that a graduate, with threeor more years’ experience of higher education, will haveacquired the skills and attributes to enable them to takeon this role.Postgraduate study (Figure 2)The PhD studentship gives a detailed account of theresearch project and the biological processes associatedwith it. The description aims to draw in those graduatesinterested in this area of the biosciences as the studentshipwill involve intensive focus for three years. Specificacademic qualifications and knowledge are required aswell as more general personal skills associated with workingin a research group. If you look at websites which advertisePhD studentships, you will see that they tend to followthis general format.Bioscience job (Figure 3)The scientific officer post is not so focussed on specificknowledge, but the employer wants someone with abioscience degree who can demonstrate good interpersonalskills and is a good team player. Their stipulation for15WHAT IS AGRADUATE JOB?A graduate job requires applicants to have a degree andassumes you are of a calibre that makes you suited to aprofessional career in which you will be able to progressand develop. It assumes a graduate will have the ability andwillingness to learn new information and skills and possesscapabilities not immediately apparent for a non-graduate.However, this does not mean a degree automaticallyleads to your securing a graduate job. You will also needto show evidence you have the associated specialist andinterpersonal skills which demonstrate your potential to fulfilthe professional requirements of a graduate job. Having saidthat, many jobs now ask for a graduate even though the jobis quite basic. Even so, if you think a job has the potentialto propel you towards your desired career, it is still worthconsidering even if it is low-level and temporary (you canadd this experience to your CV and use your employeras a reference for your next career move).

HOW DO YOUGAIN SKILLS?You will have already acquired a rangeof skills but there is always scopeto gain more, and develop the onesyou already have, to improve youremployability. If you look at the top10 skills in Box 2 on page 13 couldyou say with confidence that youcould give examples to show youcan demonstrate all or most of them?Bioscience-related skillsYour degree has provided you with bioscience-relatedskills so that, as a bioscience graduate, you can applyfor specialist bioscience-related jobs and postgraduatestudy. You will have acquired these skills from practicals,project and field work, placements and other activitiesassociated with your degree course. As well astechnical and knowledge-based skills, you will have alsodeveloped general science-related skills such as criticalanalysis, planning, numeracy, data management andmethodological approaches. You can build further on yourtechnical and research skills by securing work experiencewith a company or research institution during yourvacation, via a placement or by writing speculatively.See ‘Job seeking strategies’ section on pages 4–11.Interpersonal and transferable skillsNon-science and bioscience-related job advertisementsare likely to specify more general skills such asteamworking and communication. There are a variety ofways you can develop these skills whilst at university. Simplybeing away from home and managing your own time andmoney are the most basic skills you will acquire, but this isthe same for everyone. If you have a job whilst studying,such as bar, shop or factory work, this will also be toppingup your skill-set in areas such as teamwork, diplomacy,communicating with a wide range of people, organisationalskills, time management and self-motivation. Another wayto enhance your skills is to get involved in organised andstructured events and activities – universities offer a wealthof opportunities for you to do this. Volunteering is a greatway to get skills from working in the local community onsocial or conservation projects. You can volunteer at thelocal radio station to gain journalism skills, or work with alocal youth group if you’re considering teaching in the future.For ideas on how to evidence your skills, see Table 1 onpage 17.What are interpersonal skills?Interpersonal or personal skills refer to your ability tocommunicate and interact with other people. Theyare sometimes referred to as people and/or soft skillsand include attributes such as negotiating, listening,persuading, leadership and team working. Evidence ofthese skills can usually be demonstrated through jobsyou have held or activities you have been involved in.What are transferable skills?Transferable skills are skills you have acquired in oneenvironment which can be transferred to anothersetting. For example, if you have been an active teamplayer in an undergraduate sports club, you can usethis as evidence when applying for a job which requiresgood teamworking abilities.16

Table 1. Examples of how to evidence your skillsActivitySkills acquiredFinal year practical project Biochemical techniques, PCR, culturing cells Designed and conducted experiments Self-driven and motivated, communication skills(writing and presenting) Wrote up and presented work to the department Interpretation and analytical skills, accuracy andprecisionWork experience Six month placement in a laboratory duringdegree course Cell culture, bioassay and ELISA techniques, usingbiochemical equipment Teamwork within a lab of eight peopleVoluntary work experience Teamworking and co-operation Worked on a conservation project Fieldwork skills and fitness levels Understanding of ecologyMember of university hockey team Time management to ensure availability every week Played against other teams and came 2nd overall Team working and motivationSecretary of hockey team (2nd year) Financial and organisational skills Organised fixtures and controlled budgetBar work during first year Excellent communication skills Negotiating and dealing with difficult customers17


POSTGRADUATESTUDY OPTIONSAs a biosciences graduate, therewill be many postgraduate studyoptions available to you in scientific,science-related and non-scientificfields. These can be academic orvocational, research-, taught- orwork-based, and full or part time.The type of postgraduate studyyou choose may depend on yourinterests or be a requirement foryour chosen career.For this reason, and reasons of funding, you may chooseto take a couple of years out before embarking on apostgraduate course. However, if you are more certainof your career goals, a postgraduate course directly aftergraduati British Pharmacological Society British Society for Immunology Society for Endocrinology Society for Experimental Biology Microbiology Society The Physiological Society CONTENTS Introduction page 2

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