Written by Glyn Jones, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.
Last week UCL Careers ran the Careers in the Life Science Industry Themed Week. The week consisted of seven events taking place across four days with over twenty professionals from the industry coming in to share their insights. Here are some of the key points that we’ve picked out from what our speakers shared.
It can be tricky getting an idea of what career pathways are viable to you when you’re leaving education. Panellists throughout the events spoke about the confusion they had experienced and how they weren’t sure what their next steps were going to be. Some spoke about how they embraced this as an opportunity to explore roles they had never previously considered. Even if they went on to do something completely different afterwards, they could pick out the positives from the role, such as developing soft skills that have come in useful further down the line.
If you are unsure about the role you want to do next, there’s usually someone out there who you can speak with about your options. That could be via a Short Guidance Session with UCL Careers, speaking with people at events and career days, or this can be done online through platforms such as the UCL Alumni Community or LinkedIn. Speaking with others can open up a whole range of roles that you may have never previously considered and will enable you to gain valuable insight on how to get into certain sectors. It’s also worth noting that through sparking conversations such as these, you can grow your professional network, which may even lead to getting some valuable work experience or a future job.
Be passionate… but show this in the right way
A passion for science is something often required for a role within the life science industry and will be on the checklist of many of those involved in recruitment, but how do you show this? One panellist stated that he had heard the statement ‘I have a passion for science’ so many times that it now meant very little to him. Anyone can include this generic term in a covering letter or application, what really gets the attention of the reader is being able to demonstrate your passion for science. Explain where your passion has come from; what area of science in particular is it that you enjoy? This way, recruiters will be able to get a true understanding of your passion for a subject and start getting to know you as an individual.
Be up to date
The nature of science means that it is always advancing and changing, and consequently, so are life science careers. Organisations are ever-evolving, using exciting new science to tackle problems. Keeping up to date with these can be one of the major challenges of working in the sector, according to some of the people we heard from. For example, panellists spoke about how they were required to keep up to date with the development of the COVID-19 pandemic and react accordingly to this information as part of their role. Although this can be difficult, working in a constantly developing field was something that many speakers said was one of the best aspects of their job. Using recent journal articles or news stories will help you keep abreast of the latest developments and enable you to have informed discussions about these topics.
Many of our panellists spoke about how they didn’t land their ideal role with the first job they got. Sometimes you may have to work in a related field before moving over to an area that interests you more. Graduate schemes can prove valuable in such situations, as they often equip you with sought-after experience as you move through departments via rotations. If a graduate scheme isn’t for you, then plenty of our panellists spoke about how they got experience in graduate entry roles before landing the role that really suited them. A sideways move or promotion within an organisation can sometimes get you where you would prefer to be within a company.
Be focused on skills
Some of our speakers advised that highlighting your skills allows you to demonstrate your suitability for a role even if you haven’t got directly relevant experience. You may find that focusing too much on particular programmes or techniques may limit you as these are constantly changing and being replaced or updated. Instead, you can still demonstrate your suitability through mentioning specific skills that are particularly relevant to the role. Crucially, don’t forget to provide evidence of how you’ve previously demonstrated these skills.
Whether it’s during an initial message when trying to grow your network, completing an application or preparing for an upcoming interview, make sure that you’re tailoring your information for the audience in question. It’s worth spending time researching the organisation you’re communicating with, get an understanding of who they are, what they do and what type of people they work with. Through doing this you’ll be able to link your own skills, experiences and values with theirs, demonstrating your suitability to work with them.