Beginning the process of a new job search creates a lot of stress personally and professionally—and can be overwhelming and confusing, regardless of where you are in your career or how often you’ve changed positions. Each of us has unique factors that will influence how we approach the search and what will be our priorities in decision making.
In late fall-early winter of 1999 I was looking for my first “real job” as a laboratory director. I was in the last year of my clinical microbiology fellowship, I had a 4-year-old daughter and a son who was about to be born, and I had no idea where I was going to go or what I was going to do…the prospects of having a child, finding a job, moving, and beginning a new chapter of life were exciting and terrifying. What should I look for? What are they looking for? What’s going to set me apart from other candidates? How do I approach answering these questions? It is understandable if the thought of not yet having all the answers is stressful – the good news is that now is the right time to be asking yourself these questions and going through this process.
When should I start looking?
For those seeking academic or clinical positions, we are right in the middle of job posting season as their timing is generally impacted by academic or fiscal calendars that start again in July. Organizations are often looking for candidates that will begin positions at that time, especially when recruiting candidates finishing training programs. As a result, they post positions in the fall, interview during the winter, and ideally make offers by spring. Industry positions don’t typically have seasonality, and the timeline from posting to hiring tends to be shorter.
Where do I find relevant position postings?
If you’ve started your search, you likely have seen postings already and know that the best places to look for job postings are where the people in the jobs you’re interested in hang out…literally and figuratively: email listservs (i.e., ClinMicroNet, ADLM, CHAMP), professional organization job boards (ASM, ADLM, etc.), or postings at professional conferences are the richest sources of information regarding open positions. Targeted searches on the LinkedIn job board can be useful, particularly for industry positions. While positions can also be identified by word of mouth among your professional network, this can be enhanced if you make connections with executive search firms. Many such firms are retained by organizations of all types, and making it known to the search firm that you are available for appropriate positions can be helpful. One that I have connected with in the past is Sloan Partners, but there are others out there that provide the same types of services. There is typically no cost to you as their fees are paid by the client who is posting the opening once the position is filled.
What are the employers looking for?
The specific knowledge, skills, and abilities required for a position will vary, but should be clearly outlined in the job posting. Clinical departments hiring a laboratory director will want to see demonstrated training in that discipline, either through a training program or experience in a comparable role. Board-certified or board-eligible graduates from accredited training programs will have a high degree of credibility as those credentials are well recognized and accepted.
Requirements for industry positions will vary – many companies will be looking for individuals with some laboratory leadership experience, especially for scientific affairs positions involving product development or product support. More junior applicants will be competitive for field-based positions that provide technical or scientific support for customers. These roles generally require technical knowledge appropriate for the company’s product offerings, experience developing and troubleshooting laboratory tests, as well as experience conducting clinical studies.
There are a variety of directions that individuals with clinical and scientific backgrounds can go, especially those with clinical laboratory expertise—positions in hospital-based laboratories, public health laboratories, or industry positions provide many opportunities to be a resource in the broad areas of patient care. In my next post, I will answer the next set of questions that will help further refine your approach: What type of role should I consider? How should I approach applying? How do I set myself apart from other applicants?
Check back in a couple of weeks for this post, but don’t hesitate to contact me to chat or ask additional questions that you may have about your job search.