Job search advice from biotech industry experts

Monica Weil and Joe Tringali started working in biotech before it was “cool.” After sharing their wisdom at the Annual Meeting’s career Q&A session on Monday, they kindly sat down with me to describe their experience and advice for people interested in biotech or pharmaceutical careers.

The first piece of advice Joe gave was, “I wouldn’t be your own worst enemy, don’t screen yourself out.” In the job market, a company won’t necessarily find candidates with every item in their job posting, or “wish list” as Monica called it. Furthermore, one’s application might be a great match for an upcoming job opening that hasn’t been made public yet. Rejecting oneself may initially be easier on the ego than letting others do it, but Joe and Monica lay out a different, more robust ideal for the perfectionist in you- instead of striving to be the candidate who never fails, strive to be the candidate who mobilizes their resources and looks for creative solutions.

If one wants to do scientific research in industry, start by doing thorough research on industry. Joe suggests reaching out to people online and asking “I’m thinking about doing what you’ve done. What did you like about it? What didn’t you like about it?” Monica emphasized that industry isn’t “academia with more money,” it’s a different world with different rules, expectations and a different ways of life. Technical skills are transferable, but the image of a researcher toiling over their own science for years in the pursuit of  knowledge doesn’t apply. Instead, researchers who might enjoy industry (and successfully find a job!)

  • are excited about pursuing “knowledge so that…” as much as “knowledge for knowledge’s sake.”
  • have an interest and skill in collaboration.
  • are flexible and welcome change. (Projects change quickly and can simply get scrapped.)

A word of advice, Joe said at the end of our interview, “open your mind to all possibilities” don’t just get stuck in a path and keep pursuing it. Indeed, serendipity and openness to new possibilities are what brought Monica and Joe into biotech and pharma careers that they clearly love. “I wish I had a master plan,” Joe said, “but there’s no place I’d rather be.”

– A. I. Gilson

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