The job search process

After you have clarified your career goals and narrowed down two or three career paths that are suitable for you, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start the job search. 

All the information you collected during the exploratory phase of self-assessments and informational interviews are critical to prepare successful applications and to approach the interview process with clear objectives. 

 

As the job search is a process, there are multiple aspects you should consider, to plan and allocate the appropriate time to each of them.  In the following tabs you will find resources that explain the different aspects of the job search, why they are important and what you want to get out of each part.

Once you decided what career you want to go for, writing your CV is the first step.  It’s good practice to have an updated CV ready if opportunities arise or even when you reach out to someone, in case they ask you for it.  However, keep in mind that an academic CV and a CV for non-academic positions (also called resume, especially in the US) have very different requirements! The main difference between CVs and resumes is the length: resumes are 1-2 pages long while academic CVs can be much longer. On Sara Blackford’s website you can find useful resources to write CVs and cover letters for both academic and non-academic positions: https://biosciencecareers.org/cvs 

The key to a great CV is to target it to the specific position: by all means avoid a generic CV and modify it for every application to tailor it to the job requirements.  If you prepare a comprehensive CV that includes all your skills and work experiences, you can pick for every application only the relevant ones for the specific position. It takes more time per application, but it’s much more efficient than sending hundreds of identical CVs that will receive no answer. 

In the same way, your cover letter should be tailored to every application, to highlight how the specific skills and experiences you have match the ones required for the job.  Don’t simply repeat your CV: use the cover letter to show your personality and working values. Make sure you present yourself and the expertise you bring as added value for the future employer. 

All the material collected through the self-assessments will help you to highlight your key strengths, while the data you gathered though your research on career paths and informational interviews will allow you to select the relevant information to include in your CV and cover letter. Keep them short and concise, give concrete examples of your achievements and think in terms of results, not of tasks. 

 

Here you can find several resources with tips and examples to write academic CVs and cover letters

https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2013/nov/28/academic-cover-letters-10-tips 

https://www.vitae.ac.uk/researcher-careers/pursuing-an-academic-career/academic-cover-letters 

https://www.vitae.ac.uk/researcher-careers/pursuing-an-academic-career/how-to-write-an-academic-cv 

 

Here you can find several resources with general tips to write resumes and cover letters for different non-academic positions. Remember: each career path has its own specific requirements that you need to implement in addition to the general suggestions. 

https://www.colorado.edu/career/2020/02/27/academic-cvs-industry-resume 

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-03306-1 

https://career-advice.jobs.ac.uk/cv-and-cover-letter-advice/a-cover-letter-for-industry/ 

 

It might be more obvious in some jobs than in others how a successful application package looks like. Get your hands on a successful, ideally recent application to get a feel for it before you prepare your own. Use your network! 

Networking is critical during career transition, as 70% of professionals land their position through referrals. The key to networking is to build relationships and cultivate them over time. Ask questions, listen, be curious about the people working around you: when you focus on the other person you will discover common interests, no matter if your personality is naturally outgoing or if you are an introvert.

At the Vienna BioCenter you can create connections with your peers, group leaders and collaborators in different institutes, discuss your project over coffee or beer, ask questions in and after seminars: those are the first steps in building a professional network. 

On one side, you can create a strong academic network, reaching out to researchers at conferences, talking to visiting speakers, and exploring the possibilities of working in different labs.  On the other side, many of your peers will continue their career in other institutes, countries, and professions, making your professional network very diverse.  Reach out to Alumni from your university or institute, as it is easy to connect and find common interests to build a professional relationship.

Here you can find some resources on how to improve your networking skills: 

https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2015/10/how-network-effectively 

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00811-8 

https://ideas.ted.com/an-introverts-advice-for-networking/ 

Social media are often seen as a mean of procrastination, but as the ways of communication are changing around us (even in the science world!) you can use them productively for your career. Indeed, you can use them to increase your visibility, communicate your science to find collaborators or engage in scientific discussions, connect to professionals in your field of interest and even find job advertisements. 

To optimize your efficiency without falling into the trap of procrastinating and wasting time, you need a strategy: 

  • Be yourself and keep your personal brand coherent  

  • Define your goal: what kind of information do you want to find or share? 

  • Connect with the people of the field you are interested in  

  • Allocate specific time-slots to your online networking to keep yourself on track 

 

LinkedIn

If you are planning a career transition outside of academia, LinkedIn is useful to build a professional network in your career of choice and increase your visibility to hiring managers and recruiters. 

Here you can find a couple of resources about LinkedIn and some tips to get started with a profile: 

https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2017/11/link-jump-start-your-job-search 

https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2017/12/keys-powerful-linkedin-profile 

 

Twitter

If you are pursuing a career in academia, Twitter is currently the most widely used choice to share research and find interesting job opportunities. 

“Perhaps the most obvious, and most important, aspect of Twitter is that the platform facilitates a closer, more informal connection between scientists.” – writes Jet-Sing M. Lee in the career column of Nature. 

Here you can find resources about Twitter and how to use it as a scientist: 

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00535-w 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7010239/ 

The recruitment process differs between academic and non-academic jobs, and it varies widely among different positions and types of organizations.  Therefore, once again, talk to people! It’s the best way to gain specific information, increasing your chance to ask the right questions and to highlight the qualities and experience that make you the best candidate for the job. 

That said, some general advice applies to any application process: 

  • Research the institute, university, company or organization of interest 

  • Connect to people working in the institute, university, company or organization of interest 

  • Target the application (CV and cover letter) 

  • Prepare to answer both technical and behavioral questions 

To prepare for interview questions, the STAR method is very useful: it gives a structure to your statements (Situation – Task – Action – Result) and allows you to bring specific examples of your professional experience to show how you approach different situations.  It’s good practice to prepare a few STARs to illustrate the key skills and requirements for the job and use them to answer interview questions concisely and effectively. You can find further explanation with examples in the following resources. 

 

Resources on applications and interviews in academia

https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/education/students/graduate/writing-the-research-plan-for-your-academic-job-application.html 

https://www.vitae.ac.uk/researcher-careers/pursuing-an-academic-career/applying-for-academic-jobs 

https://www.hhmi.org/science-education/programs/making-right-moves 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7032694/

 

Resources on applications and interviews in non-academic positions

https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2014/06/don-t-crash-and-burn-your-job-interview 

https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/how-prepare-interview 

https://www.career.uci.edu/docs/grad-students/Interview-Strategies-for-grad-students.pdf

Here you can find the support provided on campus: https://training.vbc.ac.at/applications/health-wellbeing/ 

Approaching change requires the right attitude, and mindset plays a big role in a successful career transition. Especially when faced with a challenge, having a Fixed Mindset – perceiving skills as a “fixed” and immutable attribute – can lead to experience failure and rejection as the definition of one’s value. On the contrary, a Growth Mindset allows to approach challenges as an opportunity to grow instead of a fear to fail. The difference between the two mindsets determines whether you are reactive, simply trying to juggle whatever life throws at you, or proactive, taking the lead no matter what happens. 

Here you can find some resources to work on your mindset: 

https://fs.blog/2015/03/carol-dweck-mindset/ 

https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve