Perseverance can help land a position, but relevant experience is a big help.
As she was finishing a postdoc at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Stefanie Marquez-Vilendrer found herself in the midst of a long, broad job search. She describes how she landed a position at Axogen, a biomedical company that develops and sells products for nerve surgeries.
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How did you go about your job search?
I was looking at a wide array of jobs; writing, teaching, publishing. I found most of the positions through LinkedIn — at least several hundred. It was like a full-time job, just sending out job applications. I did learn things along the way; I started tailoring my cover letters more and more. Instead of saying “I found this position on LinkedIn and I want to apply,” I would say, “these are the skills that I have and this is why I would be a good fit for your company.” I would tie in my experience and include key words.
It’s ironic that I applied to hundreds of position through LinkedIn and did not find my position there. I went to a website for lots of companies in Progress Park in Florida. I clicked on the links for individual companies and then I looked for job openings.
What, outside of bench work, do you think strengthened your application?
For the past few years, I have worked as an independent contractor as an editor, just picking up assignments as I have time. I started as a postdoc to make some extra money and then I realized it could be valuable. It is giving me an extra skill that someone might consider when I’m applying for a position.
What’s different between your job now and an academic lab?
We’re putting out a product that gets inserted into people’s bodies, so there are rules and regulations that we have to follow that we didn’t have to worry about in an academic lab. There’s a form for everything. Sometimes we can’t just go do something, we have to have a meeting about it. In an academic lab I would have more freedom to take an idea and run with it.
How does the workload compare?
I was under a lot more pressure as a postdoc. PIs can become so focused on ‘I need to get this grant’ or ‘I need to publish in this journal.’ The company won’t call me on my day off. There are periods where I do come in on weekends, but the company is more understanding of personal issues. They encourage us to take vacations.
What advice do you have for other young scientists?
It’s hard to force PIs to let the graduate students do things [to gain experience], because they want you in the lab. It’s hard to get advice from someone who has been a faculty member for 50 years — that’s all they know. My biggest advice would be to get involved in career-related activities early, figure out what you want to do.
What did you do?
The myIDP really helped with the job interview process because it forced me to look at the skills I had at the time and how proficient I thought I was at those particular skills. The assessments were also helpful because, based on my responses, the feedback I received “told” me which types of careers would and would not be a good fit for me. This was especially helpful not only in directing me to the types of positions I “should” apply for, but also when I had to respond to the question that nearly everyone asked me: Why do you want to leave academia and go into…?
To see more of this interview, click here.