The Best and Worst Things About Applying in Biotech

This article was originally published here
September 3, 2015
By Aja Frost for

Whether you’re fresh out of school, transitioning from academia or have been working in biotech for years, you’ll quickly find that applying for a job in this industry has its unique pros and cons.

Check out the best and the worst things about job-seeking when you’re in biotech.

Best: The Excitement

The job search process can be stressful, demoralizing and frustrating, yes—but with so many exciting companies to work for, applying to a biotech or pharma company can actually be really fun.

After all, you’re one of the few people in the world who gets to shape our future, whether that’s by working on a cutting-edge new drug, diagnosing genetic disorders or doing something we can’t even conceive of yet.

Worst: The Jargon

Even if you’ve got the necessary expertise for a job, it’s still pretty normal to hear at least one term during the job interview that you’re totally unfamiliar with.

In this situation, you have two choices: You can pretend you know what the hiring mangers are talking about, or you can ask them to clarify.

We recommend the second option—it’s better to admit your ignorance than get caught in a lie.

(Just say, “Sorry, can you please elaborate on [the term]? I’m not totally familiar with that.” Then, after the interview, make sure you thoroughly understand the concept—and mention it in your follow-up note!)

Best: The High Demand

Having a specialty can put you in high demand. If a company needs someone with your specific knowledge base, skill set, background or training, its hiring department will put in a lot of effort to convince you to join them.

And while being wooed is fun for obvious reasons, having multiple offers can also help you negotiate for a higher salary or more perks.

Cons: The Competition

On the flip side, there are many talented scientists out there, which means you can face intense competition for a good position.

So how can you set yourself apart? Start with the basics: a customized resume and cover letter for each job application, an awesome interview and a great thank-you note.

Once you’ve got those down, work on developing or strengthening the three skills every biotech employee should have.

Best: The Possibilities

One of the unique advantages of working in the life sciences industry is that new jobs are constantly being formed. That means you’re applying for roles that may not have existed even a couple of years ago.

To show you’re a great fit for this industry, highlight your flexibility, entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to work hard on things that might fail.

Worst: The Changing Industry

As biotech companies diversify, and pharm companies start expanding into biotech, there’s no longer a clear distinction between the two workplaces.

In the past, jobseekers could be relatively confident that a biotech company allowed for a relatively independent, dynamic atmosphere, while a pharmaceutical company offered more job security and clearly defined roles.

Now, finding the right fit for your temperament and work style requires deeper investigation into the specific workplace.

To figure this out, we recommend talking to former and current employees, reading up on the company’s values and history and asking your interviewer questions about the culture.

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