samman1994

Why haven't I found a job yet?

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Hello everyone,

Quick backstory:

I am an undergraduate with 3 years of research in a protein Biochemistry lab. I have some experience with cellular and molecular bio, and even some programming from this lab. However, I have a degree in Chemistry, not Biochemistry, so no cell, genetic, or molecular background. Everything i know about genes, proteins, and cells is all from the lab and self taught. 

Situation:

I have been looking for a R&D job that is basically in the biochemistry field in the pharma industry (only in vitro, don't want to work with animals). I have looked at everything from just molecular bio focused, to computational biology, to even analytical chemistry regarding proteins (purification only). As stated above, I have at least 3+ years of experience (academia not industry) and a BS in Chemistry. I have also applied to lab technicians at various universities. Yet despite all this, I have gotten very little job interviews after 2 months of looking and some 40+ applications sent. Now I know my application isn't all that amazing (I don't have any industry experience, and I am going into a field that is somewhat unrelated to my degree), but I fit almost all required and preffered descriptions of the jobs I apply to. Why am I not getting any response? 

Troubleshoot:

I have had my CV looked at, and have been told its good by multiple professors. One might assume my references might be poor, but no one has even called any of them yet. Again, I've had some interviews, just no emails back. I know it is difficult for an undergrad with no research experience to get a job in R&D, but I thought it was at least possible with enough time (considering most undergrads have very little lab experience anyways). My only explanation can be that I'm just being beaten by Master or PhD students. 

Question:

Is it even possible for a BS graduate to get a R&D job with my background? Should I sell my soul and settle for less (QA/QC)? Should I continue to fight the odds and hope I get lucky? Again, I've gotten interviews for some positions, so the companies at least think I have a chance. Any help would be appreciated. At this point, I'm seriously contemplating just fuck it and get a QA/QC job until I go back to school to get a degree that can get me a job into R&D. 

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You've spoken about your resume and that it's good enough to get you the interview. What is happening during these interviews? What are some of the questions asked and your answers to them? Is it possible that something is falling short during the interview process to keep them from moving your application forward?

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Honestly, it's because you're in biochemistry. It's an immensely saturated field, and hard to get jobs at even at the MS/PhD level. 

The chemistry degree is probably giving you some leg up, but you're steering it into a much more crowded field. You'd probably have a lot more success if you went the analytical route. Chromatography always seems particularly in demand, as does solid background in MS techniques. 

UPLC-MS is getting huge for protein/DNA fragment analysis. 

A lot of getting a job is reading trends in the field and making sure your expertise is (a) something that will be in demand, and (b) something not a lot of other people have. So find what you could "develop" into given your current skill set.

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Thanks for the replies guys. 

1) Well the main issue was I wasn't even getting a lot of interviews, so that was a problem right up the bat. 

2) Yeah, I've come to realize the job i want is in very high demand, but low availability

I found the answers to why I wasn't getting any jobs. 

1) I'm literally getting outcompeted by degrees and experience. All these jobs have PhDs and MAs applying for the same position, but whereas I only have 3, they can have up to 5-8 years of experience in multiple fields. 

2) This is actually even more important than the first, most biotech/pharm companies only do hire via recruiters now a days. I found this out personally all too well when I went to a pharma company for an interview, and found out 90% of their entire R&D department wasn't even employed by the company, but by a recruiter. This goes for literally everything else as well manufactoring, QC/QA, troubleshooting, etc. (They do this so the company doesn't have to pay benefits to its employees and keep the costs down, basically its cheaper and easier to go through recruiters than direct hire). 

3) Most companies do very little training now a days. If you are not already advanced in the field, they will most likely not want  you (this is why most jobs tell you they want experience in the exact field you would be working in). I.e. if they want you to do analytical using LC/MS, and you are not proficient in it, they will not hire you. Since I've only been in one lab, I'm only proficient with a small set of instruments, not the entire spectrum of analytical instrumentation. 

4) Finally they pay like garbage. I found out I've been putting my desired salary way to high for someone with an undergrad degree (I thought 40k a year was reasonable). They are looking basically around the 30k mark for anyone with no industry experience with a BS. 

Basically, they want an expert in the field that will require very little training, via a recruiter so you get no benefits (and aren't an employee of their company so they can cut you at anytime), and with a lot experience fooooor shit pay. I've basically come to the realization, the market is so saturated with MS and PhD students willing to accept lower wages to get jobs, BS just get the bottom of the barrel. 

 

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On 8/12/2017 at 3:12 PM, samman1994 said:

Again, I've gotten interviews for some positions, so the companies at least think I have a chance. Any help would be appreciated. At this point, I'm seriously contemplating just fuck it and get a QA/QC job until I go back to school to get a degree that can get me a job into R&D. 

I think that you should look at your attitude.

There's a chance that the contempt that you show on this BB for those who have QA/QC positions, higher GPAs than you, graduate students, and those who have earned doctorates comes across differently than you realize. That is, you look good enough on paper to get some interviews from potential employers, and once you start talking, you convince them that they should find someone else.

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36 minutes ago, Sigaba said:

I think that you should look at your attitude.

There's a chance that the contempt that you show on this BB for those who have QA/QC positions, higher GPAs than you, graduate students, and those who have earned doctorates comes across differently than you realize. That is, you look good enough on paper to get some interviews from potential employers, and once you start talking, you convince them that they should find someone else.

It's definitely not contempt, especially for those with higher GPAs (which doesn't matter for work anyways), and PhDs. If anything, I find myself on par with a MA in terms of experience and knowledge (this is based on my research lab, and those in department), but again, definitely not contempt. As stated earlier, the main reasons I was having trouble is I was going about it wrong, and my knowledge basis wasn't what they wanted. Honestly, the interviews that I did get previously (when I made this post), I don't know why I did. One of them told me to come back for a 2nd interview, only to tell me during the 2nd interview they weren't going to hire me because I didn't know how to use one of their machines, and they wouldn't do training (even though I told them I didn't know how to use the machine during the initial phone interview).  As for QA/QC it's not contempt, just something I'd really like to avoid (which at this point doesn't seem possible), and someones got to do it. So for those that do, I have nothing but respect for them, it's not an easy job. 

If there is anything I have contempt for, it's the company. Job postings not stating what you would actually do at the company (saying research doesn't mean anything), so you have to google the company yourself and try to connect the dots what you would possible be doing. Job applications telling you to upload your CV/Resume, only to have you fill out all the information in  your resume separately in their forms anyways. Trolling interviews where they make you do a phone interview, 1st interview, and 2nd interview only to tell you "oh you don't know how to use that machine, well we don't train here so sorry" even though you made your skills (and lack thereof) very clear in the initial interview. Telling you they want someone within the next 2 weeks, then calling you a month later telling you they want you to come in. Honestly, the entire process of just finding a job in this industry is very frustrating. In some ways, its a little better than retail (you don't have to fill out a billion questionairres or quizzes anymore), but in other ways it's just as bad (for reasons stated above). Anyways, these are things I definitely do not make apparent at the interview, as far as they are concerned, I'm actually quite grateful I got an interview (which I sorta am). 

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12 hours ago, samman1994 said:

It's definitely not contempt, especially for those with higher GPAs (which doesn't matter for work anyways), and PhDs. If anything, I find myself on par with a MA in terms of experience and knowledge (this is based on my research lab, and those in department), but again, definitely not contempt.

Okay.

On 9/2/2017 at 4:32 PM, samman1994 said:

That being said, a PhD means absolutely nothing in my eyes in regards to prestige, intellect, or heirachy. In my time in the academic system, I have come to understand a PhD means absolutely nothing in regards to the person. I have met PhDs who got PhDs in chemistry, but actually don't know anything about well... any chemistry field (organic, analytical, physical, etc.). I have met PhDs who were complete and utter idiots (A professor during a thesis defense once asked how fish breathe). I respect the amount of work a PhD has put in, but that is it. Whether you have a PhD or not means nothing to me when it comes to teaching. As someone who actively took part in hiring committees at my school to hire potential professors (with PhDs), and also worked alongside many master students who taught classes, I can tell you having a PhD means jack shit in teaching. Why do I bring this up? Because people think the title of professor has some prestige with, and as stated before, that title is for people who have PhDs.  I really don't think it means much though based on the above statements. I think calling someone with an MA a professor, or calling someone with a PhD professor is fine in regards to teaching.

Anyways, this is from a students perspective, not a professors perspective. 

 

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5 minutes ago, Sigaba said:

 

Okay.

 

Two different topics with two entirely different points. One, it is not contempt, even that statement does not show contempt, simply that I think a PhD does not define a persons intellect or prestige. I do not think people with PhDs are better or smarter than the ordinary person, and in regards to that topic, teaching as well. I have no problem with people who have PhDs, in fact as stated in what you quoted, I have nothing but respect for the amount of time and effort they put in. All this being said, at the end of the day, I don't care if someone does or doesn't have a PhD. Whether they have one or not is not going to make me like them or DISLIKE them. So I do not see how the two things you quoted are related at all. In the first one I state I don't have contempt for people with PhDs, and in the 2nd I state a PhD does not define a persons intellect or ability to teach better than someone without a PhD. Neither of those show contempt. 

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12 hours ago, samman1994 said:

If there is anything I have contempt for, it's the company. Job postings not stating what you would actually do at the company (saying research doesn't mean anything), so you have to google the company yourself and try to connect the dots what you would possible be doing. Job applications telling you to upload your CV/Resume, only to have you fill out all the information in  your resume separately in their forms anyways. Trolling interviews where they make you do a phone interview, 1st interview, and 2nd interview only to tell you "oh you don't know how to use that machine, well we don't train here so sorry" even though you made your skills (and lack thereof) very clear in the initial interview. Telling you they want someone within the next 2 weeks, then calling you a month later telling you they want you to come in. Honestly, the entire process of just finding a job in this industry is very frustrating. In some ways, its a little better than retail (you don't have to fill out a billion questionairres or quizzes anymore), but in other ways it's just as bad (for reasons stated above). Anyways, these are things I definitely do not make apparent at the interview, as far as they are concerned, I'm actually quite grateful I got an interview (which I sorta am). 

Sorry to break it to you, but this is basically the reality for pretty much all jobs, even in academia. I also don't know if you have started applying to PhD programs yet, but some of this happens at the PhD application stage too (ask for doc upload and then require you to fill in online form with same info etc.)

And haven't you already been doing the "google the company yourself and try to connect the dots" type investigation when finding out which schools to apply for, who does what research there etc.

I and many other people I know have gone through multiple interview stages only to find out that the company/organization intended to make an internal hire the entire time but for HR reasons, they still have to carry out a full search with interviews etc. in order to do due diligence. And it's pretty hard to compete with someone who already has like 10 years in the organization so it's pretty much a sure thing for that candidate, but everyone still has to go through the process. This is just life. Good that you're experiencing it now though since it would be helpful in your future :)

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4 minutes ago, TakeruK said:

Sorry to break it to you, but this is basically the reality for pretty much all jobs, even in academia. I also don't know if you have started applying to PhD programs yet, but some of this happens at the PhD application stage too (ask for doc upload and then require you to fill in online form with same info etc.)

And haven't you already been doing the "google the company yourself and try to connect the dots" type investigation when finding out which schools to apply for, who does what research there etc.

I and many other people I know have gone through multiple interview stages only to find out that the company/organization intended to make an internal hire the entire time but for HR reasons, they still have to carry out a full search with interviews etc. in order to do due diligence. And it's pretty hard to compete with someone who already has like 10 years in the organization so it's pretty much a sure thing for that candidate, but everyone still has to go through the process. This is just life. Good that you're experiencing it now though since it would be helpful in your future :)

I haven't started applying yet (think I'll do that in early November), but it'll be fine since I'm only applying to 5 schools instead of 50 jobs. It just gets frustrating when you're doing the same copy/paste for the 10th time in one day. And I have googled the company, it's just again, a bit frustrating. If you're going to put a job post up at least tell me a little bit about what i'll be doing at the job so I should know whether to apply or not (most companies actually do this, but sometimes you'll find those that have an HR department completely oblivious of what their company does). This is one of the reasons I sorta document my experiences on here a little bit, is so that other people looking for a job in the biotech/pharma industry might see this post and avoid all the pitfalls I ran through.

If anything my number one advice I'd tell people is, this process takes a loooong time. I thought I'd have a job in a month, but I was sorely mistaken. I'd say if you're in school, start applying as soon as you graduate, and start looking hard (i.e. look everywhere, not just your ideal job). And never stop applying, even if you have a job interview, even if they tell you that you might have the job, continue to apply until you actually start working in the company (even then I'd advise to have a back up plan). Highly competitive, highly annoying, but what are you gonna do. This is how the world works. Thanks for everyone who commented on this post by the way! It was not just helpful to me, but I'm sure will be helpful for anyone who is in a similar situation and see's the post.

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Honestly, 50 jobs is very few. 

I was on the low end looking for faculty jobs last year with around 56, and friends of mine going the industry route are well over 100. 

This is the nature of the industry. There are thousands of qualified PhDs entering the market each year, and tens of thousands of BS Bio/Biochem students. You're also competing with all the people moving from one company to another with years of work experience. 

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5 hours ago, Eigen said:

Honestly, 50 jobs is very few. 

I was on the low end looking for faculty jobs last year with around 56, and friends of mine going the industry route are well over 100. 

This is the nature of the industry. There are thousands of qualified PhDs entering the market each year, and tens of thousands of BS Bio/Biochem students. You're also competing with all the people moving from one company to another with years of work experience. 

Well that was actually a random number. The actual range is over 100+ now. I've applied to literally every QC/QA, manufactoring, R&D, lab/research associate/technician job within a 50 mile radius. What makes mine even harder is I have no industry experience, and only have a BS with a skill set that isn't valued in the slightest at my grad level (nobody hires someone with a BS to run an NMR or analyze NMR data for proteins). Most of the jobs for recent grads are either analytical jobs, or microbio/cellbio jobs with assays and or fluor/MS (of which I've never done any of). So, yeah, at this point, I find myself actually getting a job anywhere to be a stroke of luck!

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6 hours ago, Eigen said:

Hate to be a downer, but very few people hire for that skill set at the graduate level either. 

Yeah, I realized this when I started looking for jobs, I realized there are very few jobs that I would theoretically be qualified for (in terms of experience). I brought this up to my PI a few days ago, and she said the amount of jobs in the field that I'm in and will be going for in my PhD are on the rise, but still very scarce. That being said, there are huge institutions that primarily work on solving solution structures of proteins in the industry, the only problem being they are "institutions", so I'd have to move over to them, and they are very few and far between (I only know a few globally). So I don't think I'd have difficulty finding a job per se (after my PhD), just difficulty finding a job that wouldn't require me to relocate. 

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I'd ask someone other than your PI, because that is not my impression at all. Especially not in non-academic circles, but even in academia. 

The advice I got a while ago when I was looking into grad school was to not back yourself into a niche corner instrument wise in terms of skill, but get as much breadth of general techniques as possible. 

It's relatively easy to pick up a skill set like protein NMR later on, but harder to sell yourself as anything else if you specialize early. 

IMO, the sure set of skills is mass-spec, chromatography, and informatics. Those are all growing, and constantly spinning off new sub-areas, and all are high throughput enough to see broad industry use, without the need for single expensive instruments.

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Well there are very few labs that I saw that focus only on NMR. Almost all the labs do have xray crystallography or fluor on the side, and I think every single NMR lab does a little bioinformatics work. In regards to chromatography, you need to purify your own proteins, but that is almost entirely HPLC/FPLC so you do gain very good solid work there (an that's actually pretty popular in the job market, if you have a Masters). You also express/grow your proteins too, and that can range from bacterial, yeast, to mammillian, using a variety of vectors. Most of these labs also look at In-cell work as well, and sometimes have a variety of different assays for testing activity of proteins, so overall, I think in regards to my specialty (protein NMR), I'll be putting my interests into a niche, but the all protein labs do a huge variety of different things. This is one of the reasons some of the interviews I've gotten have ranged everywhere from cell expression line specialists, to protein purification specialist, to even Research Associate positions at other schools to help analyze NMR data for the PI. However, being a jack of all trades, meaning not specializing in any one particular thing, and that is my concern. When I get my PhD, I will have done a little bioinformatics, but you have people who's entire field was bioinformatics, I'll have done a little mass-spec or xray crystallography, but you have people who's entire program was crystallography. 

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As general, non-field specific advice, I usually tell people this:

If you are perfectly, or reasonably over, qualified for the jobs you're applying for AND putting at least 4 hours a day into thorough applications expect about a 3-6 month turn around for most companies, 4-8 local agencies, 1 year + for government.

At the highest point of my job searches, I think I average about 20/week and regularly follow-up with the 5-10 I actually care a lot about.

 

Every once in a while I hear about someone landing a job much earlier.. Usually through networking. 

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1 hour ago, _kita said:

As general, non-field specific advice, I usually tell people this:

If you are perfectly, or reasonably over, qualified for the jobs you're applying for AND putting at least 4 hours a day into thorough applications expect about a 3-6 month turn around for most companies, 4-8 local agencies, 1 year + for government.

At the highest point of my job searches, I think I average about 20/week and regularly follow-up with the 5-10 I actually care a lot about.

 

Every once in a while I hear about someone landing a job much earlier.. Usually through networking. 

Well I don't know about putting 4 hours a day into applications, there aren't that many new job postings every day (that are new). But follow ups are a good idea that I forgot (I only followed up after the interview, not application itself). 

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9 hours ago, samman1994 said:

Well I don't know about putting 4 hours a day into applications, there aren't that many new job postings every day (that are new).

When you add up the hours researching a company, developing a personal resume, cover letter, etc. a thorough application can easily take 2 hours to decide if it's a good fit and/complete- sometimes longer. I would mix that and career builder spam my resume to jobs of interest.

 

9 hours ago, samman1994 said:

But follow ups are a good idea that I forgot (I only followed up after the interview, not application itself). 

This is a step that a LOT of people forget. I've had probably about 5 interviews in my life when someone says, "oh, you were the next one on my list. Hold on while I grab your resume..." Personally, I think most HR reps are screen candidates for enthusiasm and the "go getter" attitude. 

My usual reference is call two weeks after the application is submitted and the exact day after any deadline they give you.

 

If you don't have that many job openings right now, expect a longer turnaround than 3-6 months unless you find one through networking.

Edited by _kita

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5 hours ago, _kita said:

When you add up the hours researching a company, developing a personal resume, cover letter, etc. a thorough application can easily take 2 hours to decide if it's a good fit and/complete- sometimes longer. I would mix that and career builder spam my resume to jobs of interest.

 

This is a step that a LOT of people forget. I've had probably about 5 interviews in my life when someone says, "oh, you were the next one on my list. Hold on while I grab your resume..." Personally, I think most HR reps are screen candidates for enthusiasm and the "go getter" attitude. 

My usual reference is call two weeks after the application is submitted and the exact day after any deadline they give you.

 

If you don't have that many job openings right now, expect a longer turnaround than 3-6 months unless you find one through networking.

oh yeah, if you add in the time of researching the company. In regards to following up however, the number on the website of the company is usually just a general customer service line, do you call them and ask for HRs department? Like I'm curious how you are able to contact HR, to call them. Also when you call them, what do you say? Do you say I wanted to follow up and see how the process is going? Or just call and thank them for providing you with the opportunity to work there and for their time looking at your application?

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53 minutes ago, samman1994 said:

oh yeah, if you add in the time of researching the company. In regards to following up however, the number on the website of the company is usually just a general customer service line, do you call them and ask for HRs department? Like I'm curious how you are able to contact HR, to call them. Also when you call them, what do you say? Do you say I wanted to follow up and see how the process is going? Or just call and thank them for providing you with the opportunity to work there and for their time looking at your application?

First, I'll look up the company and see if they have an HR number posted. If not, I'll call the customer service and ask for the number to HR. Not just for a transfer. That way, you can write down and keep track of the numbers.

My script is something as follows, "Hello, my name is _ _, and I submitted an application on ___ for the ___ position. I'm calling to follow-up to see when I should hear back regarding any decisions." I'll document the day in my journal o' job notes, and then call them the morning after I "should have heard back."

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