Starting your STEM Career
Welcome to Starting your STEM Career. This is a four-part science employment series for new STEM graduates and final year students planning careers. It has been written by WITS member Susan Treacy who has many years’ experience in science and healthcare.
Graduating with your science qualification is an exciting time. After years of study, you may be keen to get into employment and apply your knowledge in the working world. It can also be a confusing time. The world of science is evolving and changing and finding the right place for you, where you can contribute, learn and enjoy your role may seem daunting. We want to help you navigate through this by utilising the experience of other scientists.
In this four-part science employment series, we will offer insight on preparation, diversification, networking and changing direction in science. In each part, we will also offer general practical insights on each topic taken from real experiences in the real world which have led to a range of diverse careers for scientists.
In the age we are in, scientific roles can be less black and white and more multi-faceted, cross-functional roles. In this series, we hope to offer insight and guidance into these avenues and the possibilities that are waiting for you as a scientist at this important time.
In this first post, we begin at the start with a look at preparation for job hunting. Following this we look at the lesser known, broad possibilities that a qualification in Biomedical Science can provide.
Taking the time to prepare cannot be underestimated. This will involve the more obvious aspects of job hunting such as preparing a CV, a cover letter and having a social media presence on a work-related platform like LinkedIn.
However, this also involves identifying what roles you would like and what area you want to work in. This can be more difficult to clarify. Often there may not be an exact fit role available. By knowing the area, you want to be in you can identify stepping-stone roles to bring you to your goal as part of a longer-term plan.
Here are some steps to help in preparation:
What area you would like to work in and begin to inform yourself on roles? You may have a general qualification or alternatively, something more specific such as biochemistry. Biochemistry can be used in pharma, pathology or technology for example. Knowing which area you like helps bring you closer to where you want to be.
Identify what you love and what you want
Write down what aspects of science interests you? What do you enjoy? Do you like working in a group or on your own, or both? Do you like working on the bench? Do you like research? Are you happy in an office with a team? Do you like meeting new people? What would your ideal job be? Once you have answered these questions look at those areas and see what other roles are built around the ideal role you have in your mind. Are they more accessible? Will they add to your skill set? Will they bring you closer to your long-term goal?
Identify what you are good at
Write down your strengths and talents and how they could be applied to a new role. Have you done any work experience that could be relatable to the job roles. For example, if you worked in a bar or a retail position as a student you will have gained people skills and can demonstrate that you are trustworthy. Every role you undertake offers you a strength that you need to draw on while job hunting.
Finally, if you are struggling in the preparation phase then reach out to friend, family or college professors. Knowing yourself and your strengths in relation to the job role you want will improve your chances. Reach out and contact companies to better understand job roles better. Being proactive at this stage will set a firm foundation for going forward. Don’t forget to register with your college’s career service, they will provide help and support throughout your career preparation.
Lesser known Biomedical Science Roles
A Biomedical Science Degree is an excellent qualification to move into the life sciences. The traditional route for a Biomedical Scientist is to gain a position in a Pathology Laboratory. This is the more well-known route and offers excellent career prospects and rewards. In addition to these roles within a hospital, a Biomedical Degree offers a student other less known career avenues.
The face of diagnostics has changed substantially and roles that were more manual some decades ago are now automated. With this, the area of diagnostics has grown and as such the companies providing IT solutions, laboratory equipment, consumables and solutions to the hospitals require knowledgeable employees. Every piece of equipment in a laboratory must be developed, built, marketed, sold into the laboratory, maintained and this is just the start.
The discipline of Pathology is growing more complex with an ageing population and increased demands on our healthcare systems. Whole solutions are now being placed into most of our blood science laboratories and more recently, for a number of reasons, there is a notable increase in automated solutions in areas traditionally very manual such as Microbiology and Histology. All of these solutions need Biomedical Scientists with the scientific foundation to support this.
Diagnostic companies and distributors will hire Biomedical Scientists to work on their multi-discipline teams and train them on the solutions and platforms. Having biomedical knowledge in the business environment allows more productive engagement in conversations and decisions. These scientists work collaboratively to sell the right solutions to hospitals to meet their needs. If successful and a solution is implemented, it is generally a Biomedical Scientist who will train the Hospital’s Biomedical Scientists on how to operate the systems and then be available for Scientific/Application support.
Down the line, there are opportunities then in sales, technical and business management. This is a diverse career path which offers the opportunity to combine business and science or science and engineering as part of cross-functional teams. It also offers collaborative, rewarding roles.
For more information and advice, the second in this employment series will be posted next month and please look out for our spring 2019 WITS careers event.
Written by: Susan Treacy
Photo credits: www.freepik.com/free-photo/woman-holding-a-blank-notebook-and-colourful-drawings_902868.htm