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A Job Search Post-Mortem (Long)

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 1:07 am
by Andy
Hi All,

I thought I would give an update of how my job search in the Bay Area over the last few months played out. I had posted several questions during my search here, and figured I'd tie things up. Here goes . . .

Several months of networking from the Midwest to San Francisco gave so-so results. During that time I took a few trips (self-financed) to the Bay Area and scheduled informal meetings with people at companies I really wanted to work with. These companies included many of the "famous" ones, so I was excited with the interest they showed in at least agreeing to meet with me. However, once I was back in the Midwest, their interest always seemed to fade. Frustrating.

Eventually I decided I had to take a risk. I had to move to the west coast jobless and make something happen. I did that late last summer. Some would say not a smart move, and I wouldn't argue most of the time. But I had my reasons.

When I got out here, I wrote to a research foundation working on a disease I know well through family connections. I told them I would love to help them out on a volunteer basis until I found a full-time position in the Bay Area. They took me up on it.

Meanwhile the informal meetings continued. Again, I got some interest but times were tight enough that I could not squeeze a full day interview out of many people. One interview I did have was at one of the "big three" biotechs, and I really wanted the job. They seemed interested in me, but they interviewed five people and I was not the one they offered.

I've thought a lot about my performance in that interview (which was my first real interview at an established company). Thinking back, I believe I focused too much on how much and why I wanted to work with them. I did not focus enough on why they should hire me. Plus I was not, on paper, the perfect candidate from a technical standpoint for that particular position (yet they did interview me, so . . . ). Anyway, it was my first interview and I learned a lot from it to be applied in the future.

Meanwhile, while the interview and its aftermath were playing out, the research foundation at which I was volunteering offered me a full time (and paid) position. I deferred until I got the "thanks but no thanks" from the company, and have been working at the foundation for about three months now. Overall, I was out of work for three months. Not to shabby and I got to do a lot of cycling around the Bay Area on my new bike.

Although the foundation job was not the one I dreamed to have when my wife and I decided to move west, in reality it will be a very good place for me. It's small. I care a lot personally about what we are doing. I have as much responsibility as I want, and we are working at developing therapeutics. Working with immune system cells, planning small molecule animal experiments, purifying proteins, and screening compounds in enzymatic assays. This is all great stuff; most of it new to me. And if I am here for a couple years, I will likely leapfrog where I would be from an experience standpoint in a biotech company. Not only that, but the people who founded the foundation are good and well-respected scientists with their own companies and connections elsewhere in the biotech world.

Overall, I am happy with the way things have played out. But I know the frustrations of not finding what you're looking for. I know the "why in the world did I go to grad school" feelings. The feelings of impending failure and shame can be real. It isn't fun, but you've just got to suck it up.

Oh I forgot, the craziest thing about the search. I literally NEVER got any response from posting my resume to adds posted on company websites or Biospace. Never, that is, until I posted one to the big company where I interviewed. I submitted my resume online (I'm not even sure why) one night, and the NEXT MORNING first thing I get a call, go to lunch, am interviewing 5 days later. Turns out the guy knew my grad school advisor from way back, but it was the rare connection that did not come through networking.

Sorry for the length. Hope some of you get something out of this.

Best wishes,


A Job Search Post-Mortem (Long)

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 9:46 am
by Dave Jensen

Thanks for this great post. It is very valuable reading,


A Job Search Post-Mortem (Long)

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 12:23 pm
by Park
Thank you for your message.

I did not get responses from companies either, by submitting CVs online to their ads on Biospace -- no matter how exactly my background matched their requirements. I just do not get it. Why do they keep running ads if they do not respond? This makes me like the academic more than industry environment.


A Job Search Post-Mortem (Long)

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 2:14 pm
by Dave Jensen

Here are some thoughts about why this occurs.

First off, many web sites that advertise jobs do NOT WANT TO REMOVE THEM, because they offer the slogan "Over 200,000 jobs on this site" etc. They don't want to have 199,999 so they keep the ad on the site. I've tried my best to get some of our ads off these sites and they just don't want to remove them.

However, an even more likely scenario is that these companies are looking for people with industry experience, and even with the "great match" of your CV and their requirement, the one missing ingredient is the company experience. You are most likely not experienced in industry -- which is the preferred hire on most of those sites.

Why don't you just trash the whole idea of those crazy sites and just focus on your networking campaign? Believe me, that will have more impact on your search than anything else. Andy mentioned that he got an interview by applying directly on a company's website -- that is NOT via a job ad site. Don't give up on those, either.

Dave Jensen, Moderator

A Job Search Post-Mortem (Long)

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 9:15 pm
by Val

Andy wrote:

> I've thought a lot about my performance in the
> interview... I believe I focused too much on...

You have nothing to blame yourself for. The matter is not that your performance was wrong. The matter is with the fact that there are much less vacant jobs than qualified job-seekers, and with the (often) dumb way how the employers hire.

> I literally NEVER got any response from
> posting my resume to adds posted on company
> websites or Biospace.

Straight out of your PhD, you have no work experience. No employer wants to touch you even with a pole. Same happened to me when I was looking for a job after finishing a PhD. Only after accumulating several years of experience I got to be noticed and invited to the interviews and even getting job offers !


A Job Search Post-Mortem (Long)

PostPosted: Thu Jan 06, 2005 10:50 pm
by Kim
I may agree that industry may be anti-academics. But I disagree that industry is anti-intellectual. There is a big difference.

My postdoc advisor is habitually late for meetings. It is very common that he is 15-30 minustes late. Sometimes, for example, he might want to check his mail box downstairs right before the meeting. But on his way, he ran into someone and began to chat. Then he completely forgot about the time and the meetings. My postdoc advisor is a respected intellectual. But I know that his tardiness would not be tolerated for long in industry. He cannot survive in industry. When he is late to a meeting, he is wasting everyone else's time.

You can definitely tell if someone has been in academics for too long.

A Job Search Post-Mortem (Long)

PostPosted: Fri Jan 07, 2005 2:18 pm
by Bill L.

Thanks for your update. You mentioned scheduling informal meetings - I don't remember from your earlier emails if you discussed how you found the people that you met. Can you talk a little about how you identified and approached people of interest to you, e.g., cold calling, networking through old PI, etc.

Bill L. & Naledi S.

PS: you've probably already done this, but if not, send a follow-up email onto all of those folks to tell them where you've landed, thank them for their help in your search and state that if you can ever return the favor, etc. Like us, I'm sure they'd like to have a 'wrap-up' of what happened to you.

A Job Search Post-Mortem (Long)

PostPosted: Fri Jan 07, 2005 5:22 pm
by Andy

I agree with that idea, and I am in the process now of writing notes to virtually everybody who helped me out during my job search. Even those leads that went nowhere.

How did I find people to meet informally with? I used virtually every avenue out there.

Some names I got from acquaintences within a given company. That is, I would email someone I used to work with (or who worked in a common department at a different time) and ask whether they new anybody in a given department or company. Some companies have internal web-based job boards on which positions appear before they go out to the general public. These are good ways to get early information (hiring manager) about particular positions.

Most contacts I made were not people I knew already. Google was my best source for a job search.

One frustration I have about this forum is the number of times I've seen the question: "How do I know who the hiring manager is? Human resources won't give me that information." Friends, you can find hiring managers with a simple internet browser.

Let's say you want to find a hiring manager at Genentech in molecular oncology. Forgive my sarcasm please, but how difficult is it to go to Google and type in "molecular oncology" and "Genentech"? That search turns of the director of Molecular Oncology at Genentech. Not a big surprise. It's not difficult.

If you want to get a contact at a company where you don't know anyone at all, try this: Let's say you went to the University of Texas for grad school, and you want to find a biotech company where Texas alumns work. These people might be good contacts for you. Go to Google and type in "university of texas" and "biotech company." You'll find UT alumns on boards/in management at biotechs.

Or, try a google search like this: "scientist at Gilead." You'll find the names of, yes, scientists at Gilead.

Searching PubMed for publications from certain companies shows senior authors who are often the hiring managers. You want to work in chemistry at Amgen and don't know who to contact? Search PubMed for Amgen, and the first article to pop up is a recent publication from chemists at Amgen.

A corrollary pet peeve of mine is when people complain that networking/schmoozing is somehow an underhanded way to get a job and that less qualified people get jobs that way. No. The opposite is true. If you don't have the problem solving ability to find out who a hiring manager is in a department at a given company, then how likely are you to have other problem solving abilities? Because it is not difficult and takes just a handful of skills for dealing with people, networking is a great "first filter" for companies to use in the process of filling a position.

Finally, MAKE PHONE CALLS. Emails are much more easy to ignore. Phone calls get things done.

Best of luck to everyone.


A Job Search Post-Mortem (Long)

PostPosted: Fri Jan 07, 2005 5:57 pm
by Dave Jensen
Andy, that's one of the best "tell it like it is" posts that I've seen in a long time. Thank you very much.

I am also frustrated when people tell me that they can't get names inside a company. When I ask them what they are doing so far, they say that they are calling the company and asking the receptionist.

I don't mean to "diss" receptionists, but they are like robots. They have a rule that they live by, and it is "Provide No Information To Someone Who Doesn't Know Anything." Basically, you call up as a dummy and you get that response.

It's amazing what happens when you talk to people other than the person who answers the phone. If you reach a voicemail system, why not just try punching some buttons. When a live person comes on, ask for the department you need.


A Job Search Post-Mortem (Long)

PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2005 6:50 am
by Kim
Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if I address the wrong person as the hiring manager. It is certainly very likely to happen if I simply do internet search.

I was also interviewed in a major biotech company last month in the bay area. Before the job interview, I googled the name of the hiring manager. In this case, I already knew the name of the hiring manger. Google does not return any useful information on that person.

However, if I use the name of the biotech company and the department name, I got many different names of the senior scientists there. However, the hiring manager's name is not one of them. In that case, I would easily mistake someone else as the hiring manager. Would that be very counter-productive if I address the wrong person?