Sunday, September 11, 2011

Experiment 9: Getting aggressive, asking about jobs

By this point in the experimentation process, it's become clear to me that behavior I previously thought was outlandishly presumptive or aggressive is at worst barely approaching standard practice. Remember how I used to feel about calling HR? Or finding people on LinkedIn? Who knows what makes us scientists so shy, but I am here to push the bounds of acceptable job hunting behavior all the way to "expected levels of interaction." Call me a rebel.

I've started committing (via Twitter) what I used to think was a major faux-paus: asking about jobs. I'm not asking for jobs yet (that's still tacky), but I've found some recruiters who ought to have the types of jobs I am looking for, but only seem to post jobs that aren't right for me (QC Chemist). In prinicple, they know I am watching, because they can tell that I follow them, but I don't pay any attention to who my actual followers are. The only way to get noticed on Twitter is to speak up directly. When I asked Vala Sciences (publicly) for more info about openings, I heard back from them (they will be opening a new department, but they want to get a director in place first. It's almost time for a follow-up with them). So why not just ask the biotech recruiter? Why not just ask Amgen, do you have positions for people with my background?

The obvious reason not to is that the very thought of it makes me feel ill. But both Steve Levy and Adrienne Graham were comically appalled by my lack of aggressiveness in this whole thing. How are these people/entities going to know you want a job otherwise? Continuing to apply for the wrong positions isn't helping. I would really like to work for Amgen- they paid my summer stipend the summer I decided to go to graduate school, so I've always had a soft spot for them. But their careers pages is confounding and so my resume is likely filled under "people who can't read job descriptions." Hopefully I can get someone there to at least point me towards the correct job title or department to look for, since that would be a huge advantage to me. As bashful as I am feeling about this, I still don't think I'm crossing the bounds of appropriate job seeker behavior. In fact, I am finally just beginning to broach the whole reason groups like Amgen and Merck are on Twitter in the first place- to connect with candidates before the hiring process begins.


  1. Just a thought about what makes scientist so shy. The academic environment discourages anyone from stepping up and showing they are the best in the room at any given task. We learn to quietly defer to the boss even when we know we are right and never dare to say we are the best at something in front of our peers. Such bold behavior is usually punished. It makes lousy training for the real world when you need to step up and confidently say you are the best person in the world for a given position. Could this be why many people never look beyond academics even though they are unhappy there? I don't have the answer but I suspect there is truth in it.

  2. Exactly Patrick. In the real world academic behaviour will get you nowhere.

  3. Thanks for the encouragement, guys. And Anonymous- good luck with your search.

  4. Hi again,

    More thoughts (so much for my limited commenting). I'm not so much into the social media, for various reasons. But to comment specifically on your Amgen situation... just call them. Nothing makes better contact than a conversation. No misunderstandings, lots of opportunities for probing leading questions, and a great way to introduce yourself in more that 140 characters. If there is no contact name to go with an interesting job posting, call reception and ask for the HR manager. Do your 30 sec pitch, they'll probably say something about lack of experience, or if you are lucky, as was the case for me (a one off, but still), "you're exactly what we are looking for, send me your resume and I'll pass it on to the department manager". Before I apply for any job I call and speak to the the person that will be screening my resume, they might remember my name out of the 600 or so applications they will no doubt get. This is hard (see: aggressive behaviour for academics), but necessary. I usually have some inane specific questions about the job ("is experience required?"), but once you get a conversation going, you never know where it might lead. And if that opportunity doesn't work out, you've still made a contact. If another position opens up a couple of months later you can call again and say "hi, we spoke a couple of months ago about my suitability for a position, I'm still really interested in your company, do you think I might be suitable for this position?" Or you can ask how other people got to the position you are interested in.
    Nothing beats direct conversation (people also find it harder to say no), it's hard, but you get used to it.