There is great job security in having a very specialized area of training and experience. When the pool of potential applicants is shallower, you have a better chance of getting hired and staying hired than in fields where many more applicants are qualified for the job. The downside is in locating the job to begin with; the reason there are so few qualified people is that there are very few such positions.
Beginning a search for a job in biotech staffing, environmental professions, or pharmaceuticals is much like beginning any other job search. It’s just that you will likely have less-cluttered results–which is good news. You may also have to register with, and monitor, many different job-posting sites and other sources. Make sure you do as much as possible to get automatic notifications of updates, since a specialized field requires that you cast more nets than a job-seeker in generic skill areas.
Trace Professional Contacts
Chances are, if you’re qualified for a quality science-based job you’ve already had some internships, co-op work, or some level of experience in the field. And while you may have followed those former employers closely and know that they aren’t hiring in your particular field, that doesn’t mean you can’t dig into them for further information. Keep in mind that everyone has a personal network; when you interned, the person supervising you had probably served an internship somewhere too, and may still have contacts with that employer.
So re-trace your career steps, revisit old connections, and reconsider new options in networking through your work history. Remember the idea of six degrees of separation, and focus on the fact that it’s not always what you know or who you know, but it can also be the extended connections of who you know. That friend of a friend of an acquaintance doesn’t necessarily know you well enough to give you a good word, but those convoluted relationships can yield strong leads.
Review Your Classmates
Out of a desire to reduce competition for the position they want, many job-seekers in very specialized fields keep their prospects close to the vest. So once you’ve donned the mortarboard–or even just been handed a pink slip–you may not get much direct help from former classmates. But some may have information that hasn’t gotten to you yet. What other positions have they heard about but not been interested in? What grapevines are they hearing from that can yield a little fruit for you? They don’t have to give up the family recipe, they just need to share the information that isn’t as useful for them as it might be for you. This is especially easy once the other person has already accepted a position, because that means he or she has no further claim to other good finds. That working classmate may have also just come through a bunch of interviews with different employers and could shed some light on what he or she learned during that process. This provides a whole new level of insider information that can bring you to our next point…
Find Growing Firms
Apart from having the right skills for a specialized job, you must also have the skills to know which available positions are best. While you may see a position that sounds like a good fit at a certain company, you might also be able to read the writing on the wall and determine that their long-term prospects aren’t good. This may be deduced from contacts within the company, from industry news, or from just good old intuition. Regardless of how you get the vibe, you’re well-served to stay off the deck of the Titanic, no matter how good the view is.
Many science fields, including biotech, have been growth industries for several years running. But again, you need to consider the individual firm just as carefully as the overall industry in order to avoid getting burned by a first-year layoff.