Career Pathways for Biomedical Scientists in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Journey to Success
About this Booklet
The Institutional Challenge to Train and Maintain Biomedical Scientists
Links and Resources
Tara Sander
Avrum I Gotlieb

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Searching For Your First Job

This narrative on obtaining your first independent positions applies to both academic and non-academic positions. Once you are finished with your graduate education and postdoctoral or other specialized training, you search for your first position. You should have been exploring job prospects well in advance of completing your training. The standard job listings should be carefully scrutinized. Initial contacts can be made at scientific meetings, with visiting lecturers, and through other informal means. Your supervisor, other department members, and your peers can be very helpful as well. Even if you are applying for a position at your current institution or at one you know well, treat it like an unknown entity. You now have to look at it from a faculty point of view and not from that of a trainee, which are very different perspectives. It does not hurt your cause to interview at several institutions or companies so that you learn about the interview process and find out what each institution is offering. This is helpful in understanding how to rate an offer and how to frame your negotiations for salary, benefits, and research support. Understand the market pressures in life sciences, academic medicine, and in the business and not-for-profit world so you can pursue appropriate negotiations.

Curriculum Vitae (CV) and References
In answering advertisements, provide a well presented CV that is clear and unambiguous. Identify your role in publications, especially multi-authored ones. Do not mix abstracts with publications. List chapters, books, and other non-peer reviewed articles separately.

Prepare a well thought out research plan that is not too long but is innovative in nature and feasible at the institute to which you are applying. Remember the search committee will be receiving many applications to review.

If you have teaching experience (formal lectures or one-on-one training in the lab), this is a plus, but in many cases teaching experience is limited during your training period. If you have a philosophy of teaching based on your experience, provide a few paragraphs so that potential employers can better assess your aptitude and suitability for teaching.

List any grants (internal or extramural) that you received as a Principal Investigator (PI) or participated in as a co-PI or collaborator. When applying for a faculty position, you will be much more marketable if you have already submitted or received a grant for extramural funding. Therefore, you have to carefully look at your CV and consider when to apply for a faculty position. In some cases, in might be to your advantage to complete another year of postdoctoral training and submit a grant application before applying for faculty positions.

You should let your referees know beforehand that they may be contacted and send them your CV and research plan so they understand your current situation and future plans. Referees should know you well and should be able to provide critical analysis of your work and how you work in a group. Collegiality is an important feature in choosing both faculty for departments and investigators for industry. If an individual hesitates when you ask for a reference, do not use them as a referee. Search committees do expect to see letters from those who know you best, e.g. supervisors, former employers. If these are absent you need to explain why.