Sunday, 4 March 2012

Life Science careers conference - My experience

I attended my first life science careers conference this week (01/03) at the University of Westminster, London. The conference was organised by the Society of Biology in association with British Ecological Society, Society for Experimental Biology, Biochemical Society and the Society for Endocrinology and attracted science graduates, soon to be graduates and newly enrolled students. The event was scheduled to take place from 11.30am to 17.30hrs.

The day started with the usual registration process, an exhibition by various universities, societies and recruitment agencies followed by a series of talks focused on planning your life science career and the options available.
Universities present included the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of Surrey, Cranfield University, University of Westminster.
Societies included the Society of Biology, Biochemical Society, British Ecological Society, British Pharmacological Society, British Toxicology Society,Society for Experimental Biology, Society for Endocrinology, Society for microbiology and the Physiological Society. Matchtech and Nature jobs were the two recruitment agencies present.
Teachfirst, the charity organisation recruiting science graduates to teach in deprived schools were also present to showcase their work. Personally, it was the first I had heard of Teachfirst and had I discovered them earlier, I would definitely had signed up to their program. Primarily because I appreciate their cause and secondly because I like a challenge. Having the opportunity to have a direct measure of success through your  efforts whiles impacting on the lives of deprived school pupils is truly rewarding. Find out about teach first here:

The afternoon session comprised of a series of talks from careers advisers, societies and representatives of academia, industry, environmental sector, government, education, biomedical and clinical sciences.  Each of these representatives gave an insight into their career path and the opportunities available. One thing was clear across board, the importance of networking and going the extra mile to show initiative and evidence of your skill set.
Attendees were advised to identify an area of interest and to take it one step further by taking one thing away from the conference and acting on it. So what did I take from the conference?

As competitive and impossible as the media may portray the job market to be, the life science industry is growing in the UK but then so is the number of graduates. It is for this reason that it is imperative to have that extra edge over your competitors. To achieve this it is important to remain employable by focusing on developing your skills set. As Stephen Cole mentioned, some jobs today may be non existent tomorrow due to the influence of technology and developing your skills and qualities keeps you abreast with the current market so you remain employable. A lot of emphasis was placed on the evidence of skills and advantage of networking. You have to create opportunities for yourself and be patient, flexible and enthusiastic.

Personally, I have been contemplating pursuing a PhD and a career in science communication. Being at the conference has increased my understanding of the market and helped point me in the right direction. I have since joined a couple of relevant organisations, improved my CV and have a lists of avenues to explore in science communication / academia. 

It was certainly a Thursday well spent and I look forward to other networking opportunities.

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