How to get acquainted with your career before you graduate | Top Universities

How to get acquainted with your career before you graduate

By Sharon Elaine D

Updated June 20, 2022 Updated June 20, 2022

Before I started university, I put a lot of research into choosing the right degree that would make me feel fulfilled in my work and give me the skills and knowledge to start my career in biological sciences.  

Once I picked my degree in biotechnology, I was daunted by the idea of studying for 10-12 years without knowing what it would really be like to work in the field. Thankfully, I found lots of ways to get acquainted with my career before I even graduated from my degree at Dow College of Biotechnology.  

Professional societies and networking groups 

With some online research, I was able to find professional societies and Facebook groups related to medicine. Professional bodies can be really useful for finding out insights into your field through webinars, advice and guidance, and career support too.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I used my time at home to attend webinars from the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) so I could gain knowledge from the scientific community that would help me understand more about my future.  

The webinars included topics like choosing a graduate university, exploring different careers in science and how to present scientific information. I gained a lot of knowledge around my chosen subject, but I also received certificates to show I’d completed the sessions which I can add to my cv.   

Facebook has been a helpful platform to find interesting topics and discussions in my subject. The ASM Student Global Outreach team has an official Facebook group of both professionals and students. It helped me to stay updated with events and news from microbiology and to hear about the experiences and challenges of professionals in the industry.  

There are many social media platforms hosting networking groups, like Slack or LinkedIn.  

Finding a mentor 

There are many ways to find a mentor. You can contact your university careers service, find online mentoring platforms, or meet experts through opportunities and programmes for students. 

I’ve participated in virtual programmes like 1000 Girls 1000 Futures and applied for a STEM fellowship. Through these opportunities, I encountered a diverse community of mentors from different academic fields around the world.  

I reached out to a number of mentors with questions regarding my future, like should I pursue an MPhil or an MS? Why should I pursue one and not the other? What skills would these degrees help me to develop? Should I concentrate on a degree focused specifically on theory or research?  

After receiving helpful advice from professionals in the scientific field, I was able to make a confident and informed decision. I also learned how post-grad students develop their scientific and critical thinking skills by attending ‘ask me anything’ webinars online.  

LinkedIn has been a valuable way for me to find experts working in my field. I’ve gained insight into the variety of roles available and the different paths I could take. I reached out to professionals in my field from Pakistan, to have conversations about the future of computational biology and where it could take me.  

Free online courses and events 

I’ve taken advantage of the many free online events on Eventbrite. I simply type in keywords like ‘computational biology’ and see what interesting talks and workshops come up. The virtual events make it easier to connect with people from around the world and provide great opportunities to connect with people in the field.  

Attending online courses and hearing from professionals in biosciences made me realise that I don’t have to know everything to succeed in my career. The important thing is having enthusiasm and perseverance. In computational biology, there’s lots of coding and analytical skills involved and I was happy to discover that there are endless resources available online that can help me to develop these skills. All I need is the motivation to learn. The world literally is at my fingertips.  

When attending events, I always write down the names of the speakers and sponsors to look up on LinkedIn after the event. I’ve also found that the companies who sponsor events often have a newsletter you can sign up to on their website. In the past, these newsletters have informed me of internship or volunteering positions and changes in the business.  

There are wonderful online platforms with millions of free online courses, like Coursera, Udemy, FutureLearn and edX. I am currently studying courses related to Bacterial Genomes.  

In completing online courses outside of my degree, the field of computational biology became more appealing, and I saw the versatility of roles I could explore in the future. I was able to see how I can be a part of the industry and make a meaningful contribution to society.  

Work experience 

Work experience opportunities like internships are probably the best way to experience what it’s like to be a professional in your area. I dedicated time to finding opportunities via my course, careers support team and by connecting with professionals on LinkedIn.  

I’ve volunteered as an event outreach coordinator for WomenTech Network and as a moderator for iGEM Jamboree. These experiences gave me exposure to even more people working in biosciences, showing me that there are many career opportunities outside of the lab, like science communication, public outreach and even policy making.  

I’m currently working as a junior research fellow at the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences. I have been working in my research lab for seven months. It’s given me a taste of working as a researcher and I’ve developed important skills like communication, and how to be resourceful. 

Work experience has helped me to adapt to the working world, learn the jargon, understand how to work with other people and to learn from my mistakes. I’ve also gained a better understanding of the biosciences field, beyond what I’ve learned in the classroom.  

There are many ways to understand what’s going on in your field before you graduate. Be proactive and curious, and the world will open up. I feel excited knowing that I’m making the right choice for my career.  

This article was originally published in June 2022 .

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