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Life Sciences Sector Expert Q&A

Mark Gallagher, Careers and Work Placement Consultant in Queen’s School of Biological Sciences offers an insight into graduate opportunities the Life Sciences Sector offers.

What is the Life Sciences sector?

The Life Sciences in the broadest sense can encompass study and work related to all living organisms and so can have a very broad definition which can range from agriculture to zoology (A-Z). The Life Sciences sector spans a huge variety of career areas, including, but not limited to, pharmaceuticals, biomedical engineering, environmental management, food and nutrition and scientific research. Companies may be involved in areas including research and development, drug discovery, diagnostics, analytical testing and can range from small research intensive companies, with a small number of employees, right through to large multinationals employing thousands of people.

What kinds of careers options do Life Sciences students have?

Career areas are very broad in the life sciences – and at various levels, straight from a BSc qualification to roles that may require additional levels of qualification and up to PhD. Here are a few of the main areas of employment: 

Research & development – The focus of research and development (R&D) is mainly on creating products, processes or commercial applications using innovative multidisciplinary approaches. R and D takes place in Universities but also in industry within smaller medical biotech companies or parts of companies tasked with process and product improvements. To work in R and D typically you are encouraged to further your level of qualification to at least MSc if not PhD level.

Quality assurance and product Manufacturing – Quality Assurance (QA) or Quality Control (QC) involves ensuring that products are manufactured in accordance with recommended standards, and requires analysing raw materials used initially through to finished products. Companies in the sector are highly regulated so Quality is key at all stages of production with a variety of repeat analytical tests being undertaken to ensure products are safe to use. Careers can also involve monitoring environmental factors like water and air quality for contaminants which could potentially impact on process or product quality. 

Science Business roles – Opportunities for regulatory affairs officers are commonplace in the sector as are roles to develop new markets and business for products, or providing expertise and consultancy to support products – roles which don’t involve lab work but the understanding you gain from a science degree is essential to carry out the role effectively. Regulatory affairs officers ensure the appropriate licensing, marketing and legal compliance of products, and work with documentation and medicine approval authorities throughout the world. Products developed as a result of research and development will need to find markets in which to be sold – and that creates opportunities for science graduates to help develop those markets, by approaching health authorities and companies to explain the features and benefits of products developed – so if you are a science graduate who is keen to use your communication and persuasion skills this could be the route for you. 

Clinical trials – All medicines must undergo clinical trials before they are granted licences. Scientists are involved in setting up trials to ensure that new products are safe for use. You could be involved in a variety of roles ranging from lab-based research, through to using data analysis programmes to analyse and interpret results, or managing and monitoring trials by visiting hospital sites and liaising with nurses and physicians to ensure the trials are running appropriately.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in building a career in this sector

Be open to new things – at University your Careers Service will offer a host of opportunities which present an opportunity to try something new. This could be applying for periods of experience abroad, events that seek to attract students from all disciplines, career development programmes and classes that are optional to attend but specific to your degree. Get involved and set time aside outside your studies to develop skills and knowledge of options and the labour market – it’s never time wasted. 

Focus on what you can control – you can’t control the unexpected such as COVID and the wider economic impacts. You can though control how you present yourself to employers and ensuring that your applications are at a high standard – giving yourself every opportunity to gain an entry level position. Use the expertise that exists in your Careers service to help with this.

Be smart and organised in your job search – you now have access to thousands of vacancies at your fingertips, but making online job applications can be tough. It’s better to make a small number of high quality applications rather than make multiple applications. Start to analyse job specifications thoroughly, look at the essential and desirable criteria for jobs of interest. For more experienced roles that grab your attention work out how you can address any skill and experience shortfalls. Speaking to people is also something I really encourage (don’t just email!) – whether that is people working in similar roles to those you are interested in, making enquiries directly to companies or attending career and networking events, these types of interactions can all help boost your confidence and also gain insights into what employers actually value in prospective employees – this in turn can help inform future job applications. 

Attitude and approach are key – focus on developing your reputation for high quality work, reliability, integrity and being a good colleague to work and collaborate with. The skills and knowledge you take with you from University will be invaluable in understanding the areas you work in – but always continue to develop your skill set, the way we work is changing quickly – many employers value your attitude and willingness to learn equally as they do your knowledge and skills.

About the blogger:

I’m Mark Gallagher from Queen’s School of Biological Sciences. I work with three key groups of people – students, employers and academics. The key focus of my own role is the development of student employability from first year right through to Master’s level students. If you are a student looking to explore a career in the Life Sciences sector, don’t miss my blog featuring a Q&A of everything you have ever wanted to know about the sector.

I encourage students to develop themselves by undertaking work experience placements which form part of a degree programme, to get involved in some of the programmes that the Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills service run throughout the year as well as encouraging involvement in extra-curricular activities that help develop confidence and transferable skills (which are key for employers we work with). 

I also work with a large number of employers throughout the year, these are typically employers who are interested in recruiting placement and graduating students from the School. 

We run a very successful work placement programme within the School of Biological Sciences where each year our undergraduate students undertake a one-year placement as part their degree programme. Many of our students work in the Life Science sector locally and throughout the UK joining established employers big and small, as well as gaining experience with Biopharmaceutical manufacturing companies in ROI. In a typical year, 20% of students will move outside NI to gain experience, with many travelling internationally. All placements are quality assured to meet our course learning requirements and students and employers are visited during the course of a placement to ensure everything is progressing as anticipated. 

We have 8 undergraduate programmes in the School which are quite different so it’s important to ensure our labour market information is current and conveyed to students ensuring they know what their options are. Students can also book one to one appointments throughout the year, and in recent months these appointments have moved online.

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Advent Calendar advice Employer Engagement Linkedin Networking Social Networks

Managing Your LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn is like marmite. Some people love it. Some people loathe it. I confess to being nearer to the second category myself. But here’s the catch – it is a useful and influential platform for kickstarting your career.

Why? 3 reasons…

  1. Networking – LinkedIn isn’t like other social media platforms. It has a career focused USP, meaning you can cultivate a specific professional network. You can follow what other people in your industry are talking about, share opportunities and ideas and, yes, even steal a few too!
  2. Career Path – One of LinkedIn most notable features is that users upload their career and educational history to their profile. This means you can check out what career path your professional role models took when you’re planning your own professional journey 
  3. Jobs – LinkedIn is no silver bullet to your unemployment woes. But it does boast an impressive jobs feature, allowing you keep track of who’s hiring in your area, what skills and experience they’re looking for and more details on how you might apply. 

Convinced yet? Well, let’s pretend you are.

So how can you make the most of your new LinkedIn account? Here 10 short, sharp, tip-top tips:

  1. Profile Picture – Something vaguely professional please, no snaps from ‘Malouf 2k18 Lads Holiday’
  2. Background Picture – Always more tricky I know, but popping in something, even just your top landscape shot, adds some personalization to your profile.
  3. Make Your Summary Sing – This is your first chance to show off, so pretend it’s a job interview and sell your unique story! 
  4. Specific Skills – Don’t sell yourself short. Have a think about what you can offer to an employer, and try not to lie! 
  5. Job History – Take a few minutes and do this right. Make sure you get your employment and educational history correct, you’d be surprised how many people will see it.
  6. Describe Your Work – Job titles aren’t enough, tell us what you did in the role.
  7. Network Building – Be careful here, you don’t want every Tom, Dick and Harry spamming your timeline. Remember LinkedIn is career focused, so only connect with folks who are professionally relevant. Colleagues, role models and career influencers? Perfect! That Ex you never got over? Avoid!
  8. Endorsements – Not one of my favourite features but useful nonetheless. Give your connections some endorsements for their skills and, who knows, they might return the favour!
  9. Contact Information – The internet is a weird place, so don’t overshare, but a professional email address allows those interested in your work to drop you a line.
  10. Kill The Buzzwords – I know it’s tempting to fill your profile with all the latest, and still meaningless, industry jargon. But it makes for painful reading so cut the ‘synergies’, ‘passionate’ and ‘results-driven’ lines. When it comes to who you are – show, don’t tell!

Now you’re all set! 

One thing’s for sure, LinkedIn isn’t as fun as other social media platforms. So, don’t forget about it as the notifications pile up. LinkedIn is a platform that’s on the rise, make sure you make the most of its ascendency. 

Good Luck!

About the author: 

Thomas Copeland is a second year Politics, Philosophy and Economics student. He is Founder & Editor of Challenges NI and is the Head of News at Queen’s Radio.

WATCH: Using LinkedIn Effectively

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Cinemagic employability Linkedin MEDIA Programme Skills

“How I’m developing my career USP”

At Queen’s, you’ll find lots of opportunities to develop your skills, create your own brand and discover your own personal USP (unique selling point), that will ultimately get you hired in the future. Here, Lucy, Lauren and Daniella from our MEDIA programme reveal the different tacks they have taken to improve their employability and their career confidence.

‘I’m building an online brand’

Lucy Roy

“In the year of 2020, we have seen that anything can happen!  This year has meant that not only have we as students have had to adapt our ways, but so too have employers. The increase of webcam interviews has meant recruiters will be researching candidates’ online profiles more than ever before. So, there is now more pressure to demonstrate an online presence to potential employers and recruiters.  

But developing an online presence doesn’t have to be difficult! It can be as easy as gaining a social media following, constructing an online portfolio of works or starting a LinkedIn account. 

Discover how to use LinkedIn effectively

Not only is LinkedIn free to use, it is also a great way of making connections with professionals in your sector.  

There’s also a handy job search engine with plenty of job listings waiting for your application!  

Not to mention, you can upload your CV and create content for potential employers to view when they’re exploring your profile. 

So why not create an account? Simply add a professional photo, a summary of yourself, your skills and employment history and there, you have an online presence!” -Lucy Roy 

‘I’m volunteering online’

Daniella Timperley

“For a lot of young people, volunteering is a great way to gain skills for employment and gain independence. This has been a little bit tougher to do during the COVID-19 lockdown with a lot of charities closing their offices and working from home. I personally am a really dedicated volunteer of Women’s Aid and have been for over six years. I’m used to attending events and public speaking which both haven’t been possible. I’ve found a way that I can use my other skills to still positively impact the charity from home as I am a broadcast production student and have experience making short films. I decided I would produce short videos for the charity’s social media to compliment and promote their campaigns. For their autumn campaign, I made a short film called ‘Walk A Mile In Her Shoes’ where I emailed staff and volunteers to take a video of their shoes walking outside in their gardens or on their walk for example so that I didn’t have to come into contact with anyone and I could still edit together a really powerful piece to push their campaign forward and encourage more engagement. This really benefited my skills and working remotely under the extreme circumstances of the pandemic, but still being able to produce work.

Daniella contributed virtually to the ‘Walk a Mile in her Shoes’ campaign

If there is a cause or charity you volunteered with before the pandemic and you haven’t felt connected or felt there was no way you could contribute, then think deeper and approach them. Maybe they don’t know how you could be helpful but see it as an opportunity to progress your career and enhance and gain skills. For me, this was producing short videos because that was something related to my degree and I knew I was capable of it but whatever degree you are in, think about what skills you have or need for that career and approach a charity that could really do with your help remotely through these tough times. This could also be as simple as an online fundraiser for a small local charity that is struggling to stay afloat. So get involved and make a difference in your community from the comfort of your own home so you can develop your CV.” -Daniella Timperley 

‘I’m attending career-enhancing events’

Lauren Watt

 “Cinemagic, Belfast’s Film and TV Festival, hosts a CineFocus Jury event every year. If you like to watch films and appreciate the cinema this type of event is for you. Do you tend to discuss and review the films you watch? The CineFocus Jury event is for you! I recently took part in the event. The event is for 15 – 25 year olds which means it is the perfect event for students in university. You have the opportunity to watch movies from all over the world. Review, comment and judge them with forms that you send in. Ranking the films as you review them you decide what will be shown at the festival.

It is an interactive and challenging experience based on your critical skills and experience with film. You can add it to your CV as an experience.

It is pretty easy to do, you email and apply for the event. With a small fee you receive the details to sign and receive the link to go onto the online Cinemagic Festival online. You create an account; login and the event should be added to your screen. It’s as simple as that.

Cinemagic is a great site for events along the media sector. It’s also a way to connect with others in the industry and join events where they host meetings with professionals in the media sector. It’s a great place to gain valuable insight. So be sure to check the website out!” – Lauren Watt

Career advice with Dermot O’Leary courtesy of Cinemagic

For more ways to develop your employability at university, check out Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills website.

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Film studies graduation Linkedin MEDIA Programme Networking Pandemic Student blogger

My Goals Before I Graduate

Student blogger Dara O’Donnell from our MEDIA programme shares her pre-graduation career game-plan, including leveraging the power of LinkedIn to make vital contacts.

As a final year Film Studies and Production student here at Queens, it has been a whirlwind to say the least and not how I expected to be partaking in my last year at university. For the most part, the switch to online learning was daunting and difficult to get to grips with, being in a practical field that relies on hands-on work and lots of group collaboration. Nevertheless, we adapted quickly and moved on. Personally, I look forward to the exciting times ahead, albeit uncertain, that is to come of final semester and graduation of 2021.

Facing the world of work

Before the pandemic, being a nearing graduate was just as nerve wracking an experience as it seems to me now. With levels of unemployment rising and general anticipation in the air about our future, it is easy to get lost in it. However, it is not all despair, there have been lots of promising opportunities presenting themselves for graduates, surrounding this new world of remote work, affording the chance for people to gain experiences of remote internships for global companies, without having to say those emotional goodbyes to friends and family.

Deciding my path

Like most graduates, I am not 100% clear on what path I want to take for my future career. What I do know is that it belongs somewhere within the creative industry. Therefore, in realising this and approaching the new year, I am taking it step by step to apply myself and achieve some goals before I graduate, setting myself up for the best possible future.

My goals

Some of these goals include; creating an engaging LinkedIn profile that will showcase my personality and ultimately attract potential employers and building a solid creative portfolio to advertise my creative skills. When restrictions lift, I am excited to get out there and film more projects and overall work to improve my creative ability, expanding skills and networking with other like-minded people in the field.

Even in these daunting times, I am optimistic and anxiously looking forward to the future and the wide and many possibilities that are presented after graduation.

Read more from Dara:

How leverage Queen’s online careers portal MyFuture.  

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How to make your LinkedIn profile stand out

Guest blog by Jordan Hendricks, First Derivatives

Whether you’re trying to build your personal brand or enhancing your profile for your job search, LinkedIn is a powerful tool.

The first step in building a LinkedIn Profile that will blow recruiters away is to know what industry and types of roles you are interested in. This will help you decide which of your skills to highlight more prominently and which keywords to use. Once you have an idea of what you want to do, it’s time to get to work on the specifics.

First Impressions count!

First and foremost – your name. You should only use your full name on LinkedIn, you don’t need to add any degree qualifications, nick names, initials, etc to your public name. You’ll also need to upload a profile photo – this is your opportunity to show how you present yourself! Make sure the photo looks professional, dress smartly and have a plain background.

The headline you choose here should be relevant to you – and get creative! This is the first thing people will read about you, so make it count. Your headline should be short, snappy and clear. Don’t forget you can also customise your URL!

Highlight your unique skills in the ‘About’ section

Imagine you’re in an interview and you’re asked, ‘Tell me about yourself.’ Your ‘About’ section on LinkedIn should sum up this answer. Take some time to expand on what makes you unique, highlight key achievements and portray who you are and your values. This is your opportunity to highlight your personal brand!

Be sure to keep in mind that this is a summary of your accomplishments, make sure it’s not too long. You want someone to be able to read it quickly and get a feel for who you are; if your summary drags on, readers may skip over important information!

Your profile is your profile, so it makes the most sense to write your summary and details in first person.

Your Experience and Education

If you’re looking for your first professional job, don’t panic about the experience section. Focus your efforts on the Education section – list the modules you took that are relevant to the job role you’re after. Were you a part of any clubs or societies? Note those down!

If you have had work experience, summarise the company you worked for and your role. Don’t include anything sensitive or confidential, like the names of clients you may have worked with. Highlight your key contributions to the role and the skills you use.

Don’t make this section a copy of your CV, use this as an opportunity to expand!

Your unique skillset

LinkedIn is the perfect platform to list out all of your key skills. Take the time to select at least 10 core skills to add to your profile. This will help recruiters to identify what talents you have, and help you to find jobs that align to your background. If you spend some time endorsing your colleagues, it will also help boost your profile if they endorse you back!

Whether you’re looking for your first job or just boosting your online brand, investing some time in your LinkedIn profile is never a bad idea. At First Derivatives, we’re excited for you to be taking that next step! Are you ready to join the #FDFamily? Take a look at our current vacancies here.

Want more top tips from employers, including FD, Citi, PwC and Deloitte? 

Join our Virtual Employer Panel on 30th September between 1-2pm

Register here https://event.webinarjam.com/register/114/q7v7vtro

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Job Hunting Linkedin Networking Uncategorised

7 Tips for Building Your Professional Brand Online

LinkedIn
  1. Over 300 million people around the world use LinkedIn to maintain their professional network. There are other professional social networking sites which are popular in certain countries or for certain industries, but LinkedIn is currently the largest and most diverse. They have created some useful videos and help guides for students
  2. Think of your profile as your online CV. Remember that people are likely to skim-read it so focus on key strengths and experiences rather than listing everything you’ve done and all your duties and responsibilities. 
  3. Understand how to use privacy settings on your other social media accounts. When people search for you online, you want to be able to control what they find. 
  4. After creating your profile, start connecting to friends, family, classmates and work colleagues. Read this article on why you shouldn’t underestimate your personal network
  5. Join and contribute to LinkedIn groups. There are thousands of groups on LinkedIn. Make sure you pick relevant ones that you can be active within. There are lots of groups for students studying specific subjects as well as for professionals. 
  6. Research information about companies and look for the profiles of people with whom you may be interested in making contact.  LinkedIn’s alumni tool (Topic 5 on the LinkedIn for students website is a good way to find out what graduates from your course are now doing. 
  7. Start to build your network by sending connection requests to relevant people. Alexandra Levit’s article “4 Steps for Effective Online Networking”  and Alyssa Walker’s article “How to Build a Professional Network Online” have some tips for how to do this effectively. Most people will ignore the standard request sent by LinkedIn “I would like to add you to my professional network” unless they know who it’s from, so make sure you tailor each connection request. You’re also more likely to get a positive response from people you have met.

More help with career planning