Finding a job in biotech, step II: Building your network

This article is the second in a series on finding a job in biotechnology. 

One of the greatest benefits of attending a community college program in biotechnology or biomanufacturing is that you get to meet other people who are interested in science and science careers. It’s hard to believe when you’re in school but the connections you make to your classmates are likely to be valuable throughout your professional career. 

It may be hard to say goodbye when you graduate from college and your classmates scatter to different companies, but that can be a good thing.  Any company that employs one of your classmates or someone from your biotech program will be that much more familiar with the skills you’ve learned and the abilities of your program’s graduates.  You can benefit from each other’s success by keeping in touch and contacting your classmates when it’s time to look for a new job.

Your biotech classmates know more about the skills and techniques that were covered in your program more than anyone else in the world.  They will be able to vouch for your laboratory skills.  They can attest to your ability to work in a team.  They will know if you’re careful in following procedures and whether or not they would trust your work.  When you’re looking for a job, they should be the first people you contact. 

It’s not a pleasant fact, but people move around in biotech jobs.  Sometimes companies get bought.  Sometimes the direction changes or the products change.  And sometimes a job just isn’t a good match.  It’s very likely that your first job in biotech will not be your last job.  There will probably be a time when you want to know more about other jobs and other companies.

This is why it’s important, even as a student, to start building a network of people you know and a way to keep track.  Professional networking sites like LinkedIn make this easier. 


Building your network

1.  When you get close to graduating, add as many of your classmates as possible as contacts in LinkedIn.  If you’ve already graduated, you can search for your classmates by using the Search box at the top right side of the page.  You can also search for your college.


2.  After you’ve graduated, add instructors from your program.

3.  Join the InnovATEBIO LinkedIn group

Many of group members are biotechnicians.  You can ask questions in this group about job search strategies, continuing education, and other career or biotech topics.


Keep track of your classmates and playing "Tag"

You can use tags to keep track of groups of people that you know.

1.  To tag your classmates, go to your connections.


2.  Select one of your classmates.


3.  Select "Edit tags."

4.  Enter "classmates" in the text box for the tag or whatever term you think is best.

5.  Click Save.

6.  Do this for all your classmates. When you're finished, you'll have a link in your connections area that will give you a list of your classmates, as in the example below.


Expanding your network

Once you’ve added classmates, you may want to look at their connections to see who they know.  If they are connected to people you know, you may want to add some of their connections.


Learning from your network

Once you’ve started to create a network of your classmates, you can learn what they’re doing. 

1.  You can look at their profiles to see where they’re working.

2.  You can ask them to endorse your skills and you can endorse their skills. 


Some further advice:

  • * If people don’t accept your request to connect on LinkedIn, don’t take it badly.  Some people are very cautious about this.  For example, I don’t accept requests to connect from people that I don’t know.


  • * Don’t expect people to endorse you for skills that they can’t verify.  For example, I’m not going to endorse anyone for DNA sequencing skills if I’ve never seen their work. 


  • * Help each other. If you look at a classmate’s resume and notice misspellings, be nice and tell them.  If there are skills that you think a classmate should add, tell them.  If there are ways that your classmates have helped you in your program, or abilities that you saw, write a recommendation.  Kindness and thoughtfulness are traits that will always be valued.


Other articles in this series:

     Finding a job in biotech, step 1:  creating an on-line resume

Submitted by Sandra Porter on Fri February 15, 2013.

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