Environmental Factor, September 2011, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
NTA showcases private sector career building
By Melissa Kerr
The turn out gratified NTA organizers, since this was the first event of its kind at NIEHS. Although people tended to shun front row seats, seating was tight in the rest of the auditorium. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Schroeder spoke to a general concern among audience members about how to move, as she did, from academic and regulatory science into private sector science. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Quintiles sent a contingent of representatives who talked about the company and its staffing needs. Attendees took full advantage of having so many professionals there to answer questions about the private sector's needs for scientific talent. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Aerotek recruiters Ghiassi, left, and Crook offered attendees tips for using recruiters to make the job search easier and more rewarding, such as being sure to follow up with recruiters even if the job doesn't work out. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Mills tried to be specific, as in his rule of three, but he also emphasized that situations will vary for individual job seekers. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Zhou showed the stress of moderating the event, but she can now look back to a very successful first in NTA-initiated career development programs. She also served as co-chair of the exceptional 2011 NIEHS Biomedical Career Fair last spring. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
In today's evolving marketplace, the career path of a scientist is not always as straightforward as it once was. In order for NIEHS employees to feel more confident negotiating their various options, the NIEHS Trainees Assembly (NTA)(http://www.niehs.nih.gov/careers/research/nta/) hosted a Quintiles Open House event July 25, to help young scientists better understand what is available in the private sector.
Postdoctoral fellows and scientists filled Rodbell Auditorium eager to understand the career options available through the RTP-based company Quintiles(http://www.quintiles.com/) , which bills itself as “the only fully integrated bio and pharmaceutical services provider offering clinical, commercial, consulting, and capital solutions.”
Advice for finding the job
After a brief introduction from NTA steering committee member and event moderator Emily Zhou, Ph.D., Quintiles staff members opened with personal stories of transition from the academic world to their roles at Quintiles. Speakers Maria Schroeder, Ph.D., and Chris Learn, Ph.D., both began their careers in academics, Schroeder at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Learn at Duke University. Both spoke on transitional roadblocks and how to better overcome them. For a scientist to be acclimated to an alternate role, Schroeder suggested staying informed and investing time into learning how science is changing. “Chance favors the prepared mind,” claimed Learn.
Quintiles representatives then spoke on the variety of different options available for a scientist who would work with them. Dan Nowell and Angie Giles, both managers of staffing within Quintiles, spoke on their own career choices, as well as how to better make connections within the scientific community. Giles suggested that asking advice from staffing professionals is not only acceptable, but it is actually recommended. Nowell advised any professional in any career path to create a LinkedIn(http://www.linkedin.com/) profile. “It is, by far, the most powerful networking tool on the planet,” he said.
Another option for career advancement is by placement through Aerotek(http://www.aerotek.com/) , a recruitment firm that staffs a wide array of companies throughout the world. According to representatives Taylor Cook and Ali Ghiassi, Aerotek Scientific is the largest recruiter of scientists within the United States. In the past 10 years, Aerotek has placed 296 former NIEHS employees locally, and 796 have been placed nationally. They also recommended that a prospective employee should keep up with current trends. “You must stay educated about the opportunities in your space,” Ghiassi said.
Using the rule of three as a guideline for growing in the job
The career path is not over once a person finds a job. Joe Mills, a staffing partner for Global Functional Resourcing at Quintiles, spoke about concepts to keep in mind after an employee starts the first day. He stressed the importance of the first mentor. Mills suggests that the career-building concepts a new scientist could learn from a good mentor are worth much more than the paycheck. He also introduced the rule of three.
Mills explained that in three weeks, employees must master the basics of how they fit into the company. After three months, they should be starting to branch out and learn new aspects of their roles. Then, after three years, employees should start looking into how to take the next step in their careers. “These simple rules will help you make any transition,” Mills claimed.
Quintiles Director of Staffing Melissa Hopkins spoke about the company's Global Talent Program and Early Talent Program. She discussed how the summer internship program, currently involving 170 interns globally, invests in the scientists of tomorrow. Hopkins suggested different traits that she looks for when deciding on interns. Aside from a curious mind, she insisted that communication is key. “The Quintiles community is built on direct, honest, competent, and optimistic people,” Hopkins emphasized.
The event concluded with an extensive question and answer session, as NIEHS scientists and postdocs explored the specifics of a prospective transition.
(Melissa Kerr studies chemistry at North Carolina Central University. She is currently an intern in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)