After Sean Chang’s dissertation defense for his Ph.D., he began his search for his first job. However, having spent his whole life up to this point as a student immersed in academia, he was uncertain where and how to start.
He pulled together his résumé and began the search process, leaving all options open. Industry research and development held the most interest for him, but not wanting to miss any options, he divided his time, spending 70 percent of his time looking at industry jobs and the remainder scouting other positions.
A discussion with his lab mate, Sarah Kurley, led Chang on the path that would eventually lead to his current job in research and development at Thermo Fischer Scientific. Kurley had recently started working with Derek Haseltine in the College’s then newly established Career Development Center. She encouraged Chang to go meet with him for guidance on his job search.
Kurley first encountered Haseltine through her work with the Postdoctoral Affairs Association. “Derek helped us revamp the orientation for new postdoctoral fellows to enhance the emphasis on career development,” she said. “From the moment he arrived at BCM, Derek has shared his expertise with groups throughout the College. He and Reggie (Reginald Toussant) tailor their support to the needs of the individual. I encourage all the postdocs I know to go see them, regardless of their career objectives.”
His discussion with Kurley led Chang to a series of meetings with Haseltine.
“I first met with him in March,” said Chang. “From our first meeting he put me on the right track. When opportunities to network arose Derek helped with everything from suggestions on what to wear to when and how to give someone my business card. He gave straightforward and specific answers to all my questions.”
Chang had multiple phone and on-site interviews and remained in constant contact with Haseltine throughout the process.
“We discussed what I should expect to be asked in interviews, went over my answers, and he gave me suggestions on what to ask about,” said Chang. “After each encounter my anxiety about job searching disappeared.”
When he received an offer for his current job, Haseltine provided guidance throughout the negotiations.
Both Kurley and Chang noted they would encourage students and fellows to engage with the Career Development Center early in their training.
“The Center is for everyone who wants to use their training to achieve their career goals and needs to develop the skills to do that,” said Kurley.
Chang advises his fellow trainees and students to “meet with Derek and Reggie as soon as you start thinking about next steps. They will give you the information you need at every step along the way.”
In its first year of operation the Career Development Center provided advice and counseling to more than 430 individuals from across the College, including postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, medical students and allied health students.
Beyond one-on-one counseling, in its first year the Center also offered more than 35 seminars and workshops to help students and trainees build essential skills.
“The events I attended on building a C.V. and leveraging your LinkedIn profile were extremely valuable,” said Kurley. “They focused on how to market your transferrable skills to potential employers, beyond just bench skills. They helped me learn how to talk about things like teamwork and communications skills in my résumé, as well as when networking and interviewing. I took away clear, actionable steps I was able to implement right away from every program I attended.”
Many seminars and appointments use Zoom or Skype. This not only makes them more accessible to participants but also allows the Center to connect BCM students and trainees with experts across the country and around the world.
The Center also has developed shadowing and internship programs that help students expand their professional network and gain direct insights into their chosen career paths.