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Finding Work With a Bachelor's Degree in the Physical Sciences
Getting Started: The Earlier the Better
For recent graduates in the sciences, the job market has been unpredictable. Certain areas are getting relatively high employment rates, and certain areas are getting relatively high unemployment rates. Regardless of which discipline specifically you've been involved in, it is critical to be prepared to seek out and obtain employment after you graduate, or ideally even before you leave school.
Here are some pointers to get you started.
Your Resume is Your First Impression
Having a well refined resume can be the difference between being called in and being pushed into the "No Further Consideration" pile.
Many job services have attempted to remove the variable of resume style by requiring applicants to enter information into blank text systems, that will create a resume for you in their database. This is perfectly acceptable, but be aware that many of these same organizations will also allow you to upload a scanned, word, or .pdf copy of your resume to their websites, and will give additional consideration to applications that do so.
Remember, your resume is your first impression in a lot of application situations, so it is critical to make sure that everything written there is going to be profitable to you. You are free to not share anything that you choose to omit from your resume, whether it be your job working nights for the local taco hut or your charter membership in the local Beta Eta Eta Rho chapter. Include the experiences that you believe a future employer would like to see in an employee, both in terms of work experience, volunteer activities, and extracurriculars of relevance, including membership in any professional organizations or research groups.
Involvement in academic or entrepreneurial pursuits is usually a great way to demonstrate worth, because the most productive employees are often those that have already been productive. Make sure to mention the work that you have been able to do, and list any publications or presentations that you have made.
Interviews in the Modern Age
When our parents, and even our professors were getting out of school, there was a culture of the face to face interview. People would fly all over the country chasing after job opportunities, and dozens of people would spend their time, money, and effort to interview face to face in marathon sessions lasting days.
While this has persisted in some fields for some specialized positions, for the most part businesses and organizations from the government to the private sector have moved to telephone interviews as a preliminary stage to limit the expense and hassle of the interview process.
For larger organizations, this also allows for a standardization of interview techniques, but for the applicant it allows you to focus on your communication skills and review interview questions. These are becoming all important, as the non-verbal communication skills will not come through during a phone interview, so you need to be able to maintain your composure and make intelligent responses to the most common interview questions, as well as any unique questions that the facility you are interviewing with might ask you.
Are you looking for a job for which you have experience?
Build a Portfolio of your Best Work
Over the course of a standard four year degree, students are faced with a series of challenging and interesting courses that are accompanied by complex, stimulating projects and assignments.
Take the best examples of your work in a number of different areas and look them over for any improvements that you would like to make to them. Once they are in optimal condition, compile them into a portfolio, either a physical one consisting of a brief summary of each project and accompanying text or evidence, or a digital one containing the same, either on a personal website or a previously prepared storage device, such as a flash drive.
Being able to demonstrate your worth in many different ways is key to improving your chances of being hired over another graduate.
Contact Everyone You Know for Advice and Recommendations
After four years or more of college education and a long time prior to that, you've likely accumulated a vast network of acquaintances, family friends, professors and former classmates. You can consider each and every one of them to be an asset to help you in the search for your next job.
Think about it, almost everyone that you know above a certain age has worked somewhere, and chances are that some one of your connections has a connection that has an opening at their organization that you would be a great fit for.
Don't seem insistent or greedy, but make it known among your network that you are on the hunt for gainful employment, and ask people individually for recommendations and advice on where to look, what to stress during interviews and negotiations, and which sectors of the field are best to get into.
I recommend not stopping at one or two people, but asking many, many of your connections. A couple of people have the chance to be completely contradictory and confusing, but out of thirty people there is likely to be a consensus, and all of the different viewpoints will help to inform you if they are based in fact rather than opinion.
Putting Everything in Place for Your Future Employment
So, now that you've cleaned up your resume, gone over the finer points of your interview technique, dusted off your contact list and worked on your portfolio, what is next?
A generation ago the advice was to "hit the streets" and apply everywhere that you could find, but today we have the gift of the world wide web.
A great way to find job openings in companies in your industry is to use job listing sites, and from there apply on individual company sites to make sure that you can find all of the current job listings in your field.
Another option would be to search for the industry that you are looking to get into on any major search engine, and then look into the job opportunities at the companies that have been mentioned in the search results.
Finally, don't be afraid to put yourself out there! You would be surprised to find out how many different organizations you can discover if you attend an industry oriented conference, trade show, or public gathering, often featuring hundreds of companies, government agencies, and nonprofits looking for the best and the brightest.
I'd wish all of you the best of luck, but with this kind of preparation you don't even need it!