FINDING AND STARTING A NEW SCIENCE/ACADEMIC JOB IN A COVID-19 WORLD: THERE IS HOPE!

Since COVID-19 burst on the world stage in early 2020, life has not been the same. The lock-down, as well as the virtual disappearance of the travel industry, has meant that 2020 world is a lot more local. Along with substantial pressure on university funding in many parts of the world, this has meant a widespread freeze of most of science-related job recruitment.

Put simply, if you are on the lookout for another job now, you are in dire straits indeed, aren’t you? The scientific job market has slowed down, but it has not stopped. Here are 3 stories of people that either found or started a job in lock-down – I hope they give you hope that a positive outcome is possible even now!

Maurizio, who started a new position as Scientist Virology-Immunology at Jannsen Europe, Middle East and Asia in July, moved to Belgium from his previous role as a Research Fellow in Singapore. In his own words: “I applied for this position last November and I got my first interview in January. My second interview should have taken place in in Belgium in March, but it was during the peak of the Covid19 crisis. There were plenty of delays due to the epidemic and I did a series of interviews via Skype instead of traveling. I must admit, I was not confident in the success of my endeavour. [However,] to find a post doc position in immunology and virology is not impossible now and there is plenty of opportunities, as the main funding of research is funnelled in that field.”

He has some advice for job-seekers: “First don’t waste time, one year seems long but the hiring process is slow. Second be patient, you will receive hundreds of negative answers, keep applying as the chance will arrive, maybe after 100 or 200 applications but it will arrive. The crisis is also bringing a lot of new opportunities but it is up to you to go for them. And, last but not least, you need to be lucky and luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Your opportunity will arrive, just be ready for it.”

A similar attitude is echoed by Francesca, who started a new role as Global Director Product Development and Innovation at Phytobiotics in June after being made redundant from her previous role in March. In her experience, it wasn’t easy to get in touch with potential hire managers as most companies held back hiring and most head hunters were apparently active but not focused nor really on the task. In her own words: “I was self-driven and determined. I took it in my hand, contacted friends who could help me shape up my LinkedIn profile and my CV. I did not wait for calls or messages – I did the calls myself. I mobilized my network and people were willing to help. I talked to endless people I had never met before. I dedicated a couple of hours a day to look at job posts and connect with people.”

Some of her suggestions sound especially valuable for junior researchers: “Your network is the most powerful tool to find a new job. Your reputation and CV account for the rest. LinkedIn is a good platform to observe what is going on and the sector trends. Be dedicated and stay focused, don’t be too proud and never give up.” And then, echoing Maurizio’s words: “The next opportunity is around the corner. Go and find it.”

Finally, there can be even silver linings during a lock-down. Claudio moved in April from Sydney to Madrid to start a new position as Ramon y Cajal fellow at the Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa (CBMSO): “Upon arriving, the impact was positive as I felt in a ‘good’ bubble. Being a bioinformatician helped, as there was no change in what I was doing in Sydney and I just continued my work with my collaborators. The lock-down even made me more productive, as it helped concentration. When the lock-down ended, of course, I was back to square one in settling in a new place; this is always a bit of a challenge, now even more so with all the COVID-19-related restrictions and having to start ‘proper’ during the European summer, but things are getting slowly better now.”

Now that the COVID-19-related situation in Europe seems more stable, one hopes that the research-related job market will, too, get into a more normal state of affairs – but even if that doesn’t happen for some time yet, hopefully these stories will go some way in showing that there are still opportunities for junior and senior scientist alike!

By Lia Paola Zambetti

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