Take Control of Your Life Sciences Career:
Get Skilled-up for the Biopharma Jobs of the Future Now

The life sciences industry is evolving rapidly into a world where lab experimentation will meet artificial intelligence, automation will merge with human ingenuity and hard-won wisdom, and the power of viral vectors, stem cells, nanotechnology, and gene editing tools will revolutionize health care as we know it.

Technological innovation is growing exponentially and is impacting every facet of society and the workplace, including the life sciences industry. The confluence of research science, Big Data, artificial intelligence, and automation is already underway and will only accelerate over the next decade. 

In addition, the life science workplace is much different than it was a generation ago where companies operated more insularly. In a panel discussion of top life sciences employers and talent acquisition experts, well-rounded scientists with business savvy and technical skills were seen as the ideal research scientists of the future workforce. Professional development and training are ways to expand your skills to meet this future workforce demand.

Today’s life science companies are built on the foundation of multidisciplinary collaboration, teamwork and partnerships, which rely on skills like communication, project management, critical thinking, negotiation and other soft skills that employers value more highly now than ever before.

This revolution will include an evolution in the skill sets needed to compete in the life sciences job market. 

Don’t get left behind. Stasis is not an option. 

The future is now when it comes to expanding your skill sets and professional development to be prepared for the biopharma, MedTech, cell and gene therapy, and early-stage research and development jobs of today.

So, what are the best moves you can make right now to skill-up and prepare yourself for the next phase of your career? You can take many practical steps to make yourself attractive to life sciences employers and build a solid foundation for the future, though sometimes making the time for these professional development opportunities can be challenging. 

The most important thing to remember if you’re a researcher, scientist, or post-doc seeking non-academic employment or industry career advancement is this: you need to create the space to stretch out, explore, invest in yourself, and find an employer that’s invested in you.

Here are some tips on where to look for professional development opportunities that can help you create the job security and the satisfying career you’re seeking.

Take Charge, It’s Your Career

Remaining vigilant, proactive, and adopting a business-like approach to building new skills, be they research, technological or people-oriented, is critical to advancing your career, maintaining a high level of job satisfaction, and performing at the highest level possible. 

This means that you need to take the time to figure out what direction you want to take your career, and what skills, knowledge or experiences you will need to get there. If you don’t know the answer to these questions, then it’s a good time to leverage your professional networks and associations, or tap into your LinkedIn network to start talking to the people in the roles that you want and find out what you need to do to get there yourself.

The old saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you ever get there?” holds very true when it comes to your career. 

Know Your Worth

Take advantage of the scarcity in the life sciences job market to enhance your skills and prepare yourself for the future of life sciences jobs, which will require researchers and scientists to have a broader skill set than ever before. 

More and more life sciences employers are investing in larger and more impactful training programs as part of a wider recruitment and employee retention employer branding strategy. Biopharma Companies are quickly realizing that to attract and retain top life sciences talent, which is scarce, they need to offer talent career advancement opportunities to keep these essential workers interested, happy and loyal. 

If you are clear on where you want to take your career and know what skills you need and how it will benefit your employer, it is very likely that your current or future employer offers either internal training programming or financial support for securing external professional development and skills training.

Tap Into Your Employer’s Training Programs

You don’t always have to look outside your employer for professional development opportunities. 

A recent Top Employers survey by Science Magazine found that “Access to professional development goes hand-in-hand with career advancement…and the top employers are generous and proactive in designing and implementing programs that allow for skill-building, networking, self-promotion, and leadership development.” 

If you are vocal and clear on the skills you want to develop, most employers will work with you to develop a career pathway when possible. That may be through cross functional training or work opportunities, mentorship programs or leadership development programs.  Many employers will also support continuing education or certifications like ASQ or PMP.  

Programs like Montgomery College’s BioTrain are offered to life science employers in Maryland for free through a Department of Labor EARN Grant as a way to augment a company’s internal training and employee development programs to upskill their workforce. They offer workshops such as Quality 101, Project Management, Business Communication, and even Protein Purification.

In the near term, expect a boom in internal training and professional development opportunities, as well as employer willingness to fund employee’s external workshops and training programs. 

It will be up to you to take full advantage of these opportunities to prepare for the future.

Identify and Participate in Technical Skills-Building Workshops

In addition to internal professional development and training opportunities at your employer, seek out and sign up for external training workshops. Local universities and community colleges often include programs taught by subject matter experts that have deep life sciences industry experience. 

These workshops are often affordable and sometimes are even free to those employed by life sciences companies. The upside of these workshops can be enormous and the pay off highly rewarding. 

Bio-TracⓇ is a prime example of excellent, well-run, and rewarding workshops that help life science research professionals to advance and round out their technical research skillsets to stay on the cutting-edge of their field. Bio-Trac is a leading advanced training program for researchers located at Montgomery College’s Bioscience Education Center (BEC). The program nurtures and supports the BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR) talent pipeline as well as national and international academic, government, and private research institutions with an impressive track record of more than 17,000 researchers that have gone through their workshops.

Bio-Trac offers a robust lineup of live, virtual workshops on leading-edge research topics, including single-cell RNA sequencing, python for research scientists, antibody validation and characterization, “R” software training, and gene editing with CRISPR, among other rotating topics.

All of Bio-Trac’s workshops are synchronous or live and provide an interactive experience with real-world, pragmatic applications. These workshops are led by research experts and are taught by professionals that are active within their respective fields, ensuring a rewarding professional development experience for all in attendance. Bio-Trac, in partnership with Montgomery College and a host of other collaborators, offers graduate and post-graduates best-in-class professional development opportunities taught by actively engaged, highly-respected research scientists. The organization is a great place to hone your life science professional skills and stay abreast of the latest technologies.

Partner with a Career Coach

If you haven’t already noticed the thread running throughout this article, let’s recap: Don’t be afraid to ask for and seek out help. 

You might be a brilliant scientist and great at what you do, but there are other career experts out there that are great at what they do, too. 

There are many different types of life sciences career coaches and companies out there like the Melissa Lawrence Coaching, for example, can help guide and refine your own professional development vision. Some universities also offer career counseling services. 

Do some research and you’ll find the right fit for your needs and goals.

Life sciences employers have realized that winning the biopharma talent wars requires investing in new employees and remaining committed to the professional advancement of its existing team members. 

This professional development awakening is happening because the research and data show that investing in employee career development increases talent retention, creates job satisfaction, and ultimately increases job performance. Investing in employee professional development over time creates a loyal, productive, and happy team that will recruit new talent, reduce replacement hiring costs, and create a collaborative ecosystem that leads to great scientific innovation.

The time is now to take advantage of the training and professional development opportunities to prepare yourself for the life sciences workforce of the future, which is coming faster than you might think.

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Steven Surdez

Principal at StoryCore
Steve has over 20 years experience in copywriting, developing brand messaging and creating marketing strategies across a wide range of industries, including the biopharmaceutical, senior living, commercial real estate, IT and renewable energy sectors, among others. He is currently the Principal/Owner of StoryCore, a Frederick, Maryland-based content creation and execution consultancy focused on telling the unique stories of Maryland organizations.