Researching Career Options

Although it is tempting to start your career planning here, researching options can be overwhelming if you have not identified your goals.

It is hard to find what you are looking for if you don't know what you are looking for!

Once you know what you are looking for, there are 3 main areas to consider when researching your options:

A. What sector do you want to work in?

Broadly speaking, the world of work can be broken down into 4 sectors: 1) Academic, 2) Industry, 3) Non Profit and 4) Government. Each of these sectors has a different mission and as a result their values will be different:

  • Academic (knowledge, freedom, focus/expertise, independence)
  • Industry (influence, ambition, fast pace, team work)
  • Non Profit (positive impact, variety, initiative, team work)
  • Government (planning, balance, security, structure)

B. What field do you want to work in?

Within each of these sectors there are many fields to choose from. These fields are frequently multi-disciplinary and it is important not to limit your options by only focusing on the fields that obviously match with your area of research. (ie biochemistry cancer research = pharmaceutical). There are probably other fields that you can apply your interests and expertise to (ie biochemistry = cosmetics research)

Once you have identified some specific fields of interest, you will want to research the specific organizations within each one. Every organization has a different culture and mission. Allergan and Pfizer may both be pharmaceutical companies, but they are structured and operate differently, and value different things in the workplace.

Knowing your workplace needs (i.e. security versus advancement) is extremely important at this stage, as it can have a tremendous impact on your career satisfaction. Targeting companies that can share your values will help you to be more successful in the long run.

C. What role (job) do you want to have?

Because every organization is structured differently, the set of responsibilities associated with a particular role can vary tremendously.  A "Project Manager" can be defined differently depending on the specific organization or even on the department. Job titles are rarely consistent across companies. Every position should be thought of as unique. As a result, it is often easier to start your career planning by identifying potential employers and then researching what specific role at that organization would be a good fit for you. Typical job functions include:

  • Research & Development : these are the people who create the stuff.
  • Testing & compliance: these are the people who test it and make sure it is legal
  • Professional & Support Services: these are the people who build it and deliver it
  • Communications Sales & Marketing: these are the people who tell people about it
  • Policy: these are the people who think about and plan it
  • Administration: these are the people who run the place