Our guest blog is written by Giuseppe Silvestri, a Reproductive Medicine MSc graduate from University of Kent, who is currently on a six month Step molecular biologist placement at Cell Projects Ltd; a biotechnology business that develops and manufactures an extensive range of products used for DNA sampling and Molecular Biology based in Kent.
I started my job hunt before the end of my MSc and I did so exclusively on-line. I applied for a number of openings at various Universities and Research Councils: competition was fierce; I did a few interviews but didn’t manage to secure a place. What I learned? Hone your interview skills! Some people are naturally very good at promoting themselves, others (like me!) need to learn and gain some experience first! Whilst job hunting I didn’t forget to keep improving my CV: I took up an unpaid internship as a lab technician at Kent university and this ultimately gave me an edge securing my Step placement.
I first heard about Step from my university career services’ newsletter. Among the adverts I casually spotted a rare beast: an opening for a molecular biologist! I immediately trusted Step (with hindsight a smart move) because university career services check and filter job adverts. I found the advert appealing because it offered the chance of broadening my horizons by getting some hands on business experience. Skimming through the personal specifications I quickly realized that I matched the requirements quite well! Even better the host business was located within commuting time!! And the placement was paid!!! (volunteering for science is good but doesn’t fill your belly!).
Submitting my application was a piece of cake, Step’s application process is really self explanatory and helps you reflect on your strengths so much that I updated my CV with new entries right afterwards.
I started my placement in February and my host business is Cell Projects Ltd, a biotechnology firm located in the heart of Kent. The company produces and sells a number of products ranging from laboratory consumables to DNA extraction and purification kits. In brief my tasks involve quality control tests (would you buy lab plastics contaminated by human DNA? Of course you would not! My job is to check for things like this!), protocols optimization (let’s push our kits to the limit!) and a little bit of product assembly… Did I mention the paperwork? Yes I’m sure I did… (nobody likes it but needs to be done; it takes only a small fraction of my time by the way!)
What I really enjoy about my placement is the friendly environment in which I work. Moreover, being a small business, the company is very attentive towards each customer and I discovered how rewarding this can be. I also learned a lot about working with DNA, product quality and traceability.
If you are starting a placement as a biology graduate my pro tip is: do not be overwhelmed! There is a lot to take in at first and you will probably need to ask many questions! Here’s a useful bit of advice my boss shared with me on my first day: your colleagues are busy with their tasks but always happy to help you nonetheless, be “politely pushy” and you’ll have no problems! And so I did!
Looking back at my time at university, my suggestion would be: do not disregard a subject before studying it! More than once I discovered how interesting a subject can be when I was too close to the finals! The same applies to work life: this placement proved a mind opening experience just like I had hoped it to be. Previously I was very focused on academia but I can now appreciate what the private sector has to offer to biology graduates. In September I will return to Kent University to undertake a 3 year PhD programme but after getting to call myself “Doc” I will regard the private sector as a very viable route.
Thank you for reading fellow graduate! I wish you luck with your career!