Finding a Microbiology-Related Job During COVID-19

Nov. 19, 2020

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What do you think are some of the challenges that job seekers are facing during COVID-19? When I surveyed a group of microbiology undergrad and graduate students, here’s what some of them had to say:
  • “You can’t get a feel/vibe from anyone online.”
  • “Virtual interviews.”
  • “Working from home.”
  • “Lack of in-person interviews and a tough job market.”
  • “Getting your resume through resume screenings in order to get interviews.”
  • “Networking is so hard!”
COVID-19 has impacted many parts of our lives, from how we learn, to how we virtually interact with others, even how we grocery shop. COVID-19 has also impacted the job market. During April 2020, the U.S. shed almost 20.5 million jobs and the unemployment rate was 14.7%. As of October 2020, the unemployment rate is 6.9%. While the unemployment rate is getting lower, it is nowhere close to what it was before the pandemic hit. In academia, we’ve seen hiring freezes, which might lead to trained scientists pursuing careers elsewhere. So how do you navigate the job market under the pressure of a changing pandemic? We go over some key tips that you can start incorporating today and cover opportunities in microbiology.   

Navigating the Crossroads of Changing Career Goals

No matter where you are in your education or career, you probably had some career goals in mind that now have to be adjusted because of COVID-19. If you were thinking of joining academia, it may take much longer and the opportunities might be minimal because of hiring freezes. Before you can take the steps to adjust, you need to accept that you have to change your career goals to fit the pandemic-affected job market. Because of this, you may have to redefine yourself. Now is the time to process your feelings about letting go of career goals you once had so you can move forward. As you take the time to find new career goals, remember that there are several career paths that can be as engaging and satisfying as what you thought you might be doing after you graduated. It is also okay to imagine different versions of yourself in professional environments where you apply your skills. 

Get Started by Exploring Different Careers 

Take the time to read career profiles online through professional society websites or by doing an online search. Some universities are still providing career services and may have virtual career panels to attend. If you have a LinkedIn profile, find contacts for informational interviews. That’s a short meeting, typically 30 minutes, to learn about the interviewee’s professional experience — with hopes of helping you determine your own career path. It’s important to remain positive as you speak to people during the pandemic — it’s a good opportunity to ask how the pandemic is affecting their field and job market. Everyone understands the climate and why shifting focus is needed now. 

Potential Areas of Microbiology Employment 

With clinical microbiology and public health labs slammed with an overwhelming amount of specimens to process during COVID-19 and the majority of medical laboratory scientists retiring soon, this might be a good profession to explore while you are still in school. Learn about the education and training needed for this job. While some research projects have been halted in academia and government, some scientists have changed course to study COVID-19, so this might be a good opportunity if you would like to stay in research but work on a different topic. Also, because there is a lot of data surrounding COVID-19, some government agencies are looking for data specialists. Finally, follow the companies that have vaccines for COVID-19, because they might be hiring for science-related jobs in quality control or sales. 

Continue to Network Virtually

Networking still remains the top way to find and secure a job. When unemployment is so high, networking is especially important because it helps to get your name in front of hiring managers. To get started, reach out to your current connections and ask them for help networking. Be clear that you are looking for a job in X field and would like to know if they have any connections. Update your LinkedIn profile and post relevant articles and videos so that recruiters and hiring managers can “see” you online. 

Prepare for a Virtual Interview

In order to follow social distancing recommendations, many employers are holding virtual interviews. To prepare, test everything in your virtual environment like the lighting, camera, microphone, angles and internet connection. If you are working from home with other people, be clear about the timing of your interview. Find a quiet place and choose a background with minimal items so the interviewer can focus on you and not what is around you. In a virtual interview, you miss out on body language cues. The only part an interviewer can see is your face, so keep eye contact consistently with the camera, smile and stay positive in your facial reactions. Because you are doing the interview online, the interviewers may ask to see some examples of your work. Be prepared to share your work by keeping documents open and ready to share if they ask.

With these tips, we hope that you find some comfort in navigating the job market during this pandemic. Good luck!

Author: Shilpa Gadwal

Shilpa Gadwal
Shilpa Gadwal is the Career Resources Specialist at ASM.