How to tell your research story to employers
April 2021 | 3 mins read
By Ana Ivkov
Fifth Year | Faculty of Science, Behavioural Neuroscience
No matter who you are and what experience you have, it can be daunting to find a job. You pull out your resume, and once again you’re wondering, “How can I express all the things I’ve done?” You have some research experience, but you’re not sure how to translate it to another role.How can you use your research experience to show a future employer that you’re the right person for the job?
First consider: are you applying for a research-related role or a role in a different industry? The type of position you are applying to will determine which aspects of your experience to focus on. If it’s research-related, emphasize the technical skills that you learned through your research, including familiarity with software like Microsoft Excel and R statistical computation. If it’s not research-related, focus on the transferable soft skills that you gained, such as leadership, collaboration, written and oral communication, and problem-solving.
Regardless of the industry you’re looking to get into, it’s important to convey a professional image that clearly shows how your passion and values match those of the organization you want to work for. If your future employers can see that you care about their work as much as they do, they’ll be that much more excited to hire you!
Skills, commitment and enthusiasm!
To tell your story effectively, consider the employer’s point of view. They want to be assured that you can do the job (you have the skills) but also that you want to do it (commitment) and that you’ll fit in with the team (enthusiasm).
For any job, in research or otherwise, it’s important to not only communicate the technical skills you’ve learned, but also your soft skills and why you’re passionate about the position.
Soft skills are interpersonal, qualitative abilities such as teamwork, communication, and leadership. If you’ve held any job or volunteer position before, you have likely used all of these and more! While they may not seem as important, employers care about them because they indicate your willingness to learn, receive feedback, and cooperate. In any job, you want to work with people you get along with!
In your resume, consider including a “Skills” section to highlight relevant technical and soft skills that match the the requirements of the job. While your “Professional Experience” section will highlight your key accomplishments at previous positions, the “Skills” section is great for hitting keywords and showing you have what it takes!
Integrating your mission and values
For any job application, you want to emphasize your fit with the organization. How do your objectives and values match with those of the company? What are your career goals? Do they align with the work of the organization?The same is true when applying to a research position. After all, technical skills can be learned, but passion can’t—that comes from within.
Build your story around your passion for the position and the values that make you a great fit for the employer. By having a theme around which to frame your work or research experience, you can more effectively communicate a cohesive narrative.
For example: say you’ve completed your degree in pharmacology and now you’re hoping to work in BC’s biotechnology sector. You’re interested in getting a lab-based position, but your research experience so far has been a bit disjointed and most of your work experience is actually in retail—you’re not sure how to best present it. Try framing your experiences around your passion for therapeutic drug development and use examples from your varied experiences to demonstrate your strong work ethic and excellent communication skills., By doing so, your story becomes more interconnected and meaningful.
While sharing your story with future employers can seem intimidating, the key is to link everything you do to your passion. Even if your experience is all over the place, lacking, or you feel like you don’t have the required technical skills— your willingness to learn and genuine interest in the job will take you a long way.