Biotechnology has a wide variety of career opportunities ranging from sales and marketing to research and development, to manufacturing and quality control and assurance. If you are looking for a job in a biotech company or if you are already working there, you need to understand you can’t get away with being just a warm body anymore. You need to see what you can give rather than get from your job. These are few things which you must consider if you are joining a biotech company:
1. Get to know the management team
Since it is a science-based industry, observe the people who run the company, think deep. Does the CEO, and other members of the senior team, have previous experience at a startup? Do they have credibility in the industry? Do they have the trust of investors? How did they react to their first failure? Does the manager seem to care about the company and believe in the mission of the company? If all those answers are yes, then you’re in a position to consider the job.
2. Get to know as many people in the company as you can, other than the CEO
As you will be spending hours and working with the team, you should try to know the team members as well. In every company, you are likely to encounter people who dislike working with you, but they can be avoided. The key here is getting to know your surroundings better. Know the stories and background of your colleagues.
3. How far along is this company in development? Does it have a shot?
Everybody knows biotech is a high-risk business. There are no sure things. Startups, by their nature, are testing out unproven concepts for new drugs, devices, or diagnostics. Anything can fail, at any time, for any reason—even after a product is on the market. But what startup employees should ask is whether the opportunity in front of them is a pipe dream or something with a real shot. The main thing is you need to find out the validity of the scientific concept. Then you dig into finances and the funding.
4. What’s my role in this company, and how might it grow as the company grows?
If the company succeeds, candidates should get a sense of whether there will be potential to take on new responsibilities and advance their careers. Part of this comes from asking yourself whether the people in senior management are folks you can really learn from, that you see as mentors. Are they interested in helping you add new skills to advance from director-level to VP or higher? If you have the ability to make a bigger impact, does this leader see the ability and understand how to unleash it?
5. Stock options are nice to have, but keep them in perspective
One of the great things about working in a startup is the opportunity to have some meaningful ownership in the company, some skin in the game. Stock options, which usually vest over a certain period of years, are often held out as a major carrot for prospective startup employees. If you and your teammates perform well, the thinking goes, you will share in the rewards. Many times, these options are described in glowing terms by companies as the yellow brick road to riches.
6. Find out what you’re really worth in terms of salary.
Employers don’t just guess when they think about what to offer an employee in salary. They usually work off a template based on confidential market surveys that tell them exactly what, say, a director of manufacturing is worth in their market. Employees rarely have access to this same kind of detailed human resources information. But this is where it’s important to use your network and to know someone who works as a corporate attorney, an HR consultant, or a venture capitalist who has access to these kinds of proprietary compensation surveys. Oftentimes, these people are happy to help prospective candidates understand if they are being offered a fair deal. Finding the right person to help you gain knowledge is key.
7. Learn about the company culture
This is a tough one. Hiring managers tend to put on their best possible face during the hiring dance, and candidates do too. Often, there’s little time to evaluate a company’s true work habits, processes, relationships, quirks, and values. But the candidates need to evaluate company culture and work through it carefully.