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How to use LinkedIn to ace your biotech job search and advance your career

The biotech industry job market is extremely competitive, making it difficult to identify where you can differentiate yourself from other candidates. In a recent article Kyle Elliot, a high-tech career coach, identified LinkedIn as an interesting tool to develop your career in biotech by benchmarking others in positions you want to be in. 

Indeed, LinkedIn is a very interesting tool and might be the most powerful at your disposal to develop your career. Charles Spence, biotech recruiter and founder of Discera Search, a recruitment consultancy firm, told us he spends about 5 hours a day on the platform, and 95% of the candidates he identifies come from there. In this article, we focus on LinkedIn and how to efficiently leverage it in your biotech job search and career development.

Table of contents

    Create a compelling LinkedIn profile

    When it comes to creating your LinkedIn profile, Spence advises to keep it simple. “Your job title should be as clear and less confusing as possible. There is no need for excessive information, keep it to four to eight bullet points per job you have worked in in the industry.” 

    The summary is your opportunity to narrate your professional journey. Use this space to highlight your achievements, skills, and what drives your motivations in biotech. Make it engaging and personable, weaving in keywords naturally to enhance your profile’s searchability. Keeping it clear and concise can help you stand out and increase the readability of your profile. 

    If you feel you have more to share but want to keep your summary straight to the point, Joachim Eeckhout, who is the founder of Labiotech but also writes a weekly newsletter about science marketing called The Science Marketer,  notes that LinkedIn allows you to add a direct link below your description: “Adding a direct link right below your description is an excellent way to point recruiters to a specific page, such as a personal website.”

    You should select skills that are highly relevant to the biotech sector, and the niche you are aiming for, be it molecular biology, biostatistics, or regulatory affairs, for instance. Endorsements from peers you met throughout your career in biotech add credibility to the skills you put forward on LinkedIn, so actively engaging with your network to build this section can set you apart from other profiles. Recommendations, in the same way, are powerful testimonials that add a layer of trust and personal insight into your professional capabilities. Aiming to secure diverse recommendations from colleagues, supervisors, or collaborators who can speak about different facets of your professional life, particularly those highlighting your skills and contributions in biotech settings​ can make a difference. 

    Spence notes that it is important to try to get into the minds of recruiters and hire managers when they search to create your profile as they will be searching for you on LinkedIn. “Recruiters and managers will be searching specific words on LinkedIn. Usually, that breaks down into disease type, technology type, roles, and responsibility. In my area, clinical development, I would be searching ‘oncology’, ‘cancer vaccines’… If people have a not-confusing job title and good and clear keywords, that is good enough and everything else is a nice bonus but not essential, stating your hobbies and interests is okay but not essential.”

    How to network efficiently on LinkedIn

    Building a robust network on LinkedIn is crucial in developing your biotech career. Starting by connecting with people you already know, such as former colleagues, classmates, and industry acquaintances is a good way to build up your network. This foundational network can then be expanded by adding peers, mentors, and leaders in the biotech field. Always personalize your connection requests with a brief message about how you know them or why you want to connect, focusing on common interests or professional synergies​.

    According to Spence regarding reaching out to various people on LinkedIn without a real strategy, although it might not be the most efficient way to build a coherent network to advance your biotech career, the benefits still outweigh the negatives. 

    “I think most people have the problem of not reaching out enough. What’s most important is the reason why you are reaching out to certain people on LinkedIn. If you are blasting messages looking for a job, it’s not ideal but it’s still better than not doing it. High volume and no strategy is better than a strategy with no volume. One tip I can give is to aim for relevance. While it can be exhausting to fully personalize each message you are going to send, in the same way you are going to build your profile with relevant keywords, aim for people and companies exhibiting those same keywords.”

    “One way to do it more strategically would be to map out all the talent acquisition people at the biotechs that interest you and are relevant to your professional background and aspirations and get on their radar. That way, when they do hire you can message them early and build a relationship with them. The trick is then to keep these relationships alive,” said Spence.

    Regarding approaching biotech recruiters specifically, when you’re still a junior in the industry Spence says not to expect too much: “If you don’t have any industry experience, you just graduated, it is not impossible for recruiters to help you but it is significantly harder. Employers pay recruiters for time, not only do they not have the time to do all the candidate research themselves but when they ask for recruiters’ help, they often don’t have the time to train the candidates. There’s no harm in reaching out to recruiters when you are early in your career and it can work out, but you shouldn’t expect too much of it.”

    Recommendations and reviews on LinkedIn can also help you identify the people who can help you move your career in biotech forward. If you are a bit more advanced in your career, Spence advises to constantly look out for reviews that people in your network and in positions you want to move towards left on recruiters’ profiles because they potentially have the network and access to opportunities to help you take the next step.

    It is also important to try to keep your network active and it sometimes leads to better results with less effort than trying to build up your network in all directions. “If you are more advanced in your career, it’s more important to put a small amount of effort into staying in touch with the recruiters that you had good interactions with rather than proactively reaching out to a bunch of recruiters which can also work but you might be better of applying for jobs and building on existing relationships,” said Spence.

    LinkedIn groups where professionals discuss industry topics, share insights, and grow their networks can also be an interesting option as it will allow you to meet peers and see opportunities at the same time. Joining LinkedIn groups that align with your biotech career interests, such as the Pharma IQ: Pharmaceuticals BioTech & Life Science Network group with over 30,000 members. Depending on your niche and location, you can of course zoom in on even more specific groups.

    Build a personal brand and be active on LinkedIn

    Engagement on LinkedIn is about more than just posting your own updates; it involves interacting with others’ content as well. Regularly liking, commenting, and sharing posts in relation to your professional interests can boost your visibility but also help in building meaningful relationships within the community​. Additionally, consider creating and sharing original content that reflects your expertise and insights in biotech. This could include articles on current research, trends, or case studies from your own experiences, which can position you as a thought leader in your field​​.

    Commenting on LinkedIn posts is an excellent way to make a meaningful connection with the author and be seen by others for your insights. My recommendation is to stay away from basic comments and instead write meaningful information that adds value to the original post. That way, you keep the discussion going and your comments have a better chance of appearing as the most relevant,” said Eeckhout.

    Posting content yourself on LinkedIn can also be a good way to get noticed by the people you want to get in touch with. In Spence’s opinion, a lot of people creating content and posting on LinkedIn fail to understand why they do it. “When you are having conversations with recruiters, you are probably going to be forgotten about within a couple of weeks because maybe you weren’t the right candidate at that time. But when you are posting and commenting, you appear on the feeds of recruiters who you’ve been in contact with, and they might think of you more easily if there’s an opening.”

    Eeckhout compares posting to allowing more than a thousand people to take a look at your CV. “Something job seekers tend to underestimate is the reach a LinkedIn post can have. Writing and sharing your expertise through LinkedIn posts can easily generate thousands of views. No matter what your job search strategy is, you will never get to show your resume to thousands of people in real life. That’s why a platform like LinkedIn is so powerful. Your posts are a direct link to your profile, which is essentially your resume.”

    When dealing with social network algorithms, consistency is key to increasing your visibility. Eeckhout and Spence agree that two to three posts a week seems to be the sweet spot. Once again, remaining relevant is key if you want to take the content creation route on LinkedIn. 

    Eeckhout identifies that building your personal brand essentially comes down to finding your niche: “Your niche is the intersection of your expertise, the needs of your target audience, and the content you create. For example, someone looking for a job in a gene therapy lab could create regular posts about the latest research in the field. Over time, people will associate your name with a specific niche, making it easier for recruiters to find you.”

    Not everyone will feel comfortable, or find the time to create their own content from scratch and share it. A good way to start would be reposting content relevant to your niche with your take on the topic.

    How to leverage LinkedIn in your biotech job hunt?

    LinkedIn’s job search engine is a powerful tool that can be customized to your biotech career interests. Utilize LinkedIn’s Advanced Search option to zoom in on specific companies, job titles, and locations that match your career aspirations. Keywords play a critical role here, so including specific key terms related to your niche will improve your search outcomes. Moreover, using filters like date posted, experience level, and company size can help narrow down your search to the most relevant opportunities​.

    Setting up custom job alerts on LinkedIn to keep you informed about the latest opportunities in the biotech sector is essential. By specifying your preferred job titles, geographic areas, and other relevant details, LinkedIn will send notifications directly to you when new jobs matching your criteria are posted. This ensures that you are unlikely to miss out on potential job openings​​.

    Beyond LinkedIn’s basic features such as its job search engine or its job alerts, are you missing out on strategies to use LinkedIn to its full potential?

    While it is true you can go a long way without paying for LinkedIn features, Spence thinks there is a tool that can boost your job search and your career development that not a lot of people are using.

    “LinkedIn sales navigator allows you to create very helpful alerts that can maximize the efficiency of your outreach if you use it smartly. What you want to do is create a list of the 50 companies you want to target and connect to the talent acquisition or hiring managers there and send them a message through LinkedIn message or InMail. With LinkedIn sales navigator, you can create alerts such as whenever these people or companies post something or someone leaves the company you get notified. This allows you to interact with the people that matter to your job search efficiently by liking and commenting on their posts but also allows you to know quickly if there is an opening,” said Spence. 

    It is also possible to do this for free on LinkedIn but according to Spence, it will be messier and take a lot more work to be as efficient in covering all the companies you are interested in. As LinkedIn sales navigator costs around $90 dollars a month depending on the country you are based in, this feature might only be recommended if you have a bit more seniority and want a headstart in knowing what’s going on in the companies you are aiming for.

    In Spence’s opinion, it’s only beneficial to use the paid features of LinkedIn if three criteria are met. One, and it might be the most obvious one, you can afford it. Two, you are in an active search. If you are just testing the waters, you might be better off using the basic version of LinkedIn that can still get you far. Finally, you should consider it if you want more job opportunities coming your way when adverts are not getting you anywhere.

    Elevate your biotech career by being proactive on LinkedIn

    Spence compares the mindset you should adopt when navigating LinkedIn to the one a sales or marketing person would have.

    “When looking to develop your career, you have to think about what problem you are solving in a timeline-based way. If a company’s problem is that its research is moving too slowly, they will want to recruit more researchers, and it is your job to get there as early as possible, hopefully even before the advert gets listed online.”

    To be efficient on LinkedIn, you have to be proactive, which can be very exhausting as Spence puts it. “It can take an hour a day once you have put in the work to set your routine, which might take a couple of hours a day at the beginning. Of course, if you’re an active job searcher, you can put in more than an hour a day,” said Spence.