Which career is right for me? This is a crucial question that almost everyone asks themselves at some point in their lives. In communicating with people who have attained career fulfillment, I have often encountered the admission that quite a bit of luck was involved. Yet, when questioning whether they could do it all over again, many of these same people have been quick to respond in the affirmative. It always seemed odd to me that someone could be so confident in their ability to pursue the same career that they claim to have initially established through a series of fortuitous circumstances. Perhaps far more absurd is the idea that one ought to somehow bank on the element of luck when it comes to something as life-defining as a career.
While I don’t question that the element of luck might have something to do with the series of events that unfolds in one’s life, I recognize that “luck” is not an acceptable strategy. Why leave career fulfillment up to chance? How can I instead command my own destiny? Something that has become apparent to me is that if you are truly intentional about what you want your future to look like and are willing to take the necessary steps to pursue it, you don't have to depend on luck at all. That’s why I, along with a team at Hopkins Biotech Network (HBN), created the Hopkins Biotech Podcast, to provide content that acquaints life science students with careers outside of academia and empowers each person to map out their future.
Snap! The Job’s a Game
In the documentary Something Ventured, Sandy Lerner — co-founder of the computer networking company Cisco Systems — notes that “the first rule of any game is to know you’re in one.” In light of this perceptive observation, I have come to realize that the process of career exploration, as stressful as it may seem, is just another game. What game is it? It’s a matching game, in which the object of the game is to achieve a mutualistic partnership, a relationship between individuals in which everyone involved reaps some benefit.
Every company that has stood the test of time solves a problem that exists in the broader market. For example, biotechnology companies develop therapeutics that improve the quality of life for patients with certain diseases. In order to fulfill their mission, employers need individuals who possess a certain set of skills, values and interests. Are you trained to think critically about the nature of biological phenomena and are also motivated to apply that knowledge to develop therapeutics that serve patient needs? Perhaps the biotechnology industry is one of many possible industries you ought to consider in your search for an impactful career. The same logic can be applied to any other person or industry to evaluate whether or not a job is a good fit. As such, the career that is most appropriate for each person is one in which the skills, values and interests of that person closely align with the needs of the employer. I take solace in knowing that one of the most consequential choices in life can be boiled down to such a seemingly straightforward concept. Furthermore, this concept has a few implications that take a lot of the guesswork out of the career exploration process.
The Road to Career Fulfillment
There are two key elements required to triumph in the career matching game: know yourself and know the employer. A thorough understanding of the things you are both passionate about and have an aptitude for can go a long way in focusing your search. Although each individual is largely responsible for the journey inward, there are many resources available for assistance in this area, including one-on-one counseling, offered by the Johns Hopkins Medicine Professional Development and Career Office (PDCO). Furthermore, various on-campus student groups, such as the Hopkins Biotech Network (HBN), Johns Hopkins Graduate Consulting Club (JHGCC) and the Biomedical Career Initiative (BCI) are geared towards allowing students to try various professional experiences, which can prove helpful in identifying latent interests.
Earlier this year, the Hopkins Biotech Network launched a podcast called Hopkins Biotech Podcast to help life science students address the second element in the career matching game — know the employer. The podcast aims to illuminate life science career opportunities outside of academia in a variety of private sector industries (e.g., pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, consulting, venture capital and internet protocol law) through a medium that busy students can enjoy on the go at any time. Each episode illustrates our guest’s personal and professional journey as they navigated through their own career path, with an emphasis on pivotal anecdotes that taught them constructive lessons along the way. Our guests represent diverse personal and professional backgrounds, so as to provide listeners with a broad range of current career possibilities. Their experiences also provide case studies that reflect specific ways you can successfully navigate a specific profession, once you have decided which career interests you.
Our first guest interview features Johns Hopkins School of Medicine alumnus Sam Hong, chief operating officer (COO) at Rapafusyn Pharmaceuticals, a preclinical stage startup developing macrocycle-based therapeutics for treatment of various disease indications. New episodes are released every other Monday, and updates about upcoming guests are announced on social media at Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter. You can tune in to Hopkins Biotech Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or SoundCloud. We encourage you to add Hopkins Biotech Podcast to your armamentarium of tools that help you command your own destiny and chart out your career trajectory after you graduate. There’s no need to leave career fulfillment up to chance, when you can master the job market through the learned experiences of those who have been there before.
Special thanks to the Office of the Provost at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine for making this program possible and to our partners and collaborators at the JHM Professional Development and Career Office (PDCO), Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures (JHTV), FastForward U (FFU) and the PHutures Office.
- From Books to Business: A Hopkins Student Experiences the Biopharma Industry Firsthand
- Switching Career Paths: Rediscovering Your Scientific Passion
- Careers in Consulting, Business and Finance: What Are They Like and How Can You Launch into Them?
- The Widening World of Career Choices
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