Thank you again to Manchester Metropolitan University for inviting us to the Meet the Employers event last Wednesday. I think this was our fifth year of doing this and every year I’m delighted with how professional and switched-onto the key ideas around future careers that the students are.
There were some questions that came up several times and I’ve picked out the two FAQ’s from this to followup as promised, as some of the points I mentioned were needing web links and some expanding out.
For those who haven’t been to a Meet the Employers event, if eligible, go. It’s that simple.
This year we had amazing companies in our vicinity I spotted Lubrizol, Broughton Labs, Reed Scientific, and Concept Life Sciences. All really experienced professionals giving their time to help students navigate the job market and brilliant to see. It can be difficult to get this kind of access, especially in January when we’re all busy, but an organisation like Manchester Metropolitan has the network and influence to make that happen. It’s a fantastic event they put together.
The format is round tables, 6 people at a time come over and it’s 5 minutes of Ask-Me-Anything. Plus coffee and cake. I promised a followup to the top two talking points and here it is:
The two top talking points this year were
- How to get a summer placement
- How to approach companies
- How to get a summer placement
Summer placements can fall into two categories, the planned and the fortunate. Planned ones come around via the usual routes of companies advertising for roles over summer, driving the contact and setting up students with some fantastic experience.
These are competitive things to get into and while there are good opportunities out there to go for, you probably don’t want all your eggs in this basket. The drawbacks to these can be mainly borne from the competitive nature of the role being offered.
The fortunate, come around because your CV happened to be on the desk of the person who needed you at the moment that became pertinent. This does not happen by chance, however you can influence this by blanket-contacting all of your local labs. I’ll cover the ‘how’ in question two. This kind of placement is one of those ‘harder you work luckier you get’ results in life, but time and again we see them on CV’s and hear the candidate has simply knocked on the door and politely left their CV with the front desk or found a manager on LinkedIn and sent their email or posted in their CV and it’s been on the desk when the job opportunity arises. Put yourself in the managers shoes, would you call that person back, or go down the route of advertising& incurring cost and time expense? Lets talk more about this, because direct approaches for summer placements are key and feed into my next FAQ!
- How to approach companies
The main thing to consider is that the chemicals industry isn’t concerned at communicating all that it does with the general public. When you fuel up the car or buy some shampoo you are buying hundreds of additives and chemicals made by the fine chemicals industry who marketed them to the fine chemicals industry.
When you need pharmaceuticals, these are made by someone who marketed them to the medical profession (and sometimes you). So for this reason, people tend to know who GSK and Pfizer are, but less so BASF, Evonik and Dow Chemical (no offence guys).
Very little of the chemical industries marketing was ever aimed at you … so the inner monologue most of us have is that “there aren’t many chemical companies” because they don’t make their presence felt amongst people who would never be a direct customer.
So, a question, what are there more of in the UK, McDonalds restaurants or small to mid scale chemical companies?
Well, the anwer is for every Mcdonalds there are almost precisely two small to mid scale chemical companies! There are 2,500 SME chemical companies in the UK versus 1,249 McDonalds restaurants. I know I couldn’t believe it but I literally got those statistics from the UK Government and McDonalds. I’m going to call this McChemonomics.
Forget the whole ‘nowhere to work thing’, McChemonomics tells us there are hundreds of places out there in the North West alone! Pick any town there WILL BE laboratories, on a 2:1 ratio to how many McDonalds there are. So in Stockport we have 6 McDonalds and according to McChemonomics that means 12 SME chemical companies.
So, just because you will never go to a fuel additives company for some anticorrosive, antifoam, and lubricant to mix in with your unleaded petrol (it’s in there already) that doesn’t mean those things aren’t getting made on your doorstep. Marketing budgets are tight, they aren’t pushing their products out there to you. Double Cheeseburgers: different story.
So, where do you find them. Google maps lists companies really well searches like ‘pharmaceutical companies in Liverpool’ will bring up good results. The UKAS website www.ukas.com lists all labs bearing their accreditation certificate and this is a huge chunk of the market. UKAS also categorises companies according to area they are accredited in it’s like this, if a company has a particular code it’s had a kind-of exam to say it’s compliant in a certain aspect of lab work and these codes are different to each field so to introduce a few:
ISO 13485 – Medical Devices
ISO 14001 –Environmental Monitoring
ISO 9001 – Quality Systems
ISO 17025 – Calibration Laboratories
In the top right of that certificate confirming compliance, are the details of the lab contact this is usually the Lab Manager or the boss.
Also, organisations are routinely listed and groups will publish these lists to promote the sector a few of these such groups are below and again they list the small to mid scale companies in your vicinity:
- Chemicals Northwest
- ‘Where To Buy Chemicals’ (publication)
- Laboratory news (free magazine you can sign up for)
- UKSPA (UK Science Park Association) and many others all contain information about laboratories. Most companies have contact information on their website and beyond that there is LinkedIn for pretty much most professionals in the working world.
Approach wise it’s essential you make them feel special, targeted and part of your possible plans.
We’re all busy however bear in mind that the person who reads your CV has different values to you in all likelihood and probably comes from a generation where good penmanship got you a long way… though that never went away and good penmanship still gets you places in 2020! We regularly get offers on the basis a candidate was ‘nice and polite’.
Look, in summary people just straight-up like nice-people, so just focus on coming across as nice and making people feel special - I totally promise you doors will open. You can do that by:
- A short email expressing why you feel they are a good company for you and why you could be a good candidate for them
- Information about your availability, full contact information and maybe a few ideas about what you could do
- A CV with key points of commonality with the business in there (see our CV guide for information on this).
If you do the above 3, you will get about a 5% success rate, so contact 20x companies and you should receive an offer from one of them.
Final hint… and this is the big hint. Write a letter, even better, get the local printers to make you some business cards and send those in too.
Letters are amazing. They bypass Spam folders, they are easily retrievable, they are unhackable, they are also so uncommon nowadays as to now ‘stand out’ and they also subtly show organisation and that you cared about the communication (you wrote it, bought a stamp, took the time to post it). We love using them at LiCa Scientific and suggest you use this alongside emails in your communications.
I’m available for questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
My company is LiCa Scientific Ltd www.licasci.com is our website.
About the author:
Matthew Rollinson has 16 years scientific recruitment experience in multinational recruitment companies, the past 4 years of which are as entrepreneur based in the UK running the highly-rated recruitment business LiCa Scientific.
In addition he is a Management Consultant whose advice has been sought on recruitment and growth strategy, by global organisations and top-50 consultancies.
He focusses the majority of his time on fine chemical/pharmaceutical recruitment, in the English and German speaking markets, from bench up to board level hires.
LiCa Scientific was started mainly to get better work:life balance and since has grown to a market leadership position, while maintaining that family-friendly value set at it’s core. This company is recruiting for 2x consultants to expand in 2020. If you like the look of us, perhaps call us to discuss recruitment?
We look forward to you reading about our further work on www.licasci.com