Manchester Metropolitan University – Meet The Employers Followup Blog!

TLDR = Scroll to end for useful links we discussed! 

We’ve attended a great event today the annual Meet the Employers day at Manchester Metropolitan University.


As always this event was really well attended and lots of questions about the job market were covered. As promised here is the followup to this with these questions covered again in writing:


  • Is a Masters degree critical in respect of opportunities I can move onto


This came up a few times and my advice would always be to keep in education as long as you feel like it’s benefiting you. I am personally still in education at 42 (German classes at college) and find it very rewarding. It doesn’t improve life chances massively I’ll be honest but I do enjoy it. I wouldn’t argue that a Masters degree is critical and indeed most people get by without, however like anything it depends on your reasons for doing it, most employers will see it as a major positive in the same way I’m sure my German clients see it as a positive I learned their language. However it’s absence won’t be seen as a negative either, the majority of the reason why you will get a job as a graduate is your Bachelor’s degree, you would find a great career without a Masters you would find one with a Masters. However if you are really into a field of work they can be super helpful in accessing roles in it, for example niche specialisms. Which leads neatly onto the next FAQ!


  • How can I find roles in my niche area, for example ecotoxicology (this answer applies to any niche area but we’ll pick on ecotoxicology as it came up!)


You can find laboratories doing any kind of testing in the commercial world that you have used yourself in University. If there is a lab test there will be a company doing it! ,


The way to do this is to use resources that detail who they are and where they are. These resources aren’t the ones that chances-are you will be using. I personally feel that websites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor and such are great for large-scale enterprise who have lots of content, constantly upload stuff and therefore look interesting but not great for small scale businesses who get swallowed up in what is a global network.


A field like Ecotoxicology does however have certain qualities to it which means that the companies will be listed somewhere. I would consider going to these lists really in any niche field, the question is where is the list?!!


A simple question of ‘who is auditing these labs’ or ‘who is legally enforcing standards’ or ‘where might they promote their services’ can lead you there. Push on a few doors one will open!


In the case of ecotoxicology, chances are it’s something you’d expect the Government to be enforcing laws about. Or at least you’d hope so! So, that forms the backbone of your search are there laws covering the toxicology of what goes into our waterways. Reassuringly…yes! the specific law is called MCERTS which is a Monitoring Certification Scheme (again for another area it will have an acronym covering it).


Lets dig into MCERTS.


You can then search for laboratories with this accreditation on the UKAS website. UKAS is the United Kingdom Accreditation Services. The results would look like those below, and there are 6 pages of them.


This is a bit of detective work but it follows a logic that I think you can apply well to most areas of lab work that happen to interest you.


So, for any niche field, break it down and think in terms of what factors might be common amongst the laboratories you are looking into.


Once you have this you can just start taking notes on the sector and find out who key contacts are and make an approach to them with your interest in joining their business. This is something I’d be happy to help with as in my experience with any type of client-set there tends to be a thread to pull on.




  • I’m in year 1 of the course what can I do at this point?


This is a really good time to start thinking about the ongoing career and there are things that you can do at this point which are helpful. The main being elective modules and your choice of dissertation. I would do a ‘primary coloured’ search of the market and try and work out some things. Do you want to be at the bench or in the office (wet bench vs dry bench as I’ve heard it termed), are there examples of jobs you like, are there commonplace features between jobs you like?


Finally, are you seeing any career routes that you do not like. A good idea of what ‘wrong’ looks like can be useful in the same way knowing what ‘right’ looks like.


One thing to note is this may change drastically as time goes on, and once you gain experience be open to changing your mind you aren’t under any pressure to commit to one course or another and even if you do, the industry won’t regard you as such in fact it can take 5 or more years of consistently working in one job before companies look upon you as being deeply committed to it, within this kind of timeframe people chop and change all the time.


  • How do I find an internship?


In addition to the careers service having internships they can connect you to, and also companies advertising these, we recommend doing a similar activity to a regular job search with the added element of keeping the search within a local distance of home, internships can be short term.


See below for details on how to find companies. You will find companies are prepared to consider you however you need to kiss a few frogs here as an estimated ‘good’ level of interest would be 10% to 20%. This may feel low but don’t let that put you off however do play the ‘numbers game’ find your local 10-20 potential companies and make it known you are interested in an internship.


This can be done via email, phone, following on LinkedIn and applications directly, however my favourite alongside email and phone call is a letter through the post or dropped off in person at reception, this might sound old fashioned, but we live in a time of perceived effort which is becoming harder to show, not easier, and the fact you’ve taken the trouble to post something or drop it in person stands out.


My recommended strategy would be to locate the labs you could easily get to from home or where you spend the holidays, contact them and let them know you are interested. You never know it could be right place right time with that and lead onto a stint in the laboratory which will look fantastic on the CV!



  • How can I apply a degree like Geography which has some laboratory work but where lab work has not been our main-focus?


Any degree which involves laboratory work, is giving you skills that can be applied into a role. The important thing to bear in mind is the level of knowledge needed can vary vastly between roles. Some clients I support require a high depth of skills and expertise, some quite simply want to know that candidates are aware of a form of analysis so you can request data or file reports (so have a low involvement).


My advice has always been to not to the interviewers job for them and just consider the question “do I have more knowledge of this field, than the next person walking down the street?” if the answer is yes, it’s fair game and quite legitimate to put the skill onto the CV and apply for jobs in that area. A degree like Geography can involve analysis of soils and waters using chemistry skills, areas like geology are just chemistry in hiking boots and waterproofs if you ask me, which you will see as requirements for other opportunities. Whether you’ve done this lab work once or ten times is no matter.


An interviewers job is to asses the level that you have skills and experience at and make a judgement call as to whether this is right for them.


This isn’t your job as a candidate.


In my job, I sometimes see people overthinking this and trying to write a CV that conveys a higher level of skill in one technique over another (for example listing strongest to weakest or omitting things entirely which they did have knowledge of). If you find yourself doing this, take a step back just put down the skills that you have knowledge of and if offered an interview present what you have as background.



  • How do I find good companies to apply to?


Fine chemical, pharmaceutical and other companies are very common, more so than most people tend to at first assume. Lets compare the industry to a well loved staple of most of our lives, McDonalds. Roughly speaking the number of McDonalds in the UK bobs around 1,400, compared to 6,500 life science companies in the UK, this industry (scientific one) is employing 280,000 or so people. So, for each McDonalds roughly consider 4 companies are around you.


I wanted to present some statistics for two reasons but the major one is the nature of the calls I get where people feel like a small change means a big change. Put simply it doesn’t. Don’t be put off if you hear about job cuts and please don’t think the market is ‘flooded’ due to a big-pharma laying off 500 people as happened this year. Instead, put it into the context of 282,000 people, that’s several times the size of the British Army 76,000. A 500 person job reduction is 0.1% to 0.2% of the industry headcount and probably within the boundary of statistical margin of error. Same applies to job creation, if ‘big pharma inc’ opens up on your doorstep announcing 5,000 new job tomorrow it’s a 2%-3% change to our overall life chances.


The problem is that you aren’t a direct ‘customer’ of these industries. As above some of the issues are a bit ‘baked in’ to how it works and you just need to figure how the game is played.


Sure, we all ‘use’ their products everything is a chemical and we can all associate Unilever and GSK with things because they make the news, but with the exception of the cosmetics and household products markets you aren’t a direct customer; and even then you can’t purchasing the surfactants, fragrances, stabilisers and such that made the products.


For the vast majority of the life science and chemical industry, I/you are not and will never be a customer. This means they spend precisely £0 marketing their presence to us, and this means revelations like their being 4x as common as McDonalds can be surprising.


I’ve taken a bit of a run-up to this but I want you to appreciate three things about the industry and market as jobseekers. One, it is out there in good numbers. Please don’t feel like you need to bend and break in order to fit into the industry.


Second these companies don’t sit alone, they like to collaborate and congregate and they do so in places like science parks, industrial groups and conferences. They do this partially because they can’t broad-brush advertise and achieve market penetration to everyone in a meaningful way otherwise. If you consider Coca Cola spend $190,000,000 on advertising each year and still lost market share to Pepsi in restaurants asking “it’s Pepsi is that alright?” you can see why it’s often best felt just to sell in-and-amongst each other.


Three, they want to hear from you. You are welcome in these places, nobody is going to have an issue with you rocking up with a CV or heading to a free conference (see list below and dates).


If they (and I at LiCa Scientific) had our way the world would know about us, but they don’t and we sit in the ‘well kept secret’ category. As you might conclude, the problem is more ours than yours as a job seeker!


So, where can you find out who the companies are?


UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) I’ve mentioned above, is a great resource.


I didn’t go into what they do much before, but their job is to check that laboratories are working appropriately in line with standards they should be. This is a publicly accessible resource, and contains details of WHO labs are, WHERE they are, WHAT they are doing and issue a certificate. Sound useful? It gets better, in the top right of that certificate is the contact details of a person there who's responsible! (usually the Laboratory Manager who can answer a technical question or two!). See link to the area where you can search geographically:




UK Science Park Association – This website lists science parks by location i.e. North West / East Midlands it then lists resident companies.  




BioNow is a membership organisation for life science companies you can see our cohort on here!




Chemicals Northwest is a membership organisation for fine chemical and pharmaceutical companies and a list of their members is linked here!




The above is a bit tip-of-the-iceberg as there are loads of resources like this and the industry does publish a lot of content, again it doesn’t perform well on the internet as it’s niche but a couple of publications I like to read are linked below and they often announce things like new sites, product launches and good news that might lead to job creation. Again it’s great to keep the ear to the ground with this!





One idea that perhaps isn’t immediately obvious is the various free conferences that happen and give amazing exposure to the industry. The whole idea of these is companies want to be spoken with, they are a soft-sell operation and as much about networking as they are about business. Companies would love to be approached by prospective recruits here. A couple are below but you will also have events locally on science parks which once plugged into (via email lists etc) you can again attend.


https://www.chemicalukexpo.com 15th and 16th May 2024 Birmingham

https://www.lab-innovations.com 30th and 31st October 2024 Birmingham


Good luck with your searches and we are available at the below contact details. Rest assured we’ve always got time for questions and would like to hear from you.





0161 443 4173


Posted by: LiCa Scientific Ltd