Biology As Life's Work Choice

Joyce Lain Kennedy
Posted: Aug 02, 2009 12:01 AM
Biology As Life's Work Choice

DEAR JOYCE: With a bachelor's degree in biology, my daughter is at a crossroads, trying to decide what's next. She's not interested in becoming a doctor but isn't certain whether to go ahead with more science education. I've heard that the 21st century is the Age of Biology. True? -- C.D.

Perhaps so, perhaps not. Here's a thumbnail update for candidates for this century's most lauded science.

Will the 20th Century Physics Age, newly sparked by Europe's multibillion-dollar Hadron proton supercollider, continue to grab headlines? Will the Age of Biology, fed by the mapping of the human genome, take over the spotlight? Will the 21st century become the Age of the Robot, named for the machines that may be beating out humans on the "smart scale"? All three are realistic scenarios, not science fiction.

Among the sciences, your daughter has lots to choose from for a career direction. But as you put biology under the microscope today, check out these two excellent resources:

(1) American Institute of Biological Sciences,, a site with lots of relevant articles.

(2) Science Careers,, also a site of many informative features, including a new booklet, "Young Women in Science: Forging New Pathways"; find it by clicking on Booklets.

DEAR JOYCE: At a recent interview, I could feel the sag toward the end. Is there anything I could have done to bump it up again? -- T.Y.

You might have luck resuscitating a wilting interview with the following tip I learned from Martin Yate, the author of the fabulous "Knock 'em Dead" job search books. Essentially, you ask to be hired:

"Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to prove myself here today. I am convinced that I am the best person for this job. I want you to give me a trial and I'll prove on the job that I am the best hiring decision you'll make this year. Will you give us both the opportunity?"

DEAR JOYCE: What's the best way to meet a hiring manager? -- E.A.

The No. 1 way is through a referring third party -- employee, recruiter or friend. The personal connection. The next-best approach is a series of your well-crafted telephone calls. After that, consider postal mail, because Internet in-boxes and filter traps are groaning with almost unimaginable numbers of resumes and spam.

When the Internet was young and novel, approaching employers with e-mail was a sign of currency and technological vibrancy (today that role is played by social networking in job search). The Internet novelty wore off as in-boxes began to waddle and whimper for gastric bypass surgery.

DEAR JOYCE: Preparing for and doing the interviewing is time-consuming and expensive. Why don't employers have the courtesy to get back after they've interviewed me? -- U.T.R.

This issue bugs lots of people because they haven't walked in employers' shoes.

So take your pick of reasons for employers' wall of silence: overworked, can't handle delivering bad news, economic circumstances changed and the job won't be filled after all, procrastinating with the hope that a miracle worker will walk through the door, jerk genes making them oblivious to others' feelings, poorly brought up with no manners, company policy to avoid legal exposure, or they simply forget to get back to you.

It's your job to follow up. After that, don't let the nonresponsive issue ruin your day. Allot two minutes to thinking about how, if you were hired, such nonresponsive behavior on the job would drive you nuts. Then move on to your next prospect.