Netting a Job

Steph van Willigenburg is looking for a job back home. But she is doing a maths postdoc in Toronto and home is an ocean away in the UK. The distance can make even simple tasks like finding job ads in the daily newspaper into an almost impossibly hard chore. At least it could in the days before the Web. Now, all the job information she needs is just a click or two away. "Certainly all the jobs I've applied for this year have been from Internet lists or the Web," she says. "The Web has been invaluable for reading ads in the UK's Times Higher Education Supplement and useful for checking out people's research interests so you can tailor your application to a particular department."

Van Willigenburg isn't alone. Increasingly, young scientists are relying on the Internet to keep them off the dole. But new job sites are appearing almost daily, and they all claim to be the solution to your job-hunting woes. Where is a poor scientist to start? Bob Noble recommends beginning with a general site. "The best use I've found of the net is the online newspapers, The Guardian , The Telegraph , New Scientist ," says Noble, a virtual reality researcher at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. Phil Mackie disagrees. "The Web sites of the learned societies and the science journals are the best place to start because the mainstream sites don't really focus on subdivisions within science," says Mackie, who did plenty of Web searching to get his current postdoc position at Trinity College Dublin.

Others embrace an all-inclusive philosophy to job searching on the net. "Be as creative, obscure, and tangential as possible," says Allan Jordan. He used every site he could find before finding his present position as a drug researcher at Ribotargets in Cambridge. "I wanted a job in medicinal chemistry," he explains, "so I searched every job site for any vacancies, not just in medicinal chemistry, but in assay development, molecular biology, biochemistry, pharmacokinetics."

"The general rule," says Darien Pugh, who runs the Job Exchange on, "is the more specific a site, the more likely you are to look at it and the more likely you are to come across the information you need." Try searching for a chemistry job at a general site, says Paul Heelis, who runs, and "you will be lucky to get more than three," he says.

Once you have found a healthy collection of sites, you may want to rewrite your CV. "It is crucial to put in all the important information, such as education and skills, in a clear and well-structured way," says Pugh. "You have to make sure there is a reasonable amount of information covering the kinds of 'keywords' you would normally include in a paper CV, such as teamworker, graduate, management experience, etc." And remember that uploading a CV to a jobs site is not the same as preparing one for a specific job. Instead of tailoring it for one position, he says, "If you're posting your CV, it has to be general."

Then send them out. "Register your CV with as many agencies as possible," Heelis tells Next Wave. But as a courtesy to others, clean up after yourself! When you get that job, don't forget to delete your CV from the site.

Despite the hype, however, Internet job-hunting hasn't yet replaced traditional methods of finding work. Although he has successfully placed ads for postdocs on the academic site, Chris Rayner, a researcher at Leeds University, believes the more traditional routes into employment are just as valid as they ever were. "My students who have recently got jobs with companies have found them via milkround-type interviews," he explains. And Jordan, who did most of his searching on the Nature , New Scientist , and Science sites, warns, "all these jobs are also in the printed magazine, so you are facing a lot of competition from other applicants."

Noble, for one, found the experience of net job searching disheartening: "Basically, my difficulty is matching what I have to what is there. Years of R&D experience, a Ph.D. in computer graphics, a maths degree, experience with robots and the nuclear industry. But I'm a researcher more than a programmer; I like graphics but I don't write games. How do you tell that to a search engine?"

More Links

Follow Science Careers

Search Jobs

Enter keywords, locations or job types to start searching for your new science career.

Top articles in Careers