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Navigating jobs in the age of COVID-19

7 Aug 2020 5:38 PM | Anonymous

By Dr. Ruchi Jhonsa, Scientific Editor, GeneOnline

While the COVID-19 pandemic is upon us, many are grappled by the fear of losing a job and finding a new one. In the past six months, a whopping 40 million have lost jobs and claimed benefits from the government. Even though the future looks bleak, experts believe that there is hope for everyone. At the virtual India Day organized by India Society of Worcester, six experts from various walks of life sat together to discuss what to expect, what to change, and how to approach a professional journey during COVID times.
The panel comprised of: 

1. Dr. Ragoo Raghunathan, Business Development, Biotech (Moderator)
2. Balki Chandrakasan, Program Manager, Charles River Laboratories (Moderator)
3. Chella Palaniappan, Vice President- Client Services, Trigent Software
4. Dr. Sudhi Agrawal, Founder and President, Arnay Sciences
5. Dr. Venkat Kolluri, CEO, Cidewalk.com
6. Dr. Krithika Vaidyanathan, Gene Therapy Scientist

What to expect?

In Chella Palaniappan’s opinion, the pandemic has certainly brought changes to the IT industry. However, in the last six months, industries have accepted the new situation and are now trying to figure out how to stabilize. One of the ways they are trying to cope with the situation is by automating work. When asked how all this impacted his employees, he said, “Software industry was less impacted by the pandemic, as the culture of working remote was already there from the very beginning.” But several significant changes are now being made to help employees cope with the situation. The companies are thinking about investing more in the health of employees and in their comfort while they work from home.Dr. Sudhir Agrawal opines that a lot more opportunities have opened up during pandemic, especially in the biotech field. In the past few months, many big and small pharma companies have started developing vaccines and medications for combating the virus. As they are going forward with this herculean task, the companies are looking for additional talents to support their programs. “Certainly there is a shift,but there is more of a re-calibration of talent. Scientists that were developing drugs or other diseases are now being approached to use their skills to support
treatments for COVID,” said Dr. Agrawal.

Venkat Kolluri talked about his experience in the field of marketing following the COVID outbreak. His area of work was greatly affected by the pandemic. Nevertheless, he managed to adapt and bring the business back on track. To capture the lost customers, he developed an online communication service with his team to help enterprises to continue growing. Additionally, he started giving free services, tips, and tricks to his customers to adapt to the new normal. Slowly but steadily, his business recovered. When asked how his employees adapted to this new change, he says one-word “Flexibility.” His employees are quite flexible, and that worked for them well. He and his team developed a routine for regular communication with each other, which kept them in touch with other employees and company’s developments.

What to change?
In the current situation finding a job in the field where one has expertise is not easy. Thus, it has become necessary for job seekers to adapt and approach different disciplines in biotechnology. When asked how students and scientists should widen their opportunities in the current times, Dr. Agrawal mentions the need to identify one’s passion. Job seekers should first identify their interests and then approach the job search systematically by identifying research areas, technology and companies that attract them the most. There are also many avenues for job seekers who are not particularly interested in a bench job. Depending upon their skills, people can apply for writing and communication, project manager, patenting, or business development jobs. Additionally, “During the process of job search, students and scientists should pick up skills that can help diversify them into various disciplines,” said Dr. Raghunathan. There are plenty of certificate courses and resources available online which students can take. For instance, a biology student interested in programming can take data analysis courses and transition into data science companies. 

Krithika Vaidyanathan added to this discussion by sharing her experience with the job search. While looking for jobs, she picked up many skills, including project management and data analysis. Through the process of elimination, she realized her true passion. She recommends that people looking for jobs should take courses to broaden their skill sets and talk to people who have had more than one job path to understand what the job entails. Venkat Kolluri, however, urges job seekers who take online courses and certifications to not restrict themselves to the projects pertaining to the course. Rather, he asks them to think outside the box and broaden their experience by working with different projects. Dr. Ragoo added to this discussion and asked job seekers to approach the job in a problem solver kind of way. “Look at the problem the company is facing by looking at the job description and present yourself as someone who can solve that problem. That will distinguish you from others.” Krithika has been doing precisely that while approaching hiring managers. 

How to approach a professional journey?

The expert panelists gave three suggestions for the job seekers to approach a professional journey.

1. “Get on LinkedIn” said Venkat Kalluri. “Gone are the days when you can reach out to someone and say ‘Lets talk about the job over coffee’. In the pandemic. it is difficult to approach people face to face. So to let the world know that you exist, you must start contacting people through LinkedIn. On LinkedIn, recruiters look for what job seekers are currently doing, what kind of posts they are commenting on, and how they are making connections.“ To get the attention of your skill sets, make them visible on LinkedIn through articles and posts.

2. “Don’t wait for the esteemed job,” said Chella Palaniappan. “In the current situation, it is important to be active. People don’t care about what kind of jobs you were you doing. What they care about is that you were doing something while  looking for those esteemed jobs.” 

3. “Before applying to a job, study the company,” said Dr. Agrawal. “It's important for the new candidates to start studying each company who they are, what they are publishing or they're publishing with other people and follow their tracks record learn about the company and then start engaging them. Companies might not be looking for candidate immediately, but when they see someone researching about them they might think that this person is worth talking to” 

As a final piece of advice by Dr. Raghunathan also resonated with all the experts “Focus has always been on ‘built to last’, it is time to change it to ‘built to adapt’.”

Check out the Video of the panel

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