Career Coach: How Do I Get Better at Accepting Feedback?

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Pictured: Cutout mouths talking to each other/Taylor Tieden for BioSpace

Welcome to Career Coach, a column for jobseekers and employees navigating the ins and outs of finding, landing and succeeding in jobs in the biotech industry. Each month, Carina Clingman, founder of The Collaboratory Career Hub and host of the Biotech Career Coach Podcast, answers questions from the community. You can email her with questions at: hello@collaboratorycareerhub.com.

In this column, we take a look at effective ways to find biopharma job openings, when and how to follow up after a job interview and the best approach for receiving feedback.

Q: I feel like LinkedIn is tough to navigate when it comes to finding and applying for biopharma jobs. Is there a better way to use the platform, or should I be looking for jobs somewhere else?

CC: Unfortunately, LinkedIn does not always have the user’s best interests at heart, and the job search functionality is one place we feel that. You might notice that when you search for a job, all of the top results are “promoted,” and they don’t always fit the keywords or filters you’ve applied. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, simply search for “scientist, molecular biology,” and you’ll see what I mean. 

LinkedIn is a for-profit social media platform, and knowing that, first and foremost, is the key to making the platform work for you. In this case, they are showing you jobs that employers have paid to have boosted in the algorithm. By adding a few additional filters to your search, you’ll narrow your search and remove many of the promoted postings.

Here are some effective filters:

  • Sort by most recent (not most relevant)
  • Experience level
  • Remote/On-site/Hybrid
  • Location (if you’re looking for on-site in a specific location)
  • Industry

Create several targeted searches, like one for each city/region you’re considering or one for each skill you want to target, then set up a job alert for each one. Although you’ll still have a lot of noise in your search, you will have a much higher signal-to-noise ratio.

We love sending candidates to BioSpace as well. The 2024 Best Places to Work in Biopharma resource is excellent and gives quick links to open jobs. You can also search jobs and create alerts, which our candidates find helpful.

Finally, I love Google for jobs. Simply enter a search phrase like “molecular biology scientist jobs in Cambridge, Massachusetts,” and you’ll see three sample jobs at the top of your Google search results page along with a link to view more jobs from there.

When possible, apply for jobs directly on the company website to avoid giving your resume to random recruiting firms, which can be more prevalent on Google for jobs. And always head over to LinkedIn to follow the company and start networking with employees to help bolster your application. (See last month’s column for specific tips on networking your way into a job.)

Q: I had an interview a few days ago and am still waiting to hear back. How long should I wait to follow up?

CC: This question is complicated because it depends on many factors, so let’s explore the most common scenarios.

First, you should have sent a thank you note within 24 hours. We advise sending a note the same day unless your interview ends near or after 5 pm. In that case, sending a note the next morning is fine. 

You can also send a LinkedIn invitation to each of your interviewers with a brief message:

Hi [name], 

I really enjoyed our conversation today. Thanks for taking the time to tell me about [XYZ cool thing]. I’d love to connect so that I can follow your career, regardless of where this job search takes me.

Best,

[your name] 

After three business days, follow up with the main point of contact at the company, usually the recruiter, via email. I recommend a simple, breezy yet professional note along the lines of:

Hi [Name],

I’m following up on my interview with [interviewer] on [date]. I enjoyed the conversation, and I’m curious if you have any follow-up questions for me. I’d be delighted to offer my availability for further discussions or interviews if that’s helpful.

Please let me know what the next steps are. I look forward to the remainder of the process!

Kind regards,

[your name]

If you have been waiting for a long time after an interview without any communication from the company, you might feel like you have been “ghosted.” I suggest sending one final follow-up message and then moving on. It’s possible you dodged a bullet—if there is a lack of communication, it raises concerns about what else might be wrong internally within the organization.

Hi [name],

Thank you for the opportunity to interview with [interviewer name] for [position] on [date].

I remain excited about [company] and your mission.

I’m pursuing a few other opportunities, so please let me know if my candidacy is still of interest for this position.

Thank you,

[your name]

Q: I’m terrified of getting feedback. I know it is an important part of professional development, but it makes me so anxious, and bad feedback feels like a rejection. Is there a way to get better at receiving feedback?

CC: I don’t know anyone who likes getting critical feedback, but we all have room for improvement in every single aspect of our lives. That’s a beautiful thing because it means life will never be boring! I suspect most of the readers of this column are lifelong learners; otherwise, why would you be here?

To become better at receiving feedback, it is important to ask for actionable feedback by asking better questions. Instead of asking general questions like “How did I do?”, ask specific questions like “What is one thing I could have done better or communicated more clearly?” Requesting specific, actionable feedback gives you a measurable thing to work on and improve. You can expect answers like “I really loved the talk overall, but I think you lost the audience when you started talking about the flow cytometry data without much context,” rather than the vague and unhelpful “You did great!”

After receiving feedback from someone, it’s important to express gratitude for their honesty. Although it may be challenging to hear negative feedback, it’s equally difficult to deliver it. Many people tend to avoid expressing criticism and opt for positive comments instead, but both giving and receiving feedback is necessary for personal and professional growth.

I really admire Adam Grant, a professor of organizational psychology at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. According to him, feedback has two scores. The first score is for the feedback itself, but the more significant score is for how you take and use that feedback. Adam believes that even if someone gives him negative feedback, like getting a score of 3/10 for the delivery of a talk, he always tries to achieve a score of 10/10 on his ability to take the feedback, analyze it thoroughly and then decide how to act on that feedback.

Remember that not all feedback deserves or requires action. You have the right to choose! If the feedback you receive conflicts with your aspirations, values or goals, you can still achieve a 10/10 on receiving the feedback. You should thank the giver, carefully examine the feedback and then consciously choose to reject it.

Carina Clingman, PhD, is the founder of The Collaboratory Career Hub, an online community for people interested in working in biotech. She is also the founder and CEO of Recruitomics Consulting, which specializes in talent acquisition and talent strategy for startup biotechs. Listen to her new Biotech Career Coach Podcast, learn about joining the career hub here, or send questions to hello@collaboratorycareerhub.com.

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