How to Land Your Dream Job (Outside of Academia)

On December 2nd the CSUN Women in Science Club hosted the Biology Careers Outside of Academia Symposium. More than 50 undergraduates, graduates, and faculty members attended, and it’s safe to say that everyone in the audience benefitted from it (How could you not? There was free food and free career advice!)

Our 12 speakers included:

  • Angelina Komatovich: Aquarist at the Aquarium of the Pacific
  • Brad Blood: Project Manager and Environmental Scientist for Psomas, a multidisciplinary consulting firm
  • Christiana Boerger: Marine Biologist with the United States Navy
  • Denise Weisman: Staff Research Associate Supervisor for the Marine Science Institute at UCSB
  • Erin Boydston: Research Ecologist with the USGS Western Ecological Research Center
  • Heather Doyle: Director of Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
  • Irina Irvine: Restoration Ecologist for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
  • Jennifer Keating: Research Biologist at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center
  • Jennifer Lancaster: Senior Biologist and Project Manager with Aspen Environmental Group
  • Jessica Ruvinsky: Science Writer
  • Joanne Moriarty: Wildlife Biologist for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
  • Lisa Wooninck: Policy Coordinator for NOAA’s Office of Nation Marine Sanctuaries

These speakers come from a variety of educational backgrounds ranging from a BS up to a PhD, with the majority holding an MS. The general fear amongst graduate students is that after all of this hard work, we will not be able to find a job. These speakers proved us wrong, and provided several tips:

  • Make connections!
    • Every single speaker ended their presentation with this tip. Even a simple conversation at a conference could jumpstart your career, and remain a lifelong connection that will continue to open up new opportunities for you. Similar to graduate school, it is hard to land a position if no one on the hiring side knows who you are.
  • Intern, volunteer, and intern some more
    • Almost every speaker said that the best way to gain experience is through an internship. Many of these internships have little to no pay, but often lead to full-time paid positions. Organizations are much more likely to hire you as a paid employee if you have experience working with them already. So maybe living on Ramen Noodles for a couple months longer will pay off…
  • Know how to write a resume
    • Especially if you are applying for a government position. One of our speakers shared that if the certifications stated in the job posting are not present or easy to find on your resume, you will not be considered for the job. There are workshops specifically for writing resumes for government positions!
  • Follow your interests
    • Some of our speakers with PhDs have broken away from their research training to pursue a career of a completely different nature. Like Jessica Ruvinsky who received her PhD in Evolutionary Biology from Stanford and is now a Science Writer! Not everyone will agree with me, but I am a true believer that if you chase your passions, success will follow.
  • Make more connections
    • Seriously.

Check out these websites for job and internship opportunities!


Please comment with your own suggestions and experiences!


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