It’s About More than Research: Job-Landing Advice from a BEST Alumna

By Jody Enck, BEST Communication Specialist

You never know when you’ll find a key that will unlock an unexpected future.  BEST alumna, Dr. Daniela Bocioaga recently told us about finding such a key while attending a BEST event at Cornell.

Daniela attended several BEST-sponsored events while pursuing her PhD at Cornell in Microbiology under the tutelage of Dr. Anthony Hay.  One event was a panel discussion by several Cornell microbiology alums working in a variety of occupations.  One of those alums was Dr. Gregory Galvin, President and CEO of Rheonix, Inc. His presentation piqued Daniela’s interest to learn more about what Rheonix does, but Dr. Galvin had to leave right after his presentation.

Dr. Daniela Bocioaga, center. Photo: Susi Varvayanis

Daniela recognized a good opportunity when she saw one.  So, she made an appointment at Rheonix to conduct an informational interview.  She had learned about informational interviews through her experiences in the BEST program, and here was a chance for her to put her skills into practice.  She met with Dr. Galvin and learned much about what Rheonix does and how someone with a PhD in microbiology could fit into their workforce.  When she conducted the interview, she did not ask about possible employment.  “I wasn’t trying to get a job at that time.  I didn’t even bring a CV with me,” she said.  “I really just genuinely wanted to find out more about the company.”

Her genuine interest, microbiology skills, and willingness to step out of her comfort zone in terms of setting up the informational interview paid off.  A few months after her visit, she got a call from Rheonix asking her to come in to interview for a job opening.

What did Daniela learn from this experience?  “First,” she said, “know your personal goals in terms of a future career, but also be flexible and keep an open mind about what the possibilities are.  These might sound like contradictory things, but they really go hand-in-hand.  If you just have an open mind without having a goal, you can flounder.”

Her second piece of advice is, “you need to get out there, and that’s hard.  It’s really hard if you are a bit uncomfortable reaching out to people you don’t know.  You have to overcome whatever personal barriers you have about asking questions.  Remember, you have nothing to lose from talking to people.”  She says the key is to follow your interests and to talk with people about those interests.  “If you have a genuine interest, it will come through in your conversation.  People will remember that.”

Daniela overcame her own trepidation.  She put her interviewing skills to good use.  Her genuine interest in learning more about the company shined through. None of those “soft skills” relate directly to her PhD research, but they all were key in helping her land a job in which she gets to apply her PhD research skills every day.