Random Rants Thursday – Job Search

As the title suggests, I am in the process of not only transitioning from one career to another but also transitioning from one field (higher education) to another (biomedicine). My search has been hit or miss, with mostly misses. My main issues that have been expressed by recruiters and headhunters:

  • I’m over-educated for many of the lower positions.
  • I’m underqualified for some of the more senior positions.
  • For the mid-level positions (my main interest), most companies promote from within. BUT, there is some difficulties with obtaining a lower position because you’re over-educated . . . and the cycle continues

It’s tough because many companies “fear” that I will ask for too high of a salary or work for a few months and go to another place. Since I’m moving into another industry, I do not mind starting at the bottom and working my way up, but I guess many companies are not interested in this.

The purpose of this rant:

Earlier this week, I received an email from a career transition company, which I will not name, inviting me to a seminar about circumventing applicant tracking systems (ATS) in a job search. ATS pretty much are AI-based programs that many companies use to prescreen resumes based on keywords before passing them to someone who will actually read the resumes. The company primarily focuses on “helping” Ph.D. holders (mostly in STEM disciplines) transition from Academia into Industry. While I am familiar with the use of ATS, the seminar did provide some decent advice, which I’m not sure is 100% accurate:

  • Many companies’ ATS programs are linked to each other. For instance, if you apply and are rejected from Company A then your information (including the rejection) is put into a database, which might influence another Company B, C, D, etc’s decision to move forward with your resume. I guess it’s kind of like how a person’s credit score can be accessed by multiple entities.
  • Revamping my cover letter from paragraph form to one that has tables to more succinctly highlight your qualifications.
  • Crap there was one other thing.

Since I attended the workshop, I was eligible for a 1:1 call to discuss my career transition.

Now the rant part:

Ok, I signed up for the career transition call, which actually was a waste of time . . . for the most part. Basically, the company’s CEO spent an hour trying to convince me to sign up for the company’s career transition package for $5,000. The guy mentioned how successful the company has been in placing Ph.D. holders into mid to high-level roles. He even played voicemails of satisfied customers thanking the company for helping them obtain positions with $150K+ starting salaries. Ok, it sounds like a great opportunity, but this is where things get a little shady. While I was interested, I asked the guy if I could think about it for about 24 hours before making a decision. This is how things went left because he aggressively was like:

  • What did I not explain properly?
  • What is the problem? This is a great opportunity.
  • Is it a financial problem? You have to invest money to make money. We need you to move away from your poor mindset. I just told you that folks who complete our program have $150+ starting salaries and $5K+ signing bonuses. Our fee is peanuts compared to what you will make.
  • We have a job placement guarantee, so you do not lose anything signing up.
  • You need to act NOW because we have only two seats left for new enrollment.

While the benefits of this program might be true, I was annoyed about his tactics because it was just too damn much intensity. Look, I am not about to pay $5,000 for something while I’m on a Zoom call without doing a little research. The CEO is also a Ph.D. holder so he should KNOW the importance of conducting research before making a decision. I’m not saying that folks without Ph.D. do not know how to do this, but the concept of research is ingrained in graduate students from Day 1, so it was a bit weird that there was no time to think about this decision. A brief dialogue when I brought up thinking about the offer

  • {Him} Haven’t you done something without thinking about it?
  • {Me} Yes, but I have been burned every single time.
  • {Him} Well, sometimes, when you think about things too long you lose out. It’s the poor mindset that holds back many Ph.D. holders.

My Thoughts

Long story short, I did not sign up right then and there, BUT he did give me (and only me) a chance to let him know my decision by 5 pm. Looks like I did not make the deadline *insert eye roll*.

Here’s the thing, this person/company knows that many graduate students and postdocs in the biomedical sciences are anxious and desperate about their professional journies. Also, making the transition from Academia to Industry is tough. For example, many medical communication companies want entry-level medical writers to have a Ph.D. AND at least three years experience in med comm company. No, all of the academic writing that you have done during your graduate studies and postdoctoral training does not count. How is someone supposed to gain this experience in grad school? Note: for most Ph.D. programs in the biomedical sciences, you cannot do part-time studies or even have another job during your studies.

So this company is preying on the fears of soon-to-be Ph.D. holders and post-docs. How do I know about these fears? I was in the same boat near the end of my graduate and postdoc years. If I had the same call with the CEO during that time, I probably would have purchased the package. When I was a postdoc (2010 – 2016), I did sign up for the company’s membership for around $250, which is not a huge financial commitment. I believe the price was low because the company was just getting started and did not have all of these “fancy” packages.

Do I think too highly of people?

During the call my annoyance changed into frustration then into anger:

  • The call was a waste of time. I could have used that time to actually apply to jobs.
  • Since the CEO did go through the process of obtaining a Ph.D., he clearly is taking advantage (IMO) of the fears and uncertanties of Ph.D. holders.

I get that he is running a business and wants to make a profit. But, how far should one go to make money off the backs of other folks? Part of my job in higher ed is to recruit for the program that I run as well as some of the university’s graduate programs. While I will talk up the university’s programs, I try to be as transparent as possible. Additionally, I have never tried to gaslight someone into thinking they are “crazy” for asking additional questions or having second thoughts about making a decision. I come from the mindset of if your product/program is good, the results will speak for themselves and you do not need to oversell it. Also, if your product is so great and someone does not buy into it, that should not be a problem because there will be other interested folks.

Being nosey

Although I pretty much knew during the call that I was not going purchase anything from the CEO, I did a quick internet search about the company. Basically, I Googled “is XYZ scam”, and the results from Reddit and Quora were quite interesting. Also, the results were more or less what I expected.

  • The $5000 package is the basic package that is used to get you in the door because they will harrass you into purchasing more packages. The reason: you’ve already spent $5000, so what’s another $200-$300 to ensure your professional success?
  • Most of the information provided can be found on the internet and are things that you probably are already doing.
  • The networking aspect is very general. One of the company’s features is they help a huge amount of folks get high-paying jobs. These folks now are in positions of power they are willing to help other members of the program get similar positions.
  • The job guarantee is a bit of a sham because contract positions (usually 6 mths to a year) and internships (both paid and unpaid) are considered jobs.
  • If you do not get a job within one year, it’s your fault because you did not do enough or follow the program to the letter.
  • If you question any aspect of the program or the process in the LinkedIn or Facebook groups, you will be banned for ~3 months and receive constants threat about being removed from the program.

To be frank, I saw very few responses saying something like “Because of this program, I received a $150K+ job offer.” It’s funny because the CEO played voice messages of folks receiving these great job offers during our call. If the program is so great, why didn’t I find a lot of these comments on the Reddit and Quora forums? While listening to these “voicemails”, I thought that they sounded very scripted and overly rehearsed . . . even down to the pauses where the person is so excited/emotional that they had to take a moment to gather their thoughts.

Question(s) for the Day?

-Regarding a job search, have you experienced any offers that were too good to be true?

-Would you ever sign up for something that cost $5000 based on a 45-min call without giving it any thought?

Social Media Plug:


    • In my weak defense, he waited until the end of the “consultation” to drop the price. During the previous day’s ATS workshop, the company did not really promote their programs. I figured that the 1:1 consultation was going to be legit or an actual consultation rather than a ‘if do not purchase our program then you will NEVER FIND A JOB!’ speech.


  1. So many things wrong with that experience and ‘package’. The pressure to decide on the spot was crazy. No, I’ve never dropped 5K on the spot for anything LOL I agree with job search woes, I’m working on my own job search and it’s hard to break into places at a mid-level i find, there is always some specific knowledge you don’t have but internal candidates already have. As for ATS systems, we have one at my company (and i work in recruiting), I’ve never heard that your application follows to other companies who use the same ATS. But maybe that is something specific to biomed field? Good luck in the search. What worked for me ultimately in my last job search was knowing someone at the company who can refer you in to the recruiting/hiring team. Get you that foot in the door so to speak.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sending positive vibes for your job search. I agree with knowing someone interal so I have been working all angles – reaching out to my network, chatting with recruiters, cold applying, almost falling for scams ;). The last one is a joke.

      Regarding applications following you. The other day, I filled out an app for a company that uses Workday. I thought to myself, I completed an app for another company that also used Workday; shouldn’t my information be stored in some database where I could transfer my info from one app to another. So now, I do wonder if these ATS programs set up some sort of hireable profile for candidates applying to multiple companies that use the same software.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. we use Workday actually and can see if you applied to 5 diff jobs at our company but we can’t see where else you applied (other companies). i think with how data privacy is i don’t know that they can share your applications to other companies, also we would not want to share our candidates with other competitors, or make it easy for you to be scooped up by another company. 🙂


    • Thanks for the insight. I guess that guy was using scare tactics about cold applying and ATS systems in order to get folks to purchase those career transition packages.


  3. That’s well dodgy and you made a good choice. This feels like the “proofreading” companies that prey on scared non-native-speakers and scare them into using a rubbish service – I’ve had lots of people come to me over the years who’ve paid much more than I charge to have their PhD run through a spell check program! My husband did a career consultancy programme once years ago but he got to sit down with a person for an afternoon and got a full report and advice (he took the advice, too!) and it wasn’t that much though it was 20 years ago.

    Also Jennsbostonrun sounds right to me, you can’t share info like that across companies and tie it to you. Recruiters might send out info from their database to several companies but data protection says companies can’t share your info without your knowledge to other random companies.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I used a recruiter for my last job search but the hiring company paid the fee. One of my colleagues was a recruiter and he said that’s how it works, as I was 90% sure of already.
    They were employing all of the scam tactics on you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yup! The sad thing is that many folks who are finishing their PhDs or postdocs will fall for the scam out of desperation during their non-Academic job searches.


    • Yup he used his entire bag of tricks. 1. Going on and on about such a great deal. 2. Changing the direction of conversation multiple times. 3. Speaking very quickly. 4. Making another person second guess himself. 5. Mentioning several times that it was limited offer.


  5. Good job trusting your gut instinct on that! Reminds me back in high school my parents and I went to a seminar about college scholarships and all sounded good until the end when they wanted you to pay them to find scholarships for you. No thanks, my list from the high school guidance office and searching online worked just fine!

    Liked by 1 person

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