Hey blog friends! If you haven’t already noticed, these are strange times. Most of us are ordered to stay at home: some of us taking classes from home, some working from home, and some out of work completely. I know it’s a scary job market for The Class of 2020 to enter, as well as for anyone who may be laid off or hoping for some new experiences. I personally have had hours reduced at work and I too have fears about being laid off.
I wanted to make a post today highlighting some of the employment options for future genetic counselors who, for one reason or another, are looking for employment right now. In a market like what we have now, it may be unwise to fixate on Genetic Counseling Assistantships, which are extremely competitive on a good day. But fear not! There are so many amazing opportunities which provide unique experience. These jobs are rewarding and great talking points for interviews or personal statements. You can’t get better than that.
I also want to focus on jobs that may be most available during this pandemic. I really feel for people looking to progress in their careers right now, so let’s figure out how, together.
Option 1: Genetic Counseling Assistant and Related Positions
The dream, right?! I’ve interviewed for a few of these positions, and was actually offered one and had to decline. ☹️But, I ended up in an awesome job, so never fear if GCA doesn’t work out for you.
These jobs can vary in nature. I recall when I interviewed for one position at Dana Farber Cancer Center, the genetic counselors mentioned using GCAs to consent patients to genetic testing, call out negative results, and perform other patient-facing work. Many other positions place GCAs on the back-end of things– filling out testing paperwork, scheduling appointments, and other administrative tasks.
Most positions will combine patient-facing work, back-end work, and random tasks that might help the genetic counselors in the practice. They can provide great insight into the daily workflow of a genetics clinic. These positions are awesome for getting GC exposure and a letter of rec from a GC. But they aren’t your only option!
Search terms to find jobs like this: genetic counseling assistant, administrative assistant in genetics
Option 2: Lab Rat
I started out as a new college grad with this option! The best part of this option, in my opinion, is the wide range of research you can get involved in. I have had the experience though where I shared too much passion for my research in my personal statement and it overshadowed my desire to get out of the lab and into GC. So, if you go this direction, definitely know why you want GC to be your longterm career, not research.
Lab jobs are likely the easiest job to get for a new genetics, biology, neuroscience, etc grad, especially if you did research as an undergrad. My recommendation for these types of jobs is to look into genetics work in particular. I worked in a biorepository lab and I learned a lot! But I think even better would have been a position that had me running genetic testing (PCRs, Sequencing, etc). The best value of these jobs comes from your ability to apply the experience to your future GC goals. For example, I worked in a cancer center in research. I could share how that lab work taught me about cancer and cancer patients, inspired me to serve them, and thereby how it prepared me to counsel cancer patients face-to-face.
Search terms: lab assistant, lab tech, lab specialist, research assistant
Option 3: Non-Lab Research and Biotech
This option a great one to look into as remote work is huge right now. Research doesn’t have to mean benchwork. My current job falls under this heading, as I’m a clinical trials recruiter. I’ve known a few very successful pre-GCs who have done variant analysis, the process of determining the meaning behind DNA variants found during genetic testing. I know other successful candidates who worked in bioinformatics, statistical analysis, clinical research coordination, scientific writing and more!
This category is probably the broadest– essentially, any desk work or computer work that contributes to humanity’s knowledge of human health. That’s the benefit of looking into these types of jobs. They come in all shapes and sizes, use a variety of skills, and provide unique perspectives for prospective GCs. Think about what your unique skills are and scour through LinkedIn and Indeed looking for ways to apply those skills to improving human health. Whatever project you end up working on, learn from it, and bring that knowledge to GC.
In my case, my clinical trials work has been an excellent talking point in interviews this year, as I can share what conditions I’ve learned about and the psychosocial considerations for talking to patients experiencing each one. It’s also been a great opportunity to think on my feet with patients and apply feedback that I receive on my interactions with them.
These desk-work healthcare jobs are mostly going work-from-home right now, so they can be a great pandemic-safe option. Job security is what we all need right now!
Search Terms (there could be so many!): clinical trials, bioinformatics, research assistant, variant analyst, clinical research coordinator
Option 4: Hospitals and Clinics
Hospitals are hiring right now, that’s for sure! Even though most of us pre-GCs don’t have certification for direct patient care, we do have some options to help out in the hospital. I’ve known some pre-meds and pre-GCs to try Patient Care Tech work, which sometimes requires a CNA cert, and sometimes doesn’t. Hospitals can also use more of our caring and hard-working hands to do administrative work and medical lab testing.
These jobs are sweet opportunities to get experience seeing patients face-to-face, or at least working in the hospital environment. Employees in these roles can learn to use medical record management software like EPIC. You might even get to make some connections with GCs that work there or get more opportunities to shadow. Plus, you get to become a hospital hero in this time of need. ❤️
I’ve noticed these jobs sometimes end up on job board sites and sometimes will just stay on the hospital’s website. If you’re interested in jobs like these, try searching specific hospital websites’ career tabs. That’s also the best way to ensure you’re getting all of the jobs available at that hospital at that time, allowing you to uncover the maximum hospital jobs that you may be qualified for.
Search terms: hospital jobs, medical lab tech, patient care tech, health unit coordinator
Option 5: Whatever you can get!
A GC program class full of former GCAs wouldn’t be nearly as exciting and insightful as one with a variety of students: some who worked in genetics clinics, some who worked in clinical trials, some former nurses or medical assistants, or former servers and retail folks, and many more! Any job can teach you work ethic, people skills, time management, and other important skills for GCs.
Do what you’ve got to do to make money and survive, and holes in your application can be filled with volunteering if need be. It’s a tough job market right now, and have no shame in doing what you need to do to survive. Every kind of experience can provide you with transferable skills and a polished idea of what you want from your long-term career. So, hop in to some job board websites and just see what catches your eye. We need people from all background to be the genetic counselors of the future.
I’m wishing the best to all of you looking for work right now. You’re doing your best in a tough situation! Keep trying, stay healthy, and be proud of whatever job you do.