Episode 60 – How to write an excellent CV and job application

This week we were thrilled Executive Recruiter and Scientist Marilyn Jones was able to make time to chat with us. Marilyn has over 25 years’ experience in resourcing staff for companies and assisting individuals with their career aspirations and we learned so much from her about how to get your dream job.

Marilyn undertook research in cancer and immunology, leading to managing an R&D project for the commercialisation of the purified components of snake venom for human therapeutic purposes. Combined with additional commercialisation projects in wheat identification and infectious diseases, she gained a comprehensive understanding of the diagnostics and drug development sectors.

After a period of selling complex scientific instrumentation systems into the Pharmaceutical, Research, Pathology, Analytical and Manufacturing sectors, she made the fortuitous move into Recruitment. Working for both boutique and multinational recruitment organisations, Marilyn has worked across many industry and business sectors. She particularly enjoys the challenge of ‘The Search’ for hard-to-fill senior roles.

Marilyn’s focus in starting her company in 2011 was to look after the individual. This has developed into an extensive program – mexec jobstrategy™ working with candidates in many industries to assist them on one on one in their career aspirations and job search strategy. mexec Executive Search Recruitment division assists start-ups to multinational companies with their HR and recruitment requirements from graduate to Board level.

You can follow Marilyn and learn more about her work here:


Jen (00:00:20)
Hello and welcome to Let’s Talk SciComm, a podcast by the University of Melbourne Science Communication Teaching Team.
I’m Associate Professor Jen Martin and my wonderful co-host is Dr Michael Wheeler and we believe that science isn’t finished until it’s communicated.

Jen (00:00:40)
Hello everybody, it’s Jen. And as always, I’m so thrilled to welcome you to another episode of Let’s Talk SciComm.
And of course what makes it even better is that I’m joined by my excellent friend and colleague Michael. G’day Michael.

Michael (00:01:01)
G’day, Jen.

Jen (00:01:02)
Oh he did a G’day. Yes!

Michael (00:01:06)
Did I, did I pass it off?
Marilyn, first question. How good was that G’day on a scale of 1 to 10?

Marilyn (00:01:10)
That was a pretty good G’day. That wasn’t bad.
No, I’ve got an English husband and and such.
So yeah no, you pass then.

Michael (00:01:17)
Oh, well. Thank you. Thank you everyone. I’ve made it. I’m officially an Australian now.
Very excited for today’s episode Jen. We have a very special guest with us, Marilyn Jones, who is the founder and director of mexec Careers, a company that provides career coaching and recruitment services for professionals in science, technology and medical sectors.
Marilyn, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today.

Marilyn (00:01:42)
Oh, it’s wonderful to be here. Thank you for the invite.

Michael (00:01:45)
Thank you. And it’s really great to have you on Marilyn because I know you’ve really got a wealth of experience in the industry and you’ve helped thousands of people find their dream jobs and advance their careers.
Marilyn I know you’re also a long-standing supporter of our SciComm teaching program. You speak with our students every year and every year we always get feedback from them that it was such a valuable session.
So we’re really thrilled that you’re here today and you’re going to share some of that wisdom with our podcast audience.

Marilyn (00:02:14)
Thank you. No, that’s great. Actually Jen was probably… When I first started my business, the first time I actually did public speaking in probably about 5, 10 years and it was like coming back from not doing it was really daunting but I love it.
And it’s been a great journey with Jen and the team at Melbourne Uni.

Jen (00:02:28)
And Marilyn I was trying to remember how did we first meet? I feel like were you and I both on a panel years and years and years ago and I immediately went “Ooh she’s amazing, we need to get her to come and talk to our students”.

Marilyn (00:02:38)
Look, I was on a panel at Melbourne Uni for the careers department. It might have been through that.
But to be honest, it was back in 2011 or a long time ago so I actually can’t recall definitely.

Jen (00:02:47)
No, I can’t recall either.

Marilyn (00:02:47)
My memories there.

Jen (00:02:50)
I think suffice it to say though that to me it became apparent very early that not only did you have a background in science, which really places you in such a strong position to do your job well.
But even though as you say you hadn’t done a lot of public speaking recently, you are such a great communicator yourself. And the students just, it’s just like gold you know, dripping from the trees when they get to listen to you because you’re actually out there working with organisations, working with employers, working in the thick of things that students just want to understand more about how they’re going to get the job that they want, what are people looking for, how do they best present themselves.
And we just feel so fortunate that you always make time for us. And yet again, you’ve done that today. So thank you.

Marilyn (00:03:32)
No, no look. I’ve been recruiting since 1998 and that’s the year Google started. So for me, I’ve seen a huge evolution in recruitment and employer change in how we recruit and everything.
So look, it’s great I love hearing the students have that sort of feedback but yeah. And we, as I said, Sue, myself and the team really love helping them to sort of get that journey and move ahead hopefully faster than we had to because we just didn’t have that support and advice like what you guys do and bringing people in like myself and others in the industry.

Michael (00:04:00)
Yeah, you’re right. ‘Cause it can be hard to imagine what happens next after uni. So having someone like yourself who has got that experience. You know, you’ve been there.
You’ve actually got a science background yourself. And then you decided to pivot into recruitment. So I’d love to ask you to maybe talk us a little bit through that transition.

Marilyn (00:04:20)
I think the first thing that reminds me that is probably relevant is that when I was talking to my course advisors at uni, the only course was academia. And you’re seen as the dark side if you went anywhere else.
And I think that’s really changed. And I think I’ve seen a real increase in engagement for universities and others to look at careers outside of academia. So back then, I didn’t talk to enough people. I just went and did what I thought was the right thing. I didn’t do enough research.
And I really think that that you know, has taken me on a different journey that ended up on the dark side selling products to laboratories, visiting a lot of the laboratories around Victoria, selling them things like max spectrometry and protein synthesis and DNA, very early days of those sort of products.
And I was made redundant as well as a lot of the team. And it sort of made me have to think about what was next. And I think a lot of people we talk to are going through redundancies all the time. But I think having personally gone through that, it’s a very daunting time. It’s very unsettling. And I think what it enabled me to do though was to look around and look at other opportunities
And that’s when I saw this little ad in the newspaper, tiny little ad. Back in those days, there was no internet. You know, everything was in the newspapers on a Saturday and for a recruiter.
And it said this, this and this. And I thought Oh let’s go for an interview. Went for an interview and got the job. So I think for me, that transition from science and sales and then into recruitment, I really wasn’t someone that knew what they were going to do next.
It was really just looking at what the opportunities were there. And then and sort of taking them at that time. And little did I know that here I am, 25 odd years later, I’m still recruiting which I love doing.

Jen (00:05:55)
But I mean not only are you still here 25 years later but you’re absolutely thriving.
I mean… And you tell us often that you really enjoy your job and I know you absolutely excel at your job.
So I think it’s not just kind of sticking power. It’s actually being really really successful.

Marilyn (00:06:11)
I think one of the things I sort of say when I’m actually doing a talk now, actually got one up in Sydney next week at an institute is,I finally found what I want to do when I grow up.
And you know, it is, I finally found it. And I didn’t know until I actually am in it, running my own company, which I never thought I would do.
And I heard Julian Clarke, he was speaking the other night and he said, “It’s really not that hard to start a business. It really is not.”
And sometimes you just [got] to give it a go. And I think that’s another part of what we do, is really encourage people to think about starting a business, and starting it and doing a lot earlier than someone like myself.

Jen (00:06:45)
Ah, it’s never too late though. Come on.

Marilyn (00:06:48)
No, it’s not. No, as I said, I’m not going anywhere for the next 10, 15 years. I’m loving what I’m doing. I can’t see myself doing anything else except for building a business and doing what we do with my team. And I, you know, I was started out with me and now I’ve got five. It’s just amazing.

Jen (00:07:01)
Yeah, it’s incredible Marilyn. So I know that your agency mexec really specialises in particular areas. And from my understanding, that’s life sciences, pharmaceuticals, technology, med tech.
And I’m interested in, I guess, why you’re specialising in those areas. Is that because that’s where the jobs are? And whether your answer to that is yes or no, what’s the current job market like in those sectors?
And if there are job seekers out there who know they have an interest in those areas, are they right in thinking that this area is enormous and a place of great opportunity?

Marilyn (00:07:34)
Definitely to answer that last question, I think it’s a great place of great opportunity. I think Australia is really starting to do really really well globally.
The reason why I am in this area is I am a biotechnologist, biochemist, you know, immunologist back from my undergrad and days. And I’d always loved that area and I’ve been selling in it.
But then when I moved into recruitment, back in those days in the 90s, it was all about manufacturing. And we had a huge amount of pharmaceuticals and food. I worked in chemical, lots of recruitment in lots of other areas. But the biotech area was very small. The commercial part of it, the universities were very big. They did all their own recruitment. But the biotech was really at its nascency here in Australia.
And it’s not until I’ve talked to people and hearing these things over the years now that I realise how nascent it was. And what I always had hoped is that the biotech sector would start to grow because that was my background and my comfort zone. Yet I was you know, fortunate to recruit in other areas.
And I have noticed over those years the ABA became AusBiotech, a major organisation in Australia. There’s been BioMelbourne. There’s been other sort of organisations that have started to spring up around that biotech sector.
And that’s really I think, supported the growth. But also the university sector and their commercialisation and how they’ve developed is really part of where we sit.
The other exciting area is things like clinical trials. And that, I mean, I was at an event the other night with Cancer Trials Australia. And back in the 80s and the 90s, the clinical trials were a game, really, so early. There was no real clinical trials. They were very much run ad hoc. Whereas now there is a huge industry and opportunity. And again, we work in that area, which is associated.
So I’ve really seen that transition into a sector that I really love and we really like. And we have a lot of knowledge around that, that I, I mean me [and] my team have build up over that period of time. And I think that’s why we are good at it, because we work in it.

The other area I’m really seeing a growth in is of course, digital tech, and health particularly. They’re doing some amazing things around that. It’s very much around that compliance and regulated digital tech is where we sit.
There’s a lot of health care, digital apps, health care apps coming out, which is great. Yeah, data analytics is huge. That’s really data analysis coming around what’s happening with patients and genomics data.
And it’s just really exciting field. I think it’s, there’s a really great deal of opportunity.
When I first moved into recruitment in 1998, I remember saying to someone, “Wow, I didn’t know you could do be a food tech or to do technology”. I loved cooking. But I had no idea. I came from Adelaide, but I didn’t know you could do a course in how to develop food. Exciting times, I think, for everyone coming through.

Michael (00:10:09)
It is exciting times and that growth that you’ve been talking about, you’ve obviously got a great perspective on that and you’ve been able to kind of see that develop. And it is really exciting.
And it’s great that you’re in that position. You know, you are able to see some of these trends. And I guess while we’re talking about trends, I really wanted to ask about one trend in particular, the AI trend. You know, a lot of people seem to be talking about it at the moment. A lot of people are familiar with ChatGPT.
I really wanted to ask, from your interactions with employers, have you a sense of how this AI trend, ChatGPT in particular, is affecting the demands of the workplace or even the recruitment industry?

Marilyn (00:10:52)
I’m following this very closely. We have to understand it. It’s not going anywhere. It’s really part of, of industry and where it’s going.
Is it above my head? Absolutely. Is there so much information? Is it like a hot fire hose of information in your face at the moment? I feel a bit like that. You know, following it on Twitter, I’m like, oh my goodness, you know. And the experts are [the] people I’m trying to sort of draw upon to understand that.
Some of my clients are definitely using AI and I’m really embracing it. As part of it particularly, they’re working, looking at clinical data. We’re recruiting for two roles actually at the moment that actually require a very strong understanding of AI.
And so I think that’s, it is just a need that is required by most of our, will be more and more with our clients.
It’s going to be really interesting to see how you at the universities are able to deal with it, I think more so. And how I think it’s a minefield.

Jen (00:11:41)
Oh yes.

Marilyn (00:11:42)
It’s absolutely. And I’ve got a daughter also in university chemistry and biology and coming through and also a son. So I see it from my, my kids’ perspective, but also my perspective and your perspective, but also the people that we’re talking to.
There’s definitely, I mean, there’s one app out there that you can do, putting the questions that you think you might be going for interview and putting your personal information and you can actually get the answers to the questions.
So there’s a massive, massive change happening. And it’s daunting. It’s scary. But it’s also pretty exciting in a lot of ways. And I think for us as recruiters and for me, it’s going to be a tool that I’m going to have to embrace. And I want to embrace because if I don’t, then I’m going to be left behind as a recruiter and a hiring manager myself or my clients.
You know, but I see. I still think in recruitment, I’m still going to have to have a conversation with you personally to know if you’re the right person. And you won’t be able to have a computer to answer those questions. You actually have to you know, draw upon your knowledge. Yes, you could probably rote learn it. But ultimately if you get in the job and you don’t work out within three or six months, you won’t have that job any longer so…

Jen (00:12:41)
Yeah, I mean, you can certainly imagine ChatGPT being very helpful at the kind of cover letter writing stage, but not particularly helpful in an interview.

Marilyn (00:12:51)
No. Well, that’s the thing. Your SciComm course, part of that is writing a couple of letters and see. Yes, I absolutely do.
But I think, yes, I agree with the interview. But you can practise the interviews and you can do that sort of thing on ChatGPT and other apps. But I think there’s still the human interaction, is such a key thing that my clients are wanting.

Michael (00:13:06)
I often wonder like will advances like this make human interaction, you know, more valuable?
Because I don’t know, maybe like the last bastion of something that AI can’t do.

Marilyn (00:13:19)
For me, I think I agree. I think it will be something that differentiates how people recruit, how companies recruit. Be really interested to keep an eye on the really large companies and how they take on AI and whether the smaller companies encompass and embrace that.
One of the things I’ve seen over the last well, I suppose years with the transition is when I was a recruiter back in 1998, there was no internet, there was no emails, it was very basic.
So you actually had to go out and network. You had to go out and talk to people. You had to go visit them. You had to have that people interaction. And then over the next 20 years, a lot of it went on to LinkedIn, which is an amazing tool. Emails everywhere. Ads everywhere. And people weren’t going out to meet people. And it was a real change.
And I think there was a loss of that human interaction and very process driven. You see the nuances of conversation. And you watch people in a room. You see how they interact with others is really key I think sometimes to working out if a person’s right for a job or not.
And part of the hiring process and part of what my, I know my employees like about what mix it does in their recruitment space. But I’ve just seen that transition of going back to people face to face. But let’s see what happens in the next five years.

Jen (00:14:19)
Absolutely. I mean, it’s just such an interesting time to be in science, to be in education, to be in recruitment. I mean, there’s just, there’s so much going on at the moment.
But Marilyn, just listening to you speak and thinking about the people who might be listening to this podcast, I think most people’s perception is that as a recruiter, you get to be kind of the go between, between someone who was desperate to find their dream job and an employer who has a job and wants to find somebody brilliant to do it.
But presumably when someone comes to you, to get your help. That client, they have their CV. They’ve done particular things. They have a set of skills. They’ve got certain experiences. They’ve got their credentials. And then you are trying to see where they might fit or there’s you know, they’re coming to you I imagine saying “I want to get this sort of job”.
But you know, the people listening to this podcast are probably earlier in their careers with that. Many of our listeners are still studying at university. So I’m just kind of thinking if you could wave a magic wand and end up with a perfect client who is going to be really competitive to get any job they want because they just have such a brilliant set of skills and experiences and everything. You know, what would that look like?
So for somebody who’s still at uni now. What they, what should they be doing?

Marilyn (00:15:28)
What can they be doing?

Jen (00:15:29)
So that they can be that person who is going to be really competitive applying for the jobs that they want.

Marilyn (00:15:35)
I think definitely doing things outside of just the university is helpful. I think the people that really stand out and the people that often my clients are looking for are people that have been part of sporting clubs, or have been involved in voluntary work. Or who have put that extra effort into engaging with others.
There’s a number of different reasons. One, they show that they’re a team player. They turn up on time. They have to work together to try and win or lose a game. You know, hopefully win but that’s a reflection of maybe what they’d be like in a work environment. Working in voluntary roles and articulating it particularly well in their CV is really key. Network as someone who’s happy to talk to different people.
There’s certain jobs that networking is really hard and some people are really shy. And maybe the right roles they should be looking at are more those around working on mathematics or on computers where they’re sort of not having to interact with people.
So I think at the early stages, the best way to think about, to be competitive is to talk to as many people as you can, not just me, to understand what their key strengths and attributes are so that they can help to look at the roles that might align with themselves.
And to really just be yourself. But also sometimes just put yourself out there. I think you guys talked in one of your podcasts about it like it’s only two minutes or one minute, and then the stress is over. Like you put yourself out there, and you, if you have to call someone like for a call, and it’s really stressful to do. But then five minutes later it’s over, like it’s done.

Jen (00:16:56)
And Marilyn one of the things that the data shows really clearly that we share with our students is that communication skills really are essential. That’s what employers want. They want people who can fit in with the culture, get along with people.
You know, good interpersonal skills but also great written and spoken communication skills. Is that backed up by your experiences out there in the world?

Marilyn (00:17:16)
Absolutely, absolutely. So we talk about these emotional intelligence or soft skills. And they are key. But what we want to see is the demonstration of them. So yes, they might be really nice person and things. But really that demonstration in their CV or their articulation of that in an interview is really key. But absolutely, their ability to work with people, communicate, write well.
One of the reasons we have a registration form is so that people actually have to write a little bit about themselves, and we can look at their writing skills. So even though we write CVs and help people with their CVs. We know there’s people out there that do that. But this is [a] document that they actually have to write themselves. And it’s really helpful to articulate, at least to start to us, to understand their communication and written form.
We are often calling people. And be prepared at all times for an interview. It is not just a coffee. It is always an interview. So always have yourself prepared with some examples of where you’ve done certain things. The internet is amazing now. There’s so many different places to look for interview questions, and advice and information. But also thinking, make sure you look at the right places too.

Michael (00:18:15)
Yeah. So you’re really trying to understand a bit more about your clients. And from my understanding, you also work with them. You do coaching. I noticed that you have something called the mexec jobstrategy™ program, which is trademarked.

Marilyn (00:18:31)
It is trademarked, *inaudible*.

Michael (00:18:32)
Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Marilyn (00:18:33)
Okay. So I have very fortunate… Well, my business actually started writing CVs. Back in 2011 I was a mom with two kids. But the jobstrategy program has always been there. So it was, in its infancy it was really just a three page booklet. Now it’s a 40 page program that Dr Sue Forrest works with me as well.
And it’s an hour and a half program where people at all levels. And usually after PhDs, we usually send people back to universities ’cause they’ve got great programs like SciComms and things. And we work with individuals on how to write the CV and why.
What I found when I was writing CVs, I’d do the CVs and then people would send them back and they changed them all. And I was like, why have you changed that? Oh, “Uncle Frank said this”, “Professor That said this”.
And last week I had someone say to me, he’d given me a page and a half. And I said, “Oh, so why did you write your CV this way?” And he said, “Oh, ’cause this senior guy Rick said that I should only have the last three jobs”. He’s only a graduate. He’s only just come out and only in this area.
And I said, and then when I interviewed him, he’d actually in undergrad written two papers for Nature. And it was on his CV. And I’m like, I actually, I think I put it on Twitter. I was like, “Everyone, they were not writing enough.” And the why is why we… is what we teach.
Why do we have a CV this way? Why do we do it this way? And then people can do it themselves. So rather than us rewrite it, we can but part of the business is to [teach] people how to do it themselves and the why. So then they can go away and do it again on another application or another application.
So that CV, that cover letter. But it’s also an interview training program we run with that as well. And we found a niche because it is something that most recruiters don’t do.
And so it’s actually a service that we provide specifically to people around that science and healthcare ’cause we understand the language. We understand what a PCR is. We understand, you know, protein purification. We understand what AI is doing in data analytics.
So it’s that language that makes it such that it can be read by anyone but it also can be read by the really technical people and can be well articulated. And yeah, it’s a great part of our business. I love it. And I really am very fortunate to have someone of Sue’s caliber working with us, actually running that program.

Jen (00:20:33)
It sounds amazing Marilyn. And I’m guessing everyone listening is like, Ooh, I want to do that program. I want to do that program. So obviously we’ll link to your site in our show notes.

Marilyn (00:20:40)
Thank you.

Jen (00:20:42)
But, you know, I don’t want to ask you to disclose the key parts of your business for free obviously but we’ve talked about CVs a lot.
But is there any kind of general advice you can give our listeners about CVs?

Marilyn (00:20:51)

Jen (00:20:53)
And also how CVs and LinkedIn are related to each other. Because, you know, people say “Oh, you don’t need a CV anymore ’cause we got LinkedIn”.

Marilyn (00:20:56)

Jen (00:20:59)
So I’m really interested to know how important CVs still are? How we do them well? And how much attention we should be paying to other kind of more engaging potentials? You know, people making videos about themselves and things.

Marilyn (00:21:10)
Ah, that’s very interesting. So I’ll come back to the videos about ourselves ’cause we actually do that for interviews now. I’ve seen a real change over the years. And when I was writing the CVs probably around about 2015, LinkedIn was really starting to really really take off.
So I’d always been on LinkedIn and early engaged it but I really saw it increase. I thought, Oh, my CV business is going to die. You know, that’s not going to happen. I’ve actually seen the CV business increase.
And there’s a few reasons around that. One is most of my clients still want to see a proper articulated CV, particularly if you’re working in a compliance or regulatory environment for pharma or biotech. TGA, FDA, you know, organisations that are sort of say pharmacovigilance or other areas of regulatory. They need to look and see that the people that are actually doing and giving the advice have the qualifications that’s required.
So a CV is actually really important to articulate and keep that information up to date, such that you know and companies externally know that you’ve actually got the right people doing the right job because they have the right experience.

So LinkedIn definitely is very very active and very much what we, always will look at a LinkedIn. You know, if you’d asked me 5, 10 years ago, oh maybe we’d look at LinkedIn. Whereas now it’s just a given. We’d go and have a look. But saying that, I recruit outside of LinkedIn and the networking is actually where we usually access people that are not on LinkedIn.
Some people don’t want to be on it and you don’t have to be on it. So bear that in mind as well. So that’s where it’s really great to do networking ’cause I do and we do access people that are not on it. So if you’re not on LinkedIn, those that are listening, for privacy or whatever, don’t be too stressed. But also recruit, you might want to register with recruiters.
But coming back to the crossover, I thought they were going to die. So in my presentation, I have ‘CV dead’, sort of ‘rest in peace’, but it’s not. It’s actually, our business has taken off. We’ve done CVs of vice-chancellors for universities.

Jen (00:22:51)
Yeah, wow.

Marilyn (00:22:52)
And they need a CV because… And then they have to have their papers. I’ve done clinicians that have run territories across Australia.
The first page is really important. The artificial intelligence on my database, my CRM called JobAdder, does look at the top of the front page. So it’s looking for keywords. And we search for people under keywords such as you know, if they’ve got digital or med tech or maybe in neuroscience and their keywords. And if you’re applying to a job that has those keywords or that abilities, the top of the front page is really important. And so having often a career summary on the front page is really key. Having some keywords there. I don’t want to hear about why you want the job. That goes in the cover letter at the [second] last paragraph.
This is a document about why you’re suitable for my role, OK? So, first page, impact. Second or third page is really about articulation. Please, if you’ve done a master’s or you’re doing a science undergrad, anything, articulate what you’ve done in it. We often have PhDs, particularly really bad at this, and masters have one line. So it’s really important to make sure that you align the job and the CV.
Have really good front cover, really clean. No Times New Roman. That’s an academic document. You want something professional, clean. Our blogs actually have some information as well. So have a look at that. There’s a lot of information out there.
But look, I think having a number of people looking at it. But think about the why and making sure that the reason why you’re selecting it to just don’t always listen to everybody as well. I think that’s key is sometimes people aren’t getting the right information.

Michael (00:24:18)
Hmm, I’m writing that down. No Times New Roman.

Jen (00:24:20)
Yeah, but I wanna know. What’s, what’s the font of choice then Marilyn? What’s the, what’s the font of choice?

Marilyn (00:24:21)
Oh ok. I think Calibri seems fairly common across… And Calibri’s nice, clean and it doesn’t… Like you’ve got a lot of lovely, beautiful modern fonts. Well, what happens if you don’t PDF it and send it in? It could actually change the font because your Apples and your Mac, yeah every… There’s so many… But Calibri is nice and clean. I like Ariel, but Calibri’s really nice.
The other thing I get a lot of is CVs written in with ‘CV.doc’ and with no name. So please put your name. Like, you know, that’s your CV dot version one. But put Marilyn Jones. If you’re applying for a job at mexec.
And also put the date at the bottom of the CV, in the footer. Because what can happen is if you send through an updated CV, you don’t know what version you’ve sent. My version control is really important. So have the date down the bottom. So December 2023.
Another thing to think about in a position description. If you’re looking at it, sometimes the last selection criteria is the most important. So I often see candidates, there’s a whole lot of list of things, and then the bottom of the last selection criteria might say, “preferably experienced in say neurosciences”. Okay? If you’ve got a candidate that’s got neurosciences and one that’s got oncology, which one’s the client going to take? The neurosciences. So articulate, particularly in your cover letter in the first few lines, the fact that you have a neurosciences qualification.
And getting back to cover letters, I’ll just briefly say one page, usually ideal. Don’t if you’re applying to industry role, give me a selection criteria document. It screams academic. So I just want one succinct page. First paragraph is around why you’re suitable. Then a little bit of a summary. Don’t rewrite your CV about why you’re suitable and then why you want the job. And then that’s all you need.
So hopefully that’s a few of the tidbits. But yeah, I could spend another hour and a half.

Michael (00:26:03)
Oh no, it’s great. It’s gold, it’s gold Marilyn.

Marilyn (00:26:05)
That’s alright.

Michael (00:26:07)
I know all of our listeners are gonna be… I can almost hear them furiously scribbling down notes there.
Because yeah, you’re right. The you know, the CV is more targeted. And it’s the version, I guess of your brand that is really going to appeal to that particular job. And that brand is so important.
We also have a brand on this podcast. We’re famous for the final section, which rounds off our interviews. The quick fire questions.

Marilyn (00:26:18)
It is.

Michael (00:26:43)
It is time now to move to that section that we’re famous for Marilyn.
And the first question that I would like to ask you is how good was that segue?

Jen (00:26:52)
I have a question for Michael and that is how famous do you think we are, Michael?

Michael (00:26:56)
Oh yeah, yeah. Well, we’re you know, among the people that listen to us.
I know they know they love this section. We’ve never asked them. We just give it to them. I don’t know if they even like it.

Marilyn (00:27:08)
I, I’ve listened to it a few times and… But I haven’t listened to one recently, so I’m not really sure. I’ve, I know there’s different question you ask but I think you ask different questions each time. So a bit, a bit nervous here now.

Michael (00:27:16)
Yes. Oh yeah. Well, you’re in the hot seat now.
If you had to pick an alternative career Marilyn to what you’ve done, what would it be?

Marilyn (00:27:25)
To be honest, I did it for a little while. I actually ran pubs and restaurants in the UK. That’s another part of my job that I did while I was outside of science.
I would have actually, there was at times I was actually, when the kids were young and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do and come back, I actually wanted to run my own cafe or restaurant.
So I love food. I love cooking and it’s a bit like science. You’re making things. So that’s probably my other alternative career.

Jen (00:27:46)
Oh, I love it. Question number two, Marilyn.
What is your proudest professional moment? Or one proud professional moment? Given that I’m sure you’ve had many.

Marilyn (00:27:56)
I think starting my own business, getting that ABN. That was, that was like so daunting but so exciting.
And the second one was probably getting my first staff member. That was like, yeah. So I think yeah, probably pretty proud and I’ve got my up on my wall above here. I’ve got all my, like in my company information. What is it? The ASIC company number and the name and everything. So yeah there’s, I know that’s more than one, but my first number but also the ABN? It’s pretty proud.

Michael (00:28:22)
Hmm. Yeah.

Jen (00:28:22)
I think they’re things to be very proud of.

Marilyn (00:28:24)
Oh I’d yeah, I pitched myself that where I’ve got two now.

Michael (00:28:27)
Hmm. So Marilyn, if you could go back in time to witness any science event or discovery, what would it be?
I know it’s a bit of a curveball question, but there you go.

Marilyn (00:28:38)
Oh, I love science. I’m a sci-fi fan. You know, I really… I love science and biotech. I would have loved to have been in the lab when Watson and Crick discovered DNA.
You know, I think they just probably had no real idea of what that would actually end up being. You know, like discoveries of today that people are doing, you just don’t often, you think it’s going to be amazing. But I mean, that is amazing, what has happened.
And now with the genome. And they were talking the other night about it took [close to a] billion dollars or something to do the first sequence of the human genome. And now we’re doing it for $200.
And that all started with Watson and Crick. So I wasn’t very good in the lab work. But had I been an academic or in a science lab, I think I’d want to have my Watson and Crick moment and be there, and that, that feeling for the future.

Jen (00:29:24)
And also to understand just how much of it was their own work and how much other certain important people played in the role of the discovery of the structure of DNA. It’s been very interesting.

Michael (00:29:34)
Yeah, maybe you could alter the course of history.

Marilyn (00:29:37)
Absolutely and that’s the thing. I’m just waiting for the next major change. So there’s so much…
And I think it, the mindset for me growing up is if it can happen, it’s now when it can happen.

Michael (00:29:48)
Hmm. Yeah, exactly.

Jen (00:29:48)
Hmm. Absolutely.

Marilyn (00:29:49)
You know when? Come on, guys. You know, when are you gonna do it?
It’s not like if it’s if they can do it. It’s like when.

Michael (00:29:54)
Hmm. And from listening to speak Marilyn, it’s clear you’re a very curious person, you know, and a forward thinker.
I’m curious to know. Is there a topic in science that you would love to know more about? You know, something you’re really curious about, but you just haven’t had time to look into it.

Marilyn (00:30:10)
I actually, I really like astronomy. Whenever I see something around astronomy and the stars and the galaxy and and what’s going to happen when we go to Mars.
For me, I’d love to learn more about that. But also, wow, wouldn’t I’d love to be here to see it all happen?

Jen (00:30:27)
Hmm, absolutely, I can completely relate to that.
Marilyn, we’ve come to our very last question. And obviously you’ve shared so much of your wisdom with us today. I’m incredibly grateful.
But if you had to narrow it down, what would be your top tip for someone listening who really wants to find and then be offered their dream job in science?

Marilyn (00:30:48)
My top tip is really talk to lots of people. Don’t just listen to one. Really connect and network.
So part of that is really asking questions about people and careers and opportunities. And I think, I think that comes from a personal place where I didn’t ask enough questions about something. And I went in there because it was prestigious. It’s better to ask them to not. I don’t know. That’s probably my tip.

Jen (00:31:10)
I think that sounds like a superb top tip. Don’t be afraid to ask. You know, people feel like they’re meant to know everything, but particularly if you’re a student. But even if you’re not a student, how can you possibly know everything?

Michael (00:31:21)
Yeah, definitely. And we’re so grateful that you collaborate with us to help you know, our students.
And now you’ve shared that wisdom with our podcast audience as well.
So Marilyn, much appreciated. Thank you so much for coming on today and sharing your advice.

Marilyn (00:31:37)
Lovely to be here. Thank you.
I really appreciate the opportunity to have a chat.

Jen (00:31:41)
Oh, I’m so glad Marilyn that all those years ago, neither of us have any recollection of where we met.
But I’m so glad we did, ’cause it’s turned into such a wonderful opportunity to learn from you. So many thanks again.

Marilyn (00:31:53)
No, thank you. Thank you both.

Michael (00:32:13)
Thanks for listening and thanks also to our wonderful production team, Stephanie Wong and Steven Tang for making these episodes happen behind the scenes. And thanks also to you, our listeners, for your support.
If you are enjoying these episodes, you can help spread the word by telling a friend about Let’s Talk SciComm or even sharing one of our episodes. But that’s all for this week. We’ll be back in your feed next Tuesday. See you then.