Director of CK answers your careers questions

As part of our “How to build a career in the chemical industry” webinar we have had some follow up questions from the audience and also pre submitted questions that we did not have enough time to answer on the day. In order to answer these questions, we will publish written answers to these questions from the different panel members over the next couple of weeks. Liam O’Connell, Director of the CK Group and Chairman at REC life sciences has provided some very helpful answers to your questions:


I have a PhD in physics (with some organic chemistry) and I’m trying to get a scientific job at a local pharma hub. I’m being told that I don’t have the right experience for a “skilled” lab position like analytical chemist, and they won’t hire me for an entry level lab position because they think I’ll “get bored”. What advice can you offer me?

The problem you are having is that when you are trying to get into the pharma or chemical sectors most organisations require candidates who are qualified with life sciences degrees or PhD. Therefore you are at a disadvantage in that you are going for roles against candidates who have the ‘relevant’ skills. Companies will always choose the candidate they feel most suited to the role

A physics Phd is still very useful, however I would suggest that you change tack a bit, and aim to source a role in the medical devices sector. This is still very related to the life sciences field but there is a much greater demand for scientists with physics background in this area. Also the medical devices field is one of the fastest growing sectors within the science field in the UK and is highly innovative with a great deal of research being undertaken.

Another alternative is for you to approach companies and ask to undertake some intern based work. This will give you a chance to prove yourself to companies, get relevant experience while at the same time you will be able to decide whether you want to pursue your career in the life sciences field.


I would like to work in an industrial field but I do not have any hands on experience, do you have any suggestion of how I could get a job?

One of the biggest conundrums in looking for a scientific job is ‘how do I get a job without experience and how do I get experience without a job’. Undoubtedly it is much easier to get a job if you have relevant experience in the lab, and companies will look for either potential relevant experience in industry or in a laboratory environment.  As such when choosing your degree it is wiser to apply to courses which offer industrial experience as part of the degree. This will put you at a distinct advantage.  If you do not have this type of experience through your degree it is important that you get as good a qualification as possible, and this could possibly mean going on to do a Masters.

Otherwise in your CV you need to highlight all the laboratory work you have undertaken throughout your degree on your CV, demonstrating what techniques you have used and what projects you have undertaken in the lab. You must ensure that your CV is as relevant as possible to industry.  If you are still having trouble getting into industry I would suggest that you approach scientific companies located in your area directly and ask for voluntary internships or work shadowing. This demonstrates a willingness to gain experience and can also act as a trail with companies who, if you demonstrate the right attitude, may offer a more permanent role.


Will there be any opportunities existing for Ph.D. (Physical Chemistry) candidates in U.K.?

The scientific market in the UK is fairly buoyant at the moment and is forecast to continue to improve over the next 5 years. The government has designated the STEM sector as a National Priority Sector and as such is investing a good deal of time and resources in this field. Via such incentives as the Patent Box Tax and R & D Tax Credits there has never been a better time for the science industries to undertake research in the UK. Also we are seeing much greater training being undertaken to meet demands for future staff.

Physical chemistry is still a very strong sector. What is important when looking for a role is that you are very proactive in searching for a job.

You need to undertake research into which sectors of the science industry employ people with your skills, and then you need to approach companies directly, to find out who is the person responsible for recruiting candidates with you skills in that company, speaking to them about your background, and telling them about yourself. They may not have vacancies at that particular point and time but they will remember you for future vacancies. On occasion they will meet up to offer advice and assistance, and remember the science industry is all about contacts so they may know about other roles which are relevant to you.

Two other bits of advice, you need to be flexible when you are looking for a role. Be prepared to relocate, be flexible in terms of salary and benefits, and if the role is less demanding that you want, do not discount it as the role could be a good stepping stone.

The other bit of advice is, to look at contract /temporary roles. These can get you valuable experience while in a great deal of cases they can lead to permanent positions. Overall I would suggest that you are much more proactive than just looking at job boards or waiting for recruitment agencies to call. Approach companies directly, particularly by phone and speak to people.


I’m an international student and after I have finished my PhD next year, I’m entitled to get 1 year work visa to find a job or sponsor who can provide me with a work visa. I have in total 3.8 years work experience from the UK and overseas. What are the chances of me finding a sponsor in the chemistry industry?

It has become difficult to get a work visa in the UK, with the changing political climate. This is causing problems as the candidate pool is not expanding fast enough. Companies are still expanding and trying to recruit the highest calibre candidates, but it is becoming more difficult to get visas for the candidates and the requirements for the visas are getting tougher all the time.

It is getting much more difficult to find a sponsor for employment in the chemical industry, but it is taken on a case by case basis, and if your skills are in high demand and are scarce you have a much greater change of getting sponsorship.


If you would like to watch the webinar click here

If you are looking for a scientific job, search our latest jobs here


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Watch our “Build a chemical career” post webinar video

Thank you to everyone who attended our live workshop and webinar supported by the Royal Society of Chemistry filmed at Chemistry World Jobs Live event, London.

Themed “how to build a career in the chemical industry” with 6 eminent industry experts it explored how to progress careers whether at a junior or senior level.

The event was very successful with lots of interesting questions from the audience and invaluable advice from the panel members!
If you did not get chance to watch the webinar or would like to watch it back, please watch it below:

If you would like to contact us regarding the webinar please email

Search our latest jobs here



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Liam chairs REC’s life science meeting

Director and co-founder of the CK Group Liam O’Connell and also Chair of REC’s Life Sciences Executive Committee chaired  the REC’s Life Science meeting.

The REC’s Life Sciences Sector Group met on Thursday the 12th of March at the Royal Society of Chemistry’s sumptuous Burlington House. A total of 35 attendees, claiming literally every seat in the house, discussed the question of ‘third party scientific recruiters: friend or foe?

The event had representatives from Kellys OCG, Fieldglass, Volt and Chemistry World among others arguing their causes.

Here is a short summary of the meeting;

Thorsten Koletschka, Global Talent Strategist for Kelly OCG strongly argued that third party recruiters are recruiters’ friends not foes, stressing recruiters and RPOs can work together as partners. He gave three recommendations for success when working with an RPO or MSP:

  1. Define your unique position within the talent supply chain
  2. Make strategic investments in relationships with your third parties
  3. Know what a high-performing programme looks like and avoid those that will not work for you.

Claire Bubb, Programme Manager at Volt Consulting Group, also argued that recruiters and third parties can work together, discussing in detail Volt’s experiences as a Managed Service Provider for Pfizer. This relationship has been highly successful, with 100% of hiring managers at Pfizer happy with their services and 97% considering it fast and efficient.

Mikael Lindmark, Vice President at Fieldglass, discussed their services and the growing demand for internal oversight and control of recruitment processes. He also examined the changing demographic and technological trends impacting on recruitment, pointing out that non-payroll labour is now the largest spending category for many companies, totalling $3.3 trillion annually.

Following the presentations there was a panel discussion and questions from attending members. The key take away message from the session was that third party scientific recruiters are now an established part of supply chains for large companies and recruiters must learn to work with them.

Adam Brownsell, Editor of Chemistry World spoke on behalf of the Royal Society of Chemistry, focusing on the recruitment channels offered by the magazine.

Lastly, Kevin Green, CEO of the REC gave a brief update on the REC’s Scale Up Live Campaign, which helps members to grow their business, and the REC’s manifesto for the 2015 Election


This meeting was very productive and each member took away new and interesting thoughts. The event would not have been possible without the efforts of the Life Sciences Executive Committee and in particular the chair, Liam O’Connell.


Find out more about Liam here

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REC Jobs Outlook May 2014

The latest jobs outlook report from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation makes positive reading for the science and manufacturing industries. Some of the key points from the survey include:

  • Business confidence is up 16% on the same period in 2013
  • 80% of employers in the science sector will be looking to increase their permanent headcount over the next year
  • 50% of employers in the sector will be looking to recruit additional contract staff
  • Smaller and medium sized businesses will recruit much quicker than larger organisations
  • Science, technology and engineering are three of the fastest growing areas in the UK economy

This continues the positive news that has been coming from employment reports in the science industries and can only be good news for employment growth and continued investment.

Click here if you would like more in depth information on this report contact Liam O’Connell, Operations Director at the CK Group


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What’s the Future for Pharma?

Liam O’Connell, Operations Director at the CK Group attended the ‘What’s the Future for Pharma’ conference on 10th June run by the Yorkshire Chemical Focus (YCF).

This excellent event explored a number of exciting topics from global and European pharmaceutical and economic strategies through to novel areas of research ranging from regenerative medicines and naturally- derived medicines through to the patent cliff.

Speakers came from such notable organisations as Astra Zeneca, HGF, CrystecPharma and the University of Liverpool and it was hosted by YCF ( They also have a number of exciting events occurring in the near future including a conference on What’s The Future For Waste.

The CK Group are also delighted to announce that we will be sponsoring the YCFs 10th anniversary on  the 16th September.

If you would like any further information on any of these events get in touch with Liam O’Connell


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Environmental sector confirms optimistic outlook

This month The Ends Report, providers of market intelligence for environmental professionals, have released a Environmental Careers 2014 supplement to review the current market, careers opportunities and a look at the future of the industry.

The environmental sector is now experience an uplift in staffing requirements with permanent placements rising at a rate not seen since 2010, statistics backed by the REC’s Tom Hadley, Director of Policy and Professional Services, says demand has definitely returned. “Before this was true of engineering and technology but now demand is spreading across the whole market.”

CK Science’s Operations Director Liam O’Connell also contributed, agreeing that CK Science figures reflected an uplift in new positions across the board. He also took the opportunity to highlight the upcoming challenges that we now face with a shortage of UK graduates to fill high demand roles.

To read the article in full click here

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KPMG/REC Latest Report on Jobs

The latest KPMG/REC Report on Jobs has been released and it makes very positive reading for the science sectors. The pace of growth of permanent vacancies has continued to grow, with the increase nearly back to February’s record figures. While the rise in temporary vacancies in the science field continues to increase, it is slower than on the permanent side which is a reflection of the growing confidence of employers to invest in staff long term.

The report reflects what we are seeing in the day to day job market with a decline in candidate availability and the fastest growth in permanent salaries since July 2007. As a result we are starting to see permanent salaries for scientists starting to rise at above inflation rates for the first time in over 5 years. This is what we have needed in the industry to help attract new graduates to whilst retaining the highly skilled specialists in the sector.

Science and engineering are among the fastest growing sectors in the economy, which is great news for our industry.

If you would like more information on this report or the current labour market contact Liam O’Connell at

Or click here to search our jobs



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CK Group launches engineering division

The CK Group is delighted to announce the launch of our new division, CK Engineers, which is dedicated to the recruitment of highly skilled engineering professionals within the scientific industries. The CK Group is a leading recruitment organisation with over 23 years experience providing services to the pharmaceutical, chemical, life sciences, waste, food, aerospace and related industries. Our team of dedicated consultants aim to provide an excellent service to clients and candidates in the engineering sector.

The new division has been launched in response to increasing demand from clients and candidates for a recruitment offering with particular focus on engineering within the scientific industries. It will complement the existing recruitment divisions within the CK Group: CK Science, CK Clinical and CK IT.

Liam O Connell, Operations Director at the CK Group says of the new division, ‘Having dealt with scientists and engineers for over 23 years I have gained a real appreciation for their expertise and dedication to their chosen professions and as such I am delighted and very excited by the launch of CK Engineers. We have recognised that the demand for highly skilled engineers is continuing to increase within the scientific industry and as such aim to meet this demand by establishing a team of dedicated staff to focus solely on this sector”

The CK Group has an enviable reputation for customer service, professionalism and expertise and with a candidate database of over 70,000, CK Engineers has all the recipes to be extremely successful.

Click here to visit the CK Engineers website


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Are you going to Bio-North next week? We are!

CK Science are pleased to announce that we will be attending Bio-North 2011, which takes place in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the 5th October.

This event will bring together industry professionals and service providers working in the Biotech and Life Sciences sectors in the North of England.

The aim of the event is to provide a platform for delegates to discuss ideas and build collaborations and business connections for the future.

A number of interesting speakers will be at the event to discuss various topics ranging for funding for the biotechnology industry to healthcare and pharmaceutical regulations among others.

CK Science will be represented at the event by both Liam O Connell, Operations Director, and Barney Smith, Northern Manager. They look forward to meeting you on the day.

To schedule a meeting at Bio-North with either Liam or Barney, please contact them on the details below:

Liam O’Connell

Barney Smith

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