The job: Lab assistant II

The employer: Physician’s Reference Laboratory LLC, which provides lab testing for area hospitals and research facilities, has had its core lab in Overland Park since its founding in 1976. The company is wholly responsible for the tests run within many Kansas City area hospitals, including St. Joseph Medical Center, the location where I work.

My role: I assist medical technologists in running laboratory tests on all patients at St. JosephMedical Center. This includes blood chemistry, hematology and many other tests. We work in conjunction with phlebotomists, who draw the blood, and the nurses and doctors who order the testing.

How long have you been in this position?
Since May 18. I graduated from Kansas State University in Manhattan on a Saturday, and began this job the following Tuesday.

How did you find your job?
With lots of help. My research into potential job opportunities lasted for about the last four months I was in college at K-State. My main resource was K-State Career and Employment Services, which helped me to build my resume and assisted me in the job listing search. I actually found the listing for this job on the career services website. I sent the company a resume with no cover letter — since it didn’t ask for one.

However, I told them I’d like to send more information if they could let me know exactly what they were looking for. A week or so later, I got a call from someone in human resources who said she would set up a phone interview for me.

The interview was scheduled during the time I was studying for finals. I talked with two people at the same time, who were on speaker phone — the regional laboratory manager and the regional technical supervisor.

During that phone interview, I also had the opportunity to speak briefly with the woman who had previously been in my position, but had been promoted. It was great to get to ask her specific questions about the job. She also provided me promise for the future, because she had obtained a promotion.

The human resources representative called later and offered me the job, contingent upon my visiting the lab and getting to meet everyone in person. During that visit, which was the week of finals, I got to sit down with the two who had interviewed me previously by phone. At the end of that meeting, they said, “We are still interested; are you still interested?”

What helped the most in the job search?
K-State’s employment services group truly helped me to really get serious about my job search. I had applied for a couple positions before talking with them, and had little response from the organizations. Once career services helped me get all my ducks in a row, I interviewed with three companies in two weeks. I think they helped me the most by 1) reviewing my resume and helping me clean it up; 2) showing me different job listing resources, mostly online, including their own database as well as other career websites; and 3) having me meet with a career counselor who specialized in the sciences. He gave me some reading material about what jobs are out there and told me what educational background those hiring would like to see.

Did you reach a low point in this process? And, if so, how did you overcome it?
For me, the difficult part was simply getting the process started. Getting my resume proofed by career services helped me feel more confident, like my resume finally was something I really wanted to show to potential employers. Before then, I had felt my resume was rather childish. When the resume looked more professional, I really got going; I felt much better about the whole situation.

What is your best advice for others in the job search?
Stay positive! Potential employers can smell negativity and desperation a mile away. I went into all of my interviews knowing that if it didn’t work out, I would be none the worse because it was simply good preparation for the time when I did get an offer.

What is your educational and work experience?
I graduated from K-State with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a secondary major in natural resources and environmental science, and a minor in leadership studies. I also worked for two years in a fisheries laboratory on campus, which helped me to gain good experience. I learned a lot about identification and enumeration, as I organized more than 100 samples in a day. This experience played a pivotal role in my being hired, as I could translate that knowledge to the organization of patient IDs and hand-off communication in a hospital setting.

Is there anything else you would like to share related to the job search?
Use all the resources at your disposal. I found job listings through the on-campus websites, and also through the many professional organizations I was a part of or knew about.

How does this job fit into your long-term career plans?
I can definitely see myself working in health care for a very long time. Eventually, I will return to school to get a master’s degree, which I hope will help to create more opportunities for me in the health care field.

Sue Dye Babson, Special to The Star