BullCon 2020 Speaker Laura Mariani, “Do Something Impressive: Tips for Getting Noticed, Hired, and Promoted”

BullCon 2020 is a women’s leadership conference where career badassery and feminism intersect.  Bullcon operates on the belief that leadership is not a position or a title it is action and example, which is why it is the place for feminists who want to make the world and the workplace better.  Whether you are at the early stages of your career, or a female entrepreneur launching their first business, BullCon is an incredible network of boss women (being a boss is a state of mind!)

We had a chat with one of our speakers, Laura Mariani on her presentation, “Do Something Impressive: Tips for Getting Noticed, Hired, and Promoted.”

Laura is an executive search consultant who impresses C-suite leaders (my clients as well as the people she’s recruiting) for a living. She distills her clients’ strategic plans into key challenges and opportunities that their hires will face, then identifies and recruits experts who are up to the task. She works exclusively with not-for-profit organizations whose missions span education, health care, arts and culture, social justice, and more.

She has significant experience as a career advisor for a more specialized audience. She’s spent more than a decade as a biomedical researcher, got a PhD in neuroscience, and then realized that she didn’t want to be that kind of scientist anymore. Since her successful career transition, she’s done a variety of seminars on “”alternative careers”” for young scientists at Vanderbilt University, the University of Chicago, Emory University, and the University of Miami.

Hi Laura, first we’d like to express how happy we are that you’re joining us for Bullcon 2020!  We’d love to learn a bit more about you how you transitioned from a career as a biomedical researcher to an executive search consultant.  How did you discover that this was something you were passionate about after a decade as a scientist?

Recruiters often joke that no child has ever said, “When I grow up, I want to be a recruiter!” It’s a career that people tend to just kind of fall into.
The short explanation for my decision to move on from academic research is that only about 10% of biomedical science PhDs actually become professors, and I didn’t like those odds. As I considered what to do next, I realized that I had spent a lot of my science career outside of the lab: I taught an interdisciplinary seminar with a sociologist and a theologian, I was president of the graduate student council, I went to Capitol Hill to advocate for the importance of publicly funded research. I decided that I wanted to continue to collaborate with interesting people in a variety of different fields in my new career.
As I was approaching graduation from my PhD program, a friend told me about the firm where I work, which recruits executive leaders for academic and nonprofit organizations. When I looked up their client list, the projects sounded intriguing. They happened to be hiring entry-level consultants, so I applied and ended up getting the job. I later learned that I was the first scientist they’d ever hired, but they’ve since brought in other consultants with backgrounds similar to mine, so I must be doing a decent job! I love the fact that I’m always learning something new and I spend my days interviewing experts at the top of their game in every field.
By the way – if any scientists are reading this and want to know more about making a major career pivot, I recommend checking out Free the PhD. It’s a great resource and community for scientists looking to make a career change. I serve as an advisor to the founder and can often be found answering questions on the Community forum.

We see you work exclusively with non profits.  Is there a particular project that you are super proud to be a part of?

Providing access to affordable health care is one of the toughest, most complicated problems in America, and I have been honored to work with a number of clients who provide medical services to people who might otherwise be unable to afford them. A recent client in that space was Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), a public community health system in greater Boston. In my research for that project I watched some videos describing how CHA is saving and changing lives in my community – I got choked up! Organizations like CHA need leaders who can fulfill their critical mission at a time when the field of health care is changing rapidly and facing significant political uncertainties. It’s a true privilege to play a part in finding those leaders.

Can you tell us more about your Bullcon Presentation, “Do Something Impressive: tips for getting noticed, hired, and promoted”?  Who should attend your talk and what will they learn along the way?

When I made my career pivot, I felt woefully unprepared and I had no idea how to convey that I was qualified for a job other than “scientist.”  As an executive recruiter, I now spend most of my time evaluating whether or not candidates are qualified for big, important jobs. My session at BullCon will help attendees learn from my past struggles and will share an insider’s perspective on what makes someone stand out in a stack of resumes. Whether you’re happily employed or on the job market, a student or a CEO, you should know how to think strategically to set yourself up for your next move.

Can you talk to us about an impactful moment in your career?

For one particularly tricky recruitment I developed a strategy to identify candidates with slightly less experience than the job description called for, because I was having trouble finding people who checked all the boxes.When I reached out to one young woman, it was clear that she had never been approached by a “headhunter” before. She told me, “I never would have thought I could do a job like this, but after hearing you talk about it, I think I am ready to take this step.” She ultimately decided not to apply for the job because it would have required a cross-country move, but I still felt like our conversation made light bulb go off for her. When I get to tap someone on the shoulder and say, “You’re ready for bigger and better things,” it’s incredibly rewarding.

And lastly, can you tell us one quirky or unexpected thing about you?

I have won multiple prizes for writing very good puns!


To meet Laura and our other fierce speakers, attend BullCon 2020!


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