This article is inspired by Eliza Herrero. She wrote an awesome article on the foodgrads network about getting into the food industry even if you don’t have experience. You can read her article here.
I wanted to give an anecdotal story on how I got my job. I could tell you it’s a glorious, step-by-step progress… but it’s really not.
I didn’t like my job one day and just applied to like, 3 product development opportunities in Phoenix and I got a phone call.
Yea, not the best story…
However, I will try to pull as much tactical advice as possible. These pieces of advice will give you a better “hit rate” when it comes to getting a job in product development.
The factors of chance, and how to improve chance
I am the only food scientist in this billion-dollar company. There are 13 product developers and none of them have food science degrees. Most have nutrition, one has exercise biology, and my boss has a PhD in Chemical Engineering.
Point being, I was really lucky to get my job, and in most cases, you are going to be lucky to get your foot in product development. You can technically just apply to all the product development jobs in the world and get in just because you’re a decent person.
However, there are many factors when it comes to luck. If you’re willing to move, your chances of being a product developer increase a lot. If you move to a place with no food scientists around, your chances to hire also increase.
You can increase your chances by attending or volunteering at farmer’s markets, or your local IFT section and end up being section chair, you can increase your chances starting a food podcast and interviewing just product developers.
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Just a note, my first job out of college wasn’t in product development. It was in a manufacturing plant. It took me a couple of years before I got to where I am today. As long as you can transfer your learning experiences from job to job, you can always be a product developer.
What does a Product Developer/Food Scientist even do? A lot of companies have different meanings. The most important thing to get into your head is that not all food science jobs in R+D are the same. Some might be more innovation focused, some commercialization focused, and some even documentation focused. It’s really important to read the job description. I can’t say that enough.
As most people know, companies use a vetting program to clear out resumes. The best way to bypass this is to think like a hiring manager. What candidate would be ideal for this job? What skills would he or she possess to do this job?
I think there are several common key words people use to find product developers. Common ones is most likely “develop”, “documentation”, “manufacture”, etc. Your best shot is again, read the job description and tailor your resume to hit as many of those marks as possible.
Networking helps, but it didn’t help me
I hate saying this because everyone says to network and stuff. Yes, networking is extremely important and I recommend everyone does it. Networking is amazing in the long run and I still connect with my classmates all the time.
However, saying that networking landed a job on my lap is definitively not true. I found all of the jobs I’ve applied to on career websites.
There was a point in college I was so desperate for a job, I contacted all of my high level contacts, such as a couple of professors and a VP or two, but no one really helped me connect to a new job. Maybe I didn’t make that big of an impression on them?
I want to give you one tangible piece of actionable advice though.
Network with recruiters or headhunters. It’s their job to find you a job. Don’t just connect with them on linkedin. Go to one of them and ask to set up a call. Talk to them a bit and then keep on talking to them monthly. Tell them you’re really passionate in what you do, and you’re good at either creating systems or organizing systems, or both. Translate what you’ve accomplished in your life and see how it would fit into a job in product development. Be their friend and give them value to work with.
How did you get your product development job? What’s your story? What advice do you have that you would like to share with others?