You’ve spent many years studying, conducting research, publishing, teaching, and now you are interested in a different way to apply your scientific knowledge, research, analytical, and publication skills. Probably the best careers for PhDs in life sciences are in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries.
There are many different types of opportunities ranging from drug discovery, preclinical studies, clinical studies, regulatory, marketing, sales, publications, and post marketing scientific support in medical affairs. All are excellent opportunities depending on your interest and your entry point into the pharmaceutical industry. For PhDs interested in transitioning from academia or other sectors to the drug and medical device industries here are some tips.
First Know Thyself
This may sound like strange advice but it is fundamental to success in life and any career. What you like to do and your qualifications (what you know) are fundamental to the type of job you should seek or qualify for. Moreover to convince others that you are good fit for a job, you first have to convince yourself. A good exercise is to ask yourself the following questions:
These are important questions that will help you narrow down potential roles in the pharmaceutical industry. If you have been in a lab most of your career and you are eager for change then avoid jobs in drug discovery unless you just want to get your foot in the door. If you do not like writing then a role in publications may not be a good fit for you. Many jobs in the pharmaceutical industry involve giving presentations. If you are terrified of speaking then a role that involves presenting to the FDA or a Medical Science Liaison (MSL) role is definitely not for you.
What is your Specialty?
Pharmaceutical and device companies need experts in many areas. You will have greater success if you look for jobs in your area of expertise. If you have a PhD in neuroscience it will be easier for you to land a job at a pharmaceutical company that manufactures neurological drugs (e.g., antidepressants and antipsychotics) than a company that needs expertise in metabolism.
Create an Accomplishment Resume
Unless you are world renowned or have great connections you have to sell yourself and compete with 100s or 1000s of other equally qualified candidates. Selling yourself starts with your resume where you showcase your accomplishments. You will need to write an accomplishment based resume, highlighting what separates you from other candidates. If you published, gave a lecture, invented something or a process, won an award or received any recognition, received a promotion, or any accomplishment that makes you better suited for the job you need to include it in your resume. This is not the time to be bashful or wait for your skills to be discovered.
Learn about the Industry
Every job sector is different. Learn as much as you can about the pharmaceutical and device industry. Connect with people on social media who have roles that are similar to what you are looking for. Be a good social listener and ask questions.
These days most jobs are filled before they are advertised so you have to know people and be visible. The internet and especially social networks are a good way to grow your network. One strategy for increasing your visibility is to share what you know on social networks or blog on the web. It is called content marketing and it works for businesses as well as individuals. Share something useful and knowledgable and people will follow you, network with you, and they will hire you. It is a great strategy for building your credibility and establishing your authority.
Use Job Boards
Use popular job boards and also register on the websites of companies you are targeting. Use job boards to research positions to learn what employers are looking for and descriptions of the types of position you are seeking. This is a good method for learning about the range of possibilities in your area of expertise. Use your specialty, popular job titles as keyword and limit to pharmaceutical or medical device industries. You can also limit your search by geography. This strategy can be used for researching salaries and discovering which employers are hiring.
Use Pharmaceutical Industry Recruiters
Recruiters are your personal agent. They can educate you about the industry and submit you for positions that match your expertise. Good recruiters also prepare you for your interview. They have relationships with employers and network with other recruiters so they are well informed about available opportunities.
Be Ready for Change
Sometimes attitude is everything. Be ready to acclimate into a new industry and be prepared for how business is conducted. Your hours may not be as regular as you have been used to in academia. There may be more travel and bringing work home depending on your role. You may attend more department meetings and collaborate with different parts of the organization. Be ready to learn new skills and company culture.
If you have questions about the pharmaceutical industry join the RxEconsult community and post a question on the discussion board.