How to find a Job in the Pharmaceutical Industry?

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It is a time of growing uncertainty about the future of PhDs after their academic employment (Nature526, 597-600; 2015), and a time with new job opportunities for PhD holders, and yet, too many junior researchers don’t know where their path outside of academia might lead.

On 23rd June, we hosted the first talk of a series called ‘Career Development Events for Life Scientists’ co-organised by the representatives of the International PhD Programme (IPP) and us (NGC). Prof. Martin Michel from the University Medical Center Mainz joined us to talk about career opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry. But how can a university professor give an overview of what happens in industry, you ask? Well, Prof. Michel has quite an interesting curriculum vitae. After his medical studies, he indeed had a successful academic career, during which he became Department Head at the University of Amsterdam. However, he wanted to explore new fields, and left academia for a senior position in one of the biggest pharmaceutical industries. Now, he is back in academia, spending a considerable amount of his time educating scientists on good scientific practice, as well as relaying his knowledge and experience to junior scientists who ask him how and what kind of jobs to look for in industry.

Prof. Michel pointed out in his talk that among the most important things that PhD students and postdocs should consider is, not only what your immediate career options are, but also what you want for your future. Essentially, you need to think long-term: where do you want to be in 5 years? Thus, the long (in)famous interview question is in fact a great way to analyse one’s attitude and aptitude towards different job opportunities.

It is equally essential to ascertain these job opportunities offered by pharma/biotech industries. Despite the availability of many jobs in the pharmaceutical industry, which Prof. Michel outlined for us, not all of them offer entry-level positions (see picture below). Among these, there are Research & Development (R&D), medical affairs and product operations. A few companies offer entry-level jobs via traineeships or internships, for e.g. market access and marketing.  It is also good to keep a lookout for new departments added to existing big companies or pharma/biotech start-ups, both of which are looking for talented personnel in entry-level jobs to build their team.

Some of the many career opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry that Prof. Michel described might offer an entry-level job (green), while others might offer an entry-level position via traineeships (orange). NGC/Design.

Another important factor is the job application itself. When looking for a job in the industry, it is important to target applications to those advertisements that match your profile as much as possible. Ensure that you tick off as many of the “must haves” of a job advertisement as you can.

Lastly, but not least, if you still have doubts and want to know more about what the job entails and whether it will suit your profile, professional networking is the way to go. Professional networks boost your career by putting you in touch with people employed in the private sector, prospective employers, recruiters or future career mentors. We recently organised a career workshop addressing how to build a successful professional network, which was possible thanks to the funding provided by the Gutenberg Nachwuchs Kolleg to our Career Development Events. On 23rd July, we hosted two trainers from the Association Bernard Gregory. Through real-life examples of professional networking, participants approached the issue of how to interact with professionals and ask them for advice on their career development. “How do I make new contacts?” “How should I behave in case of resistance from a person I would like to connect with?” are questions that were addressed during the course.

Job hunting is a tedious, exhaustive task, even more so when you are looking to make a transition from one sector to the other. I hope these pointers will help you make your applications more successful. We, at the NGC, will continue to provide more of such opportunities to interact with and learn from people who have made this transition. Watch this space for more updates on similar events.

Written by: Chiara Galante; Edited by: Radhika Menon. Featured images: NGC/Design.
We thank the Gutenberg Nachwuchs Kolleg from Mainz University for the financial support in organizing these events.

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