How to find something to say in an informational interview

Slate magazine has had a number of really interesting commentary about the pharmaceutical industry lately, which is the inspiration for today’s post. If you are looking for clinical research jobs, or other jobs in pharma, it’s important to follow news and commentary about the industry. General interest publications and the business section of the newspaper are one source; industry trade magazines are another. Being informed and aware of current trends and issues can be a huge advantage in a number of ways:

  • Informational interviewing: As we’ve discussed before, informational interviews are perhaps the most valuable thing you can do to improve your chances of breaking in and getting started in a career in the pharmaceutical or biotech sectors. One of the reasons more people don’t take this step is that they feel they have very little to say. By following current industry trends, you’ll have great conversational fodder to draw upon and you’ll show yourself to be truly passionate and interested in following this career path.
  • Cover letters: Again, this is a chance to set yourself apart from the pack and prove yourself to be more knowledgeable and interested than all the others competing for those entry-level pharmaceutical and clinical research jobs.  In today’s world of automated applicant tracking systems, cover letters aren’t always as important as they used to be — but if you’re able to get your information in front of a real person, they can help distinguish you and add life to your resume.
    (For a different approach to cover letters, you might want to check this out)
  • Market Research: Sometimes, following the news can help you to identify new opportunities – or figure out when you’ve been wasting your time. A big firm that’s just announced layoffs may not be hiring new blood any time soon — but news about an expansion, or a new technology, may give you a lead on organizations that may have unadvertised needs.

The specific article in Slate that drew my attention was a response to an article in the New York Times. It’s provocatively titled: Pharmaceutical Industry Near Collapse Because It Is Stupid and Incredibly Bad at Its Business.

Patents are running out on a number of ‘blockbuster’ drugs that have generated massive profits over the last decade, and the industry is faced with the challenge of replacing that lost revenue when those drugs go generic.  The article is highly critical of Big Pharma’s business practices, arguing that they’ve known that these drugs are going generic for a long time, and should have planned better.  What’s really interesting are the comments, in which a number of people who work in the industry talk about the realities of the business, such as regulatory changes that are making it more challenging to successfully bring a drug through clinical trials and to market.

While the immediate response of Big Pharma has been layoffs, which is a frightening thing to read when you’re looking for a clinical research job or a biotech career, think about how this may affect other players in the industry.  Perhaps generic drug firms will offer more opportunity in the next few years.  Perhaps we’ll see big players investing more in small, early-stage drug development in hopes of finding the next big thing.

Remember, even with a contraction, the pharmaceutical sector is still massive — and will still need skilled workers for many years to come.  Good luck in your job search!

Posted: March 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Informational interviews, Interviewing | No Comments »

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