Science has a new article on their careers site about developing skills during your education that can transfer into a career outside of academia. Communication, leadership, and management skills are highly valued in industry and public sector jobs but tend to get minimal attention during the average graduate or post-doctoral program.
“The quality that is hardest to find in the science policy world is the ability to write clearly and quickly,” says John Marburger, Washington, D.C.-based science adviser to President George W. Bush. “Communicating technical material in technical journals does not give you the skills to communicate to nontechnical audiences,” he says.
The article suggests some resources, such as the National Postdoctoral Association, that students and postdocs can turn to for help in understanding and developing these skillsets. Some of the suggestions in the article will be familiar to readers of this blog — joining Toastmasters or relevant campus clubs, for example. The suggestion to take charge of a lab responsibility, like radiation safety, as a way of demonstrating leadership is also a good one.
You may have noticed that there’s been a bit of a gap in posting lately. I’ve actually just started a new job myself, so things might be a little uneven until I get settled. Thanks for your patience!
The Regulatory Science program at the University of Southern California offers a variety of graduate certificates, a Masters program, and a new Doctorate geared towards regulatory affairs professionals. In the Regulatory Science program, students learn how to guide medical products and foods through the complex regulatory and reimbursement paths required to bring them to market. Regulatory Affairs is an incredibly important part of the drug development process, and in a very real sense plays the key role in determining the success or failure of a drug development program. Ultimately, it’s a company’s regulatory affairs team that must make the case to the FDA that a drug is safe, effective, and deserves to be on the market.
Clinical Research Associate jobs are in high demand. CRA jobs pay well, are often home-based, and offer a relatively high degree of personal autonomy. It’s a job that offers a good mix of solo time as well as working with others, and it’s a job where you can really feel like your work matters, because you’re contributing to the safe development of new drugs that can improve lives. The CRA role hasn’t changed a great deal over the years, with the exception of the increasing adoption of electronic methods for collecting case reports. But the nature of CRA employment has changed and is continuing to shift as companies change the way they do business. This article will discuss the four most common CRA employment arrangements and make some predictions for the future. Read the rest of this entry »
About 250,000 scientists are employed by biotech firms in the United States today, and a career in commercial biotech is a goal for many PhDs, post-docs, and undergraduate science students.
Recently Fiona Murray, an associate professor from MIT’s Sloan School of Management, carried out a study of knowledge work in this sector that provides enlightening reading for those interested in a biotech career.
Here in Toronto, the MaRS Discovery District is a biotechnology research hub that was specifically developed to connect the science, business and finance communities.
If there is a biotechnology hub like this near you, it can be a great resource for your job search. MaRS frequently holds events and seminars that allow students and interested members of the public to learn more about all aspects of the biotechnology sector. One series of lectures, called Entrepreneurship 101, is especially useful for getting a behind-the-scenes look at what’s involved in the operation of a biotech business.
Not in Toronto? Never fear! The Entrepreneurship 101 lectures are available for free online as webcasts.
This particular session, “Managing your Career – how to sell yourself and manage your career goals“, is of particular relevance for this blog. Teresa Snelgrove, an executive recruiter specializing in the pharmaceutical and biotech sector, and Frederic Sweeney, a scientist who left the lab to start a career in finance, both share insights into the job search and career development.
You can view the webcast here, and download a PDF of the presentation here (requires a free slideshare registration).
A webcast of a previous version of the same presentation can be viewed here. You may also want to check out the full archive of Entrepreneurship 101 presentations.
Genentech is one of the world’s most successful biotechnology companies, and has been named to Fortune magazines “100 best companies to work for” for 10 years running. their human resources department has put together a series of videos about working at the firm.
This video, targeted primarily at students and other entry-level candidates, offers career advice for biotech job-seekers from a handful of Genentech employees.
Of course, right now, Genentech is flirting with acquisition offers from Roche, which may have human resources implications for both companies. But the advice in this video is sound regardless of what companies you target.
Here’s another great resource for your pharmaceutical job search: Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development, by Toby Freedman.
Freedman has put together a solid resource for finding jobs and developing your career in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. At 409 hardcover pages, this isn’t the kind of book you can slip in a pocket to browse on the subway — it’s a comprehensive guide that I could see being an invaluable aide to finding your first job in the biotech industry.
Early chapters on resume writing and interview techniques, including informational interviewing, are brief but well-written and useful. If you’ve read a lot of career guides, these chapters probably aren’t going to teach you anything you haven’t heard before. The real meat of this book is the industry-specific information that follows.
In an excellent overview chapter, Freedman explains the breadth of the industry, and summarizes the different product development pathways followed by therapeutic, nontherapeutic, and medical device companies.
Next, individual chapters, each about 20 pages long, cover a wide range of career pathways: drug discovery, preclinical research, project management, clinical development, medical affairs, regulatory affairs, quality assurance and quality control, operations, product development, business development, sales, marketing, and corporate communications. Chapters on executive management, legal affairs, finance, management consulting and even recruiting round out this comprehensive guide.
Each chapter includes ‘snapshots’ of various roles and offers a thoughtful analysis of both the positive and negative aspects of a given job. For example, in clinical development, Freedman notes that “Original and applied clinical research is exciting. Outcomes are unknown until trials are completed, and each trial is unique. Your work is close to the market”, but “There is frequent pressure to meet constantly looming deadlines, and the objectives often seem to be ‘too much, too soon, with too little’”. When you’re just starting out, and trying to decide what path to follow, knowing the downside of a job can be very useful information.
Naturally, salaries and compensation are a matter for discussion, as is the potential for career development, and a look at how future trends might influence job security for each role is useful in today’s economic times.
Perhaps most usefully for job seekers, Freedman clearly lays out job requirements and typical pathways into the role, and offers tips that could be helpful for getting one’s foot in the door. Descriptions of what it takes to excel in a role, and qualities common to good candidates are also helpful.
This guide isn’t cheap, and it isn’t very portable — but if you are looking for a career in the pharmaceutical and biotech sector, this book should be at your side.
“. . . a majority of the almost 160,000 employees layed off by pharma companies in the past few years have been R&D scientists. . . . Unfortunately, this paradigm shift doesn’t bode well for doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows who are training in the life sciences. This is because many entry-level biotech positions, traditionally filled by newly-minted PhDs and postdoctoral fellows will likely be filled by experienced, pharmaceutical employees who lost their jobs in the recent rounds of layoffs.”
Is this true? Maybe. However, there are a few positive things to consider about entry-level positions:
A lot of people are not interested in taking a step back in their careers and applying for entry-level work if they’re already accomplished and experienced at a higher level.
Companies trying to fill entry-level positions sometimes will not consider more experienced people for these roles. Fairly or not, more experienced candidates can be seen as more difficult to manage and more likely to be unsatisfied with low-level work and salary.
R&D work can be incredibly specific to particular assays and model systems. A newly-minted PhD with the exact skills a company needs may be a better bet than an experienced scientist who has been working on a different system.
So, if you have your heart set on an R&D position in industry, don’t lose hope entirely — although keeping your eyes open for other opportunities is always smart. One last piece of advice — be mobile! Being genuinely open to relocation will ensure that you have the most opportunities available to you. Locking yourself down to one location will almost always limit your career trajectory.