After the difficult process of applying and interviewing for an entry role in the pharmaceutical industry, it’s truly rewarding when you finally secure your first job. Whether you’ve chosen to work in regulatory affairs, clinical research, drug safety or any other type of life science job within pharmaceuticals, you’ve made the first step in what will hopefully be a long and satisfying journey within your chosen field. Here are some steps to follow that will help you to achieve the most successful career possible.
Before you begin, you should have a firm idea of what you need to do to be successful. This is likely to differ greatly from job to job. Skills and qualities needed to succeed in clinical research jobs may completely differ to those you will need in regulatory affairs or quality assurance. Get to grips with what is expected of you and then begin slowly planning what you’ll need to achieve within the first 3, 6 and 12 months to ensure steady professional growth. Having a clear methodology is a great way to keep motivated and stay on track.
Step One: Enhance your knowledge
Make the most of training and development
At this early stage, you probably have fewer responsibilities to consider than someone further along in their career. This allows you the freedom to focus on career development. Opportunities that could be pivotal in sky-rocketing your career may require you to work very long hours, travel a lot, accept a contracted/temporary position or relocate to another country. This is not possible for everyone so seize the opportunity while you can! Use your time to undertake all the training and development available to you as this will provide a crucial head start when the time comes to progress your career.
Many pharmaceutical companies and contract research organisations (CROs) will offer robust training and the opportunity to undertake personal development programmes - if you seek them out! You could also consider gaining qualifications such as Good Clinical Practice (GCP) or Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) that will give your CV a real boost.
Make the most of your current positionIt may surprise you how much can be learned just by listening and observing what is happening around you. A better knowledge of how your team works and how your role fits within the bigger picture can really make a difference to your confidence and understanding. Build on your knowledge by asking questions; this will also make you look engaged and dedicated to your role.
Taking proactive steps in advancing your career does not always require a change in job. Often, there are opportunities within your current role that can be tapped into. Requesting to take on a project that will utilise different skills, or gradually taking on more responsibility are good places to start. No matter how long you remain in a role, ensure that you are continuously building skills and undertaking more advanced tasks. Building a strong foundation will better equip you for when you do make that next career jump.
Step Two: Enhance your profile
Networking and social media
Social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter are fast becoming some of the most valuable resources for individuals and companies alike. It is crucial to keep your job title, responsibilities, skills and experience up-to-date on LinkedIn as this is a major tool used by employers and recruiters to seek out talent. You can also harness the power of social media to advance your career through effective networking. LinkedIn is a great way to connect and build long-lasting relationships with those in higher positions. As you meet people, add them to your profile and continue to build a positive relationship at the workplace. Have a look at our blog on how to network for jobs within the pharmaceutical industry, for more detailed tips on networking.
Keep abreast with industry news
Social media can also be a useful tool for keeping you up-to-date with the latest news and points of interest within the pharmaceutical industry. Be sure to follow leading pharma companies on social media and subscribe to any blogs, online magazines and websites (such as FiercePharma) that can offer reliable and relevant information. Look out for new trends and medical technology developments within your field so that your professional knowledge is always growing and you are prepared for change. For example, you will want to be aware of changes in regulation that may affect your job, or simply read about the newest breakthrough drug or treatment. More importantly, you can use social media to share articles of interest and actively give your opinion, and use LinkedIn groups to earmark yourself as a thought-leader and/or an expert in your field within relevant communities.
Find your niche
Specialising in a very niche area within your chosen field can really improve your job prospects. When demand for your skillset is high, you will be in a strong position in which to negotiate your salary and job expectations. This could include having specialist knowledge of therapeutic areas (oncology, neurology etc.), diseases or patient groups; or specialising in a particular phase of clinical research.
Step Three: Enhance your opportunities
Work in another country
The various opportunities available abroad will stand you in good stead when it comes to facing competition for higher positions later on. It’s a chance to tap into emerging markets, experience different cultures, values and customs, and present yourself as a versatile and adaptable asset to any company. You’ll be a very attractive candidate to many top pharmaceutical companies who are becoming increasingly globalised, as they will highly value your exposure and expertise in markets that have seen significant growth in recent years, such as eastern Europe, China and Southeast Asia. There are also benefits to working in a European country. For example, Switzerland is a major pharma hub, where you can expect a high standard of living and a great work/life balance!
Consider learning another language
Because of globalisation, pharmaceutical companies have offices all over the world. This means that fluency (or at least a good level) in another language can give you a strong advantage with top employers. In cases where it is not necessary to already speak the language, it’s still a great opportunity to learn it while you are there as this may open up opportunities for you later on.