May 15, 2024

5 Steps to Get a New Job in Pharma/Biotech

I'm Melissa
I'm a Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech. I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.
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If you are looking for a new job in Pharma/Biotech right now, this episode is for you. I’m sharing the fundamental steps to getting a new job that are proven to be more effective than the traditional job search advice.

You’ll hear the simple steps to follow and insider tips to increase your interviews and get you a job faster.

What you’ll learn:

  • 5 simple steps to get a new job in Pharma/Biotech
  • Insider tips on how you can increase your interviews with LinkedIn
  • The one thing you should do to save you hours of time every week on your job search
  • The strategy to use with the typical job application process to double your chances of getting your dream job
  • The mistake to avoid that is costing you time and making you feel discouraged in the job search process


  • Get a new job, get promoted, or improve your current role inside Beyond the Ceiling – a group coaching program for women in Pharma/Biotech. Learn more
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Welcome to Your Worthy Career, a podcast for women in Pharma and Biotech with me, Melissa Lawrence. I am a certified career and leadership coach with a master’s in Organizational Psychology who has worked in talent and learning development in biotech to large pharma, from non-clinical to commercial. I help women in pharma and biotech create a career worthy of them. Whether you want to get clear on what you want, get a new job, get promoted, or be effective as a leader at any level, this is the place for you. Every week, you will get practical career strategies and mindset shifts to help you overcome the problems you experience at work so you can reach your goals feeling better than ever. Your up level begins now. 

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of your worthy career. Now, today’s episode is going to be focused on getting a new external job, either because you know you don’t want to work for your current company and so you’re looking to work somewhere else, or maybe you were impacted by a layoff. I know that there’s been a lot of layoffs in the last several months, but there was a relatively large one in my area with Emergent BioSolutions in the last week or two.

And so I wanted to have an episode that was specific to how to get a new job in pharma biotech. I have so many episodes on navigating the job market from featuring advice from life sciences recruiters to how to prepare for your interview or answer specific questions. But due to the amount of job seekers right now, I just wanted to have an episode that just laid out the basic fundamental steps to getting a new job in industry. So let’s dig in. The first one, decide on the role that you want. I know that this seems basic, so let me explain. Think about this as a time or an opportunity for you to move into a better role. Decide what it is that you want now. If you could do anything, you might not have chosen to have to get a new job or maybe that you are and you’re not happy where you are, and so you’re looking for something else. So think about if you could do anything, what would that pivot look like? Because dream jobs do exist and now is a great time to figure out what that role is and go after it.

Do a skills audit, identify your transfer skills, be able to talk about them with confidence, being clear on how even without direct experience, you’re qualified for the job instead of how you might approach it, which is, I don’t have experience in that, but I’m a fast learner. Transferable skills are so, so powerful, so do that skills audit. There’s a whole exercise that I go through with my clients. You get really clear to be able to be compelling about the skills that you have. So just take a few minutes to figure that out for yourself. Next, what is your value proposition? What problems do you solve? Why are you the best at what you do? How do you make your employer more money? Now, some examples, if you’re thinking, well, I don’t know how I can help my employer make more money. I’m a scientist. Then some things you can think about are, how is it that in your role, you’re saving a company or your employer time? How are you making processes more efficient? How are you making sure that the leaders in the organization make the right strategic decisions? How are you enabling them to deliver on critical projects like reduced run rates, patient enrollments, molecule discovery?

There’s so many different ways that you can think about how your role is important and the impact that it makes, the reason that it exists. Also with my clients, I have a process where we create their unique career protocol, which is a process that I created that identifies your ideal role, what companies to target, what interview questions to ask, how to know what a good fit is and gets you into your dream job faster. It helps you uncover your talents and strengths, your value proposition, and what makes you unique, so you can also be more confident in your value and in the job search process. So the reason you want to do this is because it’s going to save you so much time on your job search efforts. When you’re focusing on what you could do instead of what you want to do, what happens is you end up casting the net too wide. And that ends up taking so much time. You’re taking so many steps in so many directions. It’s feeling like you’re this hamster on a wheel that’s just never catching up. Things aren’t working out. You’re just always working, tweaking your resume, doing all the things.

And that’s because you don’t know exactly what it is that you want. It also prevents you from getting into a new job and being unhappy and not actually solving the reason why you’re looking for a new job. So deciding on the role that you want and getting really clear on what it is and why it is just so fundamental to you getting into the job that you want. It just works so much faster from a strategy perspective, but it also makes sure that you’re happy in your career, right? So it gives you both. Another way to look at this is if you’re being too broad and focusing on what you could do or what you’ve done before, then you could come off as not really being an expert in your field. There’s that saying of if you’re an expert of everything, then you’re an expert of nothing. So if you’re impacted by a layoff or are flexible in your role, I have a tip for you. You could, because you might be thinking, you might be hearing all this and being like, okay, this sounds great, but I am actually open to other things because I just need to get a job.

So what I would suggest you do then is still get clear on what it is that you want that target role, because ideally, that’s what we want you to get into. Write that down on a piece of paper, put it in the center of the piece of paper, and then write a circle, draw a circle around that roll. And then in that circle, write down all of the other roles that you would be happy to do, the roles that you’re qualified for already, you have those transferable skills and that you’re open to. So if you’re open to, for example, a lower-level role, if you’re open to Let’s say you’re not doing a lot of bench work right now, but you are open to doing that again. Put those things in that circle around your ideal role so you are clear on what it is that you’re targeting, but you also just have a little bit of a wider circle around other roles that you would be interested in that you’re open to exploring or applying to. So then you have a more comprehensive list, but it’s not so wide that it’s everything you could do.

So hopefully that makes sense. It’s just so important to know the direction that you’re going because you will get a job so much faster if you focus your efforts on one direction instead of taking steps in 10 different directions because you’re just focusing on what you what you’ve done before, what you’re seeing other people do, or any of those things. So you’ll see how this is actually going to just build in the following steps, that knowing what you want, it’s going to make these next steps so much more clear, so much more easy, and And you’re going to see how it all comes together and saving you time and getting you the job you want faster. So the second step is to update your LinkedIn profile and your resume to align with the role or roles that you are seeking. Now, Note, I did not suggest that you do this first because you want to be clear on what you want first. Your resume should be aligned with the target job description that you are looking for, and your LinkedIn profile should be aligned to your resume or that job description also. This will avoid you being a red flag in the application process.

You don’t want anyone thinking that you’re just trying to be who they want, that you’re embellishing your role or responsibilities, or trying to be an expert in everything. This industry, specifically, values expertise and thought leadership. So doing more LinkedIn courses, certifications, and other things to pad your resume or to help you look more marketable actually are often a waste of your time. They’re not actually going to help you. You also don’t want to include so much information that it isn’t clear what your area of expertise is or what you’re targeting. I’ve looked at LinkedIn profiles before that have nice words, impressive words, but it’s not clear what they really do. It’s not clear what level they’re seeking. It’s not clear the impact that they make. And so then, yes, it has words, but it’s not actually presenting them in the best light. Because another thing to think about is your LinkedIn profile. There is a bit of the keyword functionality similar to the ATS system for resumes. So for recruiters on LinkedIn or people that are searching on LinkedIn, when they put in the search bar, if your LinkedIn profile has the roles that you’re seeking, the expertise they’re seeking, then your profile will come up for them.

If you have a bunch of other stuff on there, then you’re going to get weeded out more quickly because let’s say they’re looking for a very specific role, which is the role that you want, but you are more concerned on putting everything you could do and trying to just appease every opportunity, then when someone goes, they might get that keyword, right? So this is another reason you want to have a complete profile. They might get that keyword, look at your profile, but it’s so vague that you just get discarded, as opposed to just honing in and going all in on your area of expertise and what you’re seeking. When people are hiring, they want the best in the area that they are hiring for. They often don’t want a generalist. So this is why padding your resume isn’t always a good use of your time. When you know what you want first, then these steps are just so much easier and just work so much more quickly to get you the goal of getting into that new job more quickly. So focus on what you want and why you’re the best candidate for it. And then make sure that that information is on your resume and is on your LinkedIn.

It’s aligned with the jobs you’re seeking and that they’re all connected. Number three is to inform LinkedIn that you’re open to work. So there are a few ways to do You can post on LinkedIn. And when you know what you want, you’re able to do this with a more specific ask. Instead of saying, I have this role and I’m not open to work. That you’re going to probably get a good amount of engagement with. But if you’re able to say, I’m looking for this specific type of role, this is where I can make the best impact for a company, then you’re going to get a little bit more high quality leads. You’re going to get a little bit more high quality attention where people will be reaching out to you and saying, Oh, this might be a good fit for you. Oh, we have a job opening here. You’re going to get a little bit more engagement when you enable your network to help you better. Now, you can also set your profile to open to work and make it visible. Now, when you set it to be open to work and make it visible, this is helpful if you were impacted by a layoff or if you’re in between jobs, if you don’t care that your network knows that you’re looking for another job.

But there’s also another option. So if you don’t want people to know that you’re open to work, you can make that hidden. So you can go into your LinkedIn settings and you can say that you’re open to work, but you can make that notice, like you won’t get that green banner around your profile picture. Instead, you will only be informing recruiters that you are open to work, only they’ll be able to see it when they’re searching for candidates. And so that’s a way to protect it and make it a little bit more anonymous if that’s your preference. And then set up your job search criteria in LinkedIn and have LinkedIn email you daily or weekly with new opportunities. Number four, get visible for what you do and the impact that you make. The more people who know who you are, why your work matters to you, the impact that you make for organizations, the more opportunities you will have. It is like a formula. It’s like the saying that people don’t remember what you say, but they remember how you made them feel, something like that. People in your network, people that you’ve worked with before, they won’t necessarily know all of your technical skills or know your resume by heart.

But what they will remember is what it was like to work with you or to talk with you. They’ll remember the impression that you made on them. If you seemed like a leader, if you seemed like someone who knew what they were doing, if you were someone that always delivered and was a team player, did you make work easier for them? Were you fun to work with? Did you offer really good insights and ideas? Those are the types of things that people are going to remember a little bit more. So there are a lot of people in the industry who have your same title or work in your same group. But the way that you do it, why you do it, and the results that you get are different. That is what is going to set you apart. So you have to know what makes you different and make that visible. Make your unique way of delivering in the pharma biotech space, the way you work, the way you see things, make it more visible so people can see you’re not one of a hundred specialists, you’re not one of a hundred project managers, you’re not one of 100 scientists, right?

You are different. And that is going to get you more attention and it’s going to get you more opportunities. And this is so much more in your control than just searching online and applying to jobs. This is what is going to give you a competitive edge. So if you’re thinking, this is nice, but I just need a job. I just want to tell you that this is how you can get more jobs. This is how you can get the right job for you. And it puts things more in your hands instead of just applying. You will, of course, apply to jobs, but this in tandem is going to help you get more opportunities. When people see you, when they know you, this is how you can get roles created for you. You can get people reaching out and saying, Oh, I just thought of you and we have this opportunity coming up. Or, Oh, I just thought of you and I think that we need your unique skill set in our organization. We have this job we’re posting, but I think we could tweak it to fit what you do. That stuff happens all the time.

It happens for my clients. This is something that can be a norm for you too when you show yourself as a thought leader, when you are visible, when you are what I call an opportunity magnet. And I have an episode on that also. So you want to be able to leverage relationships and your network as much as your typical standard application process. So here are some ideas for how you can do this. You could go to networking events, reach out to people on LinkedIn directly, that you haven’t talked to for a while, and ask them how they are, if they can catch up. I call this low-lift networking. Networking in the Brosky way of passing business cards and cold calls and things like that, cold messages, forwarding your resume. That’s a thing of the past. You can do this in a way that feels really good and authentic to you and doesn’t feel awkward, doesn’t feel like you’re asking for a handout. There are strategies that you can use to make this really natural for you, and that’s what I would recommend. So another thing you can do is you can share articles or insights on LinkedIn demonstrating your thought leadership or how you approach your work.

You can reconnect with your professional associations or alumni. You really never know where your next opportunity could come from. But I can tell you 100 % that if you get more visible on what you do and your impact, you’re going to get more opportunities and you’re going to feel more in control during the job search process than if you just scroll online and apply to jobs that you find Now, the next one is to make a plan that gets results. And so this is our last step in this basic step episode. I wanted to have something like I said, that was just the nitty-gritty basics. So number five is to make a plan that gets results. Once you know what roles you’re targeting, your branding materials, your LinkedIn resume are up to date, you’ve informed LinkedIn that you are open to work and you’re making yourself more visible, now is the time to make a plan and hold yourself accountable to it. Here is how I would suggest making a plan. First would be to identify how much time you want to commit to your job search and then decide to be productive during that time.

It’s one thing to make a plan, it’s another to follow it, right? One reason that people get frustrated in the job search process is because they are online endlessly looking for jobs and tancering with their resume and not feeling like they’re getting traction. This happens because they don’t have a dedicated time to focus on their efforts and they don’t know what they want. So what they end up doing is looking at everything and then getting distracted and then going down a rabbit hole somewhere, getting into Reddit, looking at blogs, starting to look at negative news. And then they feel like crap and they stop. Or you might go and you might start looking at your alumni, looking at your colleagues, seeing if they got a job yet, comparing yourself and then feeling like crap. And then they end up feeling like they spend so many hours on their job search process, but really it wasn’t productive time. Or they’re keeping their job search so broad that they have to make 10 different versions of their resume and are constantly tinkering with it or considering a resume writer. And this is all just wasted time and effort.

You just have to do the basic steps that I outlined in this episode and then make a plan and follow it. So here is what your plan could look like. One hour a day, look for new opportunities on LinkedIn, Indeed, or any other job boards. As a tip, look at job boards other than LinkedIn and Indeed. Look at the company job postings on their website of the companies that you are targeting. Look on job boards with your professional associations. They often will have special or their own job boards or industry-specific job boards like Biospace. So you want to diversify the job boards that you’re looking at and make them industry-specific. Because you know what you want, because you’re following these steps, What you can do is you can use the job search algorithm to your advantage. Don’t just put in titles and departments or technical areas. Put in some of the main responsibilities that you want to have and combine that with a title department or technical area. This is going to expand your search because the industry has so many different titles for the same thing. So if you just keep looking for the titles you’re seeking or the departments you’re seeking, you’re going to limit what you’re seeing as options.

You’re going to get many more search results when you know what you want and can use some of those strategies around the roles and responsibilities or getting more creative in what you’re putting in that search bar to get you better results. So it’s not uncommon, specifically with LinkedIn, for a job to say not show up for one person, and then I could put in the same thing and something will show up for me. So don’t 100 % rely on just this. You have to get creative and diversify your job boards. So that would be what I say, one hour a day. Then one hour a day, it could be reaching out to your connections on LinkedIn through a message or asking for a coffee chat or an informational interview. Don’t be afraid to ask the people you know to introduce you to someone or if there is something or someone that you should know. Respond to your incoming LinkedIn messages. So all of that one hour a day. One hour a day, apply to any roles that you find that meet your criteria. Thirty minutes a week. Make a post on LinkedIn with an article you found or your insights that demonstrate your thought leadership.

Thirty minutes a week. Find and connect with two life sciences recruiters. See if you can set up-time with them to discuss opportunities that they may have available. One hour a week, a Attend a networking event and meet new people. One hour a week. Evaluate your progress. Now, this is really important. One hour a week, probably it actually only will take you 20 minutes, but I put in one hour. What is going well in the process? Where have you seen traction? How many reachouts did you get or responses to your request? How are you feeling? What isn’t going well that you want to change? Did you have an interview that didn’t go well? Evaluate it. How could you have handled it differently? Celebrate your progress and then incorporate your hypothesis for what isn’t working or areas for improvement into the next week’s plan. Now, this is really important because science backs us up that when you evaluate your progress, you get better, faster results. You will also feel better seeing the progress and acknowledging what is going well along the way. Then another part of your plan is to take a couple hours a week for self-care. Now, I suggest giving you some compassion during this time.

The job search process can be stressful and tedious and a roller coaster of emotion. Finding jobs you think might be good, recruiters reaching out, interviews, getting excited, not working out, having long periods of ghosting, being stressed, then actually getting an offer, and then you’re happy. It’s a lot of emotion. It’s important to have support and not expect yourself to be a robot, to not expect yourself, to not feel the emotion that comes with this process. Feelings of rejection, feelings of not being good enough, feelings of this is never going to work out. All of this is part of the process. But your ability to follow these steps to evaluate and then to have the support is going to help you rebound more quickly. In my coaching containers, it’s not that my clients are just immediately getting results and everything is perfect in one action. If that were the case, I could just tell you what to do in one hour and then everything would be perfect. There’s trial and error along the way. And there are things, there are skills that you are building as you’re going out in an interview. There are skills that you are building when you are building relationships.

There are new things that you are doing. So there’s going to be tweaks and there’s going to be emotion and there’s going to be strategies that have to be shifted. Having support for that is so invaluable and keeps you accountable to the plan, keeps you accountable to getting the results that you want. So have a plan, define the hours that you want to spend. It doesn’t have to be as many hours as I suggested. It could be more hours than I suggested. But just make a plan that you feel you can stick to and then hold yourself accountable to it. And as part of your evaluation, evaluate how well you stuck to the plan. Because we feel frustrated when we’re not getting results, but there’s always things that we can do that are in our control. And I always want you to feel like you are in control of your results. Getting a new job can feel like a full-time job, but it doesn’t have to take up all your time. It doesn’t have to be so stressful. So give these five steps a try. So I will repeat them for you. The five steps were to decide on the role that you want, update your LinkedIn profile and resume to align with the role that you are seeking or roles that you are seeking, inform LinkedIn that you’re open to work, get visible for what you do and your impact, make a plan that gets results.

Those are the five steps. In my experience, these will help you get a new job faster than traditional methods. You’ll get into a better job, feel better about yourself, and in control of the process, and you will save so much time by cutting out the activities that you don’t need to be doing, that are just a waste of time and stressing you out. If you want more advice, now I would say, check out prior episodes of my podcast. You can tell by the title what I’m talking about. So for example, with the Get Visible, I have an episode on being an opportunity magnet that you can look at. I have episodes on just navigating the job market, do’s and don’ts, Resumes, and interviews. I have just about everything on prior episodes in one way or another. So check that out. You can also download my guide. I have a guide. It’s four hidden ways to advance your career as a woman in pharma biotech. It’s completely free. So you’ll get the four hidden ways with strategies for implementation, but you’ll also get curated tips and strategies for navigating the job market. So I highly suggest that you get that.

It’s very helpful. So I will have a link in the show notes so that you can access that. Now Good luck in your search, and I will talk to you next week.

Hey, the episode is over, but I want to let you in on a secret. There are four hidden ways you can use to advance your career as a woman in Pharma or Biotech that your boss or HR doesn’t want you to know about. These are strategies that are proven to work even after you’ve been told no. Save yourself so much time and advance your career on your terms by downloading the strategies at my website, They’re completely free. Go get them now.

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No longer settles for “good enough”

Hi, I’m Melissa.

Career & Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech

I'm a former Talent & Development leader in Pharma/Biotech turned CEO and Certified Professional Career & Life Coach. I also host the podcast, Your Worthy Career.

I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.

I'm leading a movement of women in the industry who are figuring out exactly what they want and shattering the glass ceiling. The very real ceiling in the industry, but also the one that we impose on ourselves. 

So long, imposter syndrome and overthinking. It's time to step into the impact and life you're worthy of having.

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