Corante

About this Author
DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: derekb.lowe@gmail.com Twitter: Dereklowe

Chemistry and Drug Data: Drugbank
Emolecules
ChemSpider
Chempedia Lab
Synthetic Pages
Organic Chemistry Portal
PubChem
Not Voodoo
DailyMed
Druglib
Clinicaltrials.gov

Chemistry and Pharma Blogs:
Org Prep Daily
The Haystack
Kilomentor
A New Merck, Reviewed
Liberal Arts Chemistry
Electron Pusher
All Things Metathesis
C&E News Blogs
Chemiotics II
Chemical Space
Noel O'Blog
In Vivo Blog
Terra Sigilatta
BBSRC/Douglas Kell
ChemBark
Realizations in Biostatistics
Chemjobber
Pharmalot
ChemSpider Blog
Pharmagossip
Med-Chemist
Organic Chem - Education & Industry
Pharma Strategy Blog
No Name No Slogan
Practical Fragments
SimBioSys
The Curious Wavefunction
Natural Product Man
Fragment Literature
Chemistry World Blog
Synthetic Nature
Chemistry Blog
Synthesizing Ideas
Business|Bytes|Genes|Molecules
Eye on FDA
Chemical Forums
Depth-First
Symyx Blog
Sceptical Chymist
Lamentations on Chemistry
Computational Organic Chemistry
Mining Drugs
Henry Rzepa


Science Blogs and News:
Bad Science
The Loom
Uncertain Principles
Fierce Biotech
Blogs for Industry
Omics! Omics!
Young Female Scientist
Notional Slurry
Nobel Intent
SciTech Daily
Science Blog
FuturePundit
Aetiology
Gene Expression (I)
Gene Expression (II)
Sciencebase
Pharyngula
Adventures in Ethics and Science
Transterrestrial Musings
Slashdot Science
Cosmic Variance
Biology News Net


Medical Blogs
DB's Medical Rants
Science-Based Medicine
GruntDoc
Respectful Insolence
Diabetes Mine


Economics and Business
Marginal Revolution
The Volokh Conspiracy
Knowledge Problem


Politics / Current Events
Virginia Postrel
Instapundit
Belmont Club
Mickey Kaus


Belles Lettres
Uncouth Reflections
Arts and Letters Daily
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

« Academic Kickbacks in China? | Main | New Frontiers in Analytical Chemistry »

August 6, 2013

A Question for Recruiters

Email This Entry

Posted by Derek

Some of you may enjoy See Arr Oh's "Open Letter to Biotech Recruiters". Or then again, you may find that you don't enjoy it one tiny bit. Either way, it's worth a read, and some thought.

Comments (31) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: How To Get a Pharma Job


COMMENTS

1. Anonymous on August 6, 2013 11:17 AM writes...

"It's me, ..." is OK and common although "It is I." is more correct (predicate nominative).

"How's things?" may sound OK in the vernacular but it should be "How're things?" (How ARE things?)

Do you think that we in HR are going to pass along the paperwork of a highly qualified chemist who abuses simple grammar rules? We have to justify our jobs somehow and weeding out bad grammar is how we do it.

CRO needs to go back to school and get a PhD in English for further consideration.

Seriously, I don't know what he's been reading -- or inhaling -- but his "Back then [the 90s], doctoral degrees only took 4 years, and then you could jump out into a six-figure job ..." section is false and delusional.

Permalink to Comment

2. Ted on August 6, 2013 12:17 PM writes...

Hi:

Chemistry graduates, at any level,are crazy to limit their search to biotech/biopharma companies.

This is like watching someone beg to go to prison, or struggle to score a date with that really mean bastard...

-t

Permalink to Comment

3. Anonymous on August 6, 2013 1:03 PM writes...

#1: "Seriously, I don't know what he's been reading -- or inhaling -- but his "Back then [the 90s], doctoral degrees only took 4 years, and then you could jump out into a six-figure job ..." section is false and delusional."

Are you sure? I know several people who did just that twenty years ago or so.

Permalink to Comment

4. See Arr Oh on August 6, 2013 1:10 PM writes...

#1 - Your assertions regarding my grammar remain correct. I accept my chastisement. My bad, dude.

(P.S. I met a bunch of the folks I described during my first internship. Six figures, signing bonus, no postdoc. Really)

#2 - Interesting point: I've limited my job search thus far to biotech companies, pharma companies, fine chemicals, teaching positions, business development, government labs, consulting agencies, advertising, academic research professorships, analysts, venture capital firms, crowdfunding, legal firms, and editorial positions.

Perhaps I should branch out more?

Permalink to Comment

5. Pfinally on August 6, 2013 1:26 PM writes...

@1 - I think HR needs a little more sense of humor! He may be a little off on his 90's mythology, but not really that far. When I started in big pharma in 2001 (in biology) chemists ruled! Bigger salaries, more of them in senior roles (at least in discovery), and loads of respect. Within 8 years it was almost reversed. And NOW - forget it, the MBA's and finance drive it all. Of course this is my N of 1 example and experience. Interested in other views.

PS - If I were starting over, I'd either go to med school or get a degree in economics/finance and play that game.

Permalink to Comment

6. Suggestion on August 6, 2013 1:32 PM writes...

@Arr Oh: Have you considered creating your own job by starting your own company? Otherwise, why should you expect a job over those just as needy but with more experience? Either get to the back of the queue, use your own connections to get to the front, or create your own job. Those are your 3 options.

Permalink to Comment

7. Anonymous on August 6, 2013 1:47 PM writes...

Actually, I know exactly how he feels. I'm in the same position except I have a BS with 28 years of pharma experience. Company is circling the drain and I actually don't even get paid very well at all for that many years experience. Even worse, my resume makes it hard to hide that I didn't get to the PhD level. So they won't interview me for a non-PhD position and they won't interview me for a PhD position. And I'm 50 too, another strike. And I don't live in San Diego, Boston or San Francisco either. May as well throw myself on a sword and get it over with.

Here, let me practice, 'Would you like some fries with that?'

Permalink to Comment

8. paperclip on August 6, 2013 1:59 PM writes...

@1 Dude/dudette, chill. See Arr Oh wasn't actually sending this to a recruiter or HR person. I'm sure it was just meant as a way to let off some steam in a colloquial fashion.

Permalink to Comment

9. Anon on August 6, 2013 2:00 PM writes...

@5, medschool/denistry school is where its at. They have been limiting their degree output and putting up huge blockades for international prospects.

Permalink to Comment

10. Oldnuke on August 6, 2013 2:11 PM writes...

The MBA cachet is fading fast, as are the prospects for new law school grads.

Hot air will only get you so far. Excepting political careers.

Permalink to Comment

11. Hap on August 6, 2013 2:14 PM writes...

Have you considered creating your own job by starting your own company? Otherwise, why should you expect a job over those just as needy but with more experience? Either get to the back of the queue, use your own connections to get to the front, or create your own job. Those are your 3 options.

I can't imagine why people aren't lining up for science degrees - spending ten (or more) years in school (with debt for at least four of those) to get a job in the riskiest and possibly least financially rewarding* way is soooo attractive!

*I am assuming that most of the payouts go to the VCs - some will end up with upper management, thought, and onto the endless teat, at least if you make enough friends. Maybe that should be the STEM-encouragement line - "Spend lots of time in school, make lots of friends, and you too could milk your unfortunate investors out of their retirements in style."

Permalink to Comment

12. NoDrugsNoJobs on August 6, 2013 2:40 PM writes...

I'm guessing the oil industry would be a pretty good place for an organic chemist to look to branch out into. Might take some additional coursework in chem engineering or oil engineering but I'm guessing they are hiring with all the frac work going on, just a guess.

Permalink to Comment

13. Chemjobber on August 6, 2013 2:48 PM writes...

I don't know about oil and gas chemistry per se, but boy, if you are a synthetic chemist with experience with guar gum, now is your time!

Permalink to Comment

14. Woz on August 6, 2013 3:27 PM writes...

At least there's still a need for chemists to develop new legal forms of recreational drugs. Or so I've heard.

Permalink to Comment

15. Quiz on August 6, 2013 6:23 PM writes...

According to Francis Collins there is no problem with over supply of PhDs. He's actually instating more funding for programs to increase diversity....I guess all those H1Bs and international postdocs don't count towards his specific kind of diversity...

Permalink to Comment

16. RD on August 6, 2013 8:18 PM writes...

@7: Been there. I worked at a PhD level position at my last job for 8 years before I was laid off. I don't have a PhD and actually think they're kind of overrated.
Every recruiter I talked to liked my skill set but told me I didn't have a prayer without a PhD. So, I did some consulting work and bided my time. I just got hired again in a full time position. I'm doing the same work as before but not for a major corporation and for a lot less pay. The good news is I don't live in NJ anymore so I'm saving a lot of money.
So, it's not hopeless. In the end, I think we're all in the same boat no matter what degree we have.

Permalink to Comment

17. RD on August 6, 2013 8:18 PM writes...

@7: Been there. I worked at a PhD level position at my last job for 8 years before I was laid off. I don't have a PhD and actually think they're kind of overrated.
Every recruiter I talked to liked my skill set but told me I didn't have a prayer without a PhD. So, I did some consulting work and bided my time. I just got hired again in a full time position. I'm doing the same work as before but not for a major corporation and for a lot less pay. The good news is I don't live in NJ anymore so I'm saving a lot of money.
So, it's not hopeless. In the end, I think we're all in the same boat no matter what degree we have.

Permalink to Comment

18. Anonymous on August 6, 2013 11:21 PM writes...

@5, @8: Anonymous #1 noting that I recognized CRO's sense of frustrated humor and that I am not HR. The standard route is for resumes to pass thru HR for filtering so God help you if you use terminology or abbreviations that HR wasn't told to look for ... or use the wrong color paper. (OK, colored paper was before e-submissions, but you know what I mean.)

Sorry CRO: there is a PhD glut, at least in chem, and everyone IN the boat knows it. I wish I had a better answer for you and the rest of us but I don't think this sinking ship has enough life preservers. Use your connections as best as you can.

Permalink to Comment

19. Ted on August 7, 2013 12:59 AM writes...

Hi CRO:

No offense, but I've worked at six locations in my ~20 years. Big pharma, small biotech, contract work - everyone got a shake. Five resulted in layoffs. I've also been through three mergers that didn't result in layoffs - that's why I refer to "locations" rather than "jobs." My employers have been US-based, UK-based and German-based.

This is a tough business, and it's getting tougher every day. My last employer closed our US site because pharma isn't profitable "enough."

I'm sorry you're having trouble, but you are in about as good a position as it gets. The older you are, the more experienced you are, the more reasons employers have to NOT hire you. It's screwed up, but there you have it. Try getting a job as a PhD forest ecologist...

All but one of my jobs came through networking. Real networking. Like, "the job description appeared after I interviewed" networking. Despite the taunts above, you might consider medical writing (very tough to break into, but AMWA can help), technical writing, patent agency (ugh...) or consulting work. Rather than cooking fries, have you considered analyzing oil uptake at various temperatures by potatoes of differing starch content?

One very gracious poster on this very board contacted me about an opportunity at one point, probably because I managed to write something that inadvertently made me sound knowledgeable. Nonetheless, you have to get serious about beating the bushes for opportunity. Writing is the best way to increase your visibility.

I spent one of my unemployed stretches consulting with a biodiesel manufacturer. Nothing came of it, but it did give me some interesting insight to continuous processing techniques.

There are no full time jobs left. They're all temporary now.

Good luck,

-t


Permalink to Comment

20. InSilicoConsulting on August 7, 2013 1:18 AM writes...

Breaking bad! :-)

Permalink to Comment

21. See Arr Oh on August 7, 2013 3:23 AM writes...

Ted, Anon #1, RD - Thanks for the candid comments. Agree that it's a situation facing just about all scientists right now, and that networking might be the only way to climb out.

This thread also maintained an air of professionalism and dignity, for which I'm grateful.

Permalink to Comment

22. Anonymous on August 7, 2013 4:01 AM writes...

Keep firing out your CV; make sure you highlight in your resume skills that make you unique to other applicants. Eventually someone will bite but it may take some time. I finished my masters degree last summer and after 6 months unemployment I've found a job at a CRO doing some cool chemistry. The salary ain't bad (I wouldn't turn down more though!) and its exactly what I've wanted to do since before I left school at age 18

Permalink to Comment

23. Aerrigad on August 7, 2013 6:16 AM writes...

I understand CRO's point. I was advised after undergrad NOT to pursue a PhD for just that reason - too many in too small a field.

I am (thankfully) employed... in Pharma. And I have had at least one coworker who didn't list her PhD on her resume when she applied just to be able to land a job!

Permalink to Comment

24. Xero on August 7, 2013 12:20 PM writes...

Just because some ppl in my company have been working here for past 7-8 yr are team leaders (they joined on masters and just finished phd thesis btw); while even after doing a post-doc I (couple of others) even after completing 5 yr here are on bench. Shame on pharma companies, really!

Permalink to Comment

25. Teddy Z on August 7, 2013 2:40 PM writes...

@#23...I am curious about that because I have always felt it was lying not to list the Ph.D. Way back when after my first layoff I thought about it when applying for a job as a ticket reseller, but I listed it. What do others think?

Permalink to Comment

26. paperclip on August 7, 2013 4:29 PM writes...

@25 Yes, it is deceitful to leave it out. Ethics aside, you could get in trouble if your employer finds out, and claiming to have done nothing during the time period you worked on your PhD won't look so hot on the resume, anyways. Best to be honest and make the case that you are not overqualified and will not be itching to jump ship.

Permalink to Comment

27. Mylz on August 7, 2013 8:01 PM writes...

@6

Very Bateman-esque question to ask. "Why aren't you connected, experienced, and wealthy enough to start your own business?"

You acknowledge that someone got their early career caught in the down market cycle, that they lost out on money, experience, and connections (AKA - necessities for entrepreneurship). Also probably got caught in the long-term-unemployment downward spiral of hiring. You also imply (properly) that no one cares about stunted career growth and these are the 3 available options.

But, despite that, your first suggestion is entrepreneurship. Starting a small pharma company or maybe consulting. With few connections, little industry experience, and little money. To a person you acknowledge lacks the experience to get hired for a pharma job.

It seems more insulting than inspiring.

Permalink to Comment

28. Suggestion on August 8, 2013 7:22 AM writes...

@27: Sorry, my comment was really meant to be inspiring, rather than insulting.

Perhaps this definition might help:

"Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of creative new opportunities *despite* limited resources".

That includes limited finances, experience, and also contacts. In any case, one can only use what they have, or have not, so why not think of more creative ways to do this?

I'm not saying that entrepreneurship is easy by any means, but it can be very rewarding in terms of personal/career development. It's just one option (and possibly the only one in the current market), but it's always good to keep an open mind, and follow your dreams despite the hurdles.

Permalink to Comment

29. Mylz on August 8, 2013 2:20 PM writes...

@28

Thanks for the clarification.

I'll simplify my point to calling it something of a Catch-22, particularly in pharma.

Of course optimism is good, and entrepreneurship always an option to keep in mind.

Maybe seeking out jobs with new entrepreneurs at small start-ups as a learning experience would be a good path. It suggests a way around the Catch-22, rather than the bare implication of running headlong into it. This might be a more optimistic/effective way to present the idea to the disaffected.

/all with a grain of salt
//good to understand your point of view

Permalink to Comment

30. Suggestion on August 9, 2013 5:08 AM writes...

@28: Your proposal to team up with other (current or potential) entrepreneurs and/or small start ups is a great suggestion.

Either way, if one doesn't have existing finances, experience and contacts, one must be creative to build these over time by leveraging what everyone does have: ideas and time.

Permalink to Comment

31. kemist on August 12, 2013 9:19 PM writes...

Don't underestimate how many job postings are just branding or H1B visa justifications. These HR depts are just laughing at all the resume submissions.

Permalink to Comment

POST A COMMENT




Remember Me?



EMAIL THIS ENTRY TO A FRIEND

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):




RELATED ENTRIES
Employment Among New Chemistry PhDs
My Imaginary Friends Would Be Glad to Serve as Referees
Biopharma Stock Events for the Rest of the Year
A Drug Candidate from NCATS
No Scripps/USC
Studies Show? Not So Fast.
Outsourced Assays, Now a Cause For Wonder?
An Alzheimer's Blood Test? Not So Fast.