The pros and cons of a few different careers in the pharmaceutical industry

PM-THREAD 0703-2

AUTH: Abby Prince
DATE: Tue, 22 Jul 2003

I am interested in having a dialogue with someone who can help me understand the pro and cons of a few different careers in the pharmaceutical industry.

I have an MBA in marketing. I have business experience in a pharm related research area. I also have 3 years experience teaching science in public middle school. My dream was always to work in the pharm industry. However the time my other jobs afforded me to raise my family was just to comfortable. Now with the kids in their teens, I would like to pursue my dream.

I see my options as:

  1. Pharm sales to doctors
  2. Equipment sales and training (plugging the teacher experience)
  3. Medical technical writting
  4. FDA application work
  5. Product marketing (since I have an MBA)

If anyone has experience in one or more of these areas, please email me at your convenience. I would really appreciate being able to make an informed intelligent decision.

Thank You!

Abby P

AUTH: Daniel J. McLellan
DATE: Tue, 22 Jul 2003

I can only offer advice in my own area of expertise…Sales. I have been in sales for 10 years now in various fields. I’m sure there is a tremendous amount of industry experience needed for all of those areas, but sales is a completely different animal. Although tenacity, product knowledge, work ethic, and communication skills will help to ensure somewhat of a success, the main undefinable ingredient cannot be learned. Sales is an art, a lifestyle, a born talent.

You may very well have all of these traits, but be sure to find out first, before you make such a drastic change in your career. Try to take a commission only sales job with any product or service. It doesn’t even have to be your area, something part-time, just to see if sales is right for you. Test your tolerance for rejection. In order to be successful and happy, you have to love sales. If sales is the right move, you should know fairly quickly.

If it’s not a good match, there’s nothing more disappointing. However, with the right ingredients and dedication, there is nothing more rewarding…personally and financially.

Good luck in your quest!

AUTH: Andrea Emshoff
DATE: Tue, 22 Jul 2003
Daniel (and others)

I joined the pharma marketing list about a month ago and have thus far been simply observing and absorbing the information. I am thrilled that the discussion has come to sales…as this was the reason that I joined the group.

For the past 8 months, I have very aggressively been pursuing a position in pharma sales…and although I am already internal at a large pharma company, I have not yet had the opportunity to move into my dream job. Like others, I have continued to face the disappointment of lack of opportunity due to lack of b-to-b sales experience (I do have retail…)

I was very interested in your suggestion to look into commission only sales jobs. Can you please give more information on what types of areas would offer this? I would love to build my experience and test out the selling waters by spending some time in such a position, and would appreciate any further information you’d have (such as what industries or companies offer such positions).

In the meantime, I continue to network with the commercial folks at my company, read, attend related presentations, talk to others in the industry, and make myself open to any pharma position anywhere in the country. It is a tough, tough role to get into, but from what I hear, persistence pays off!

Andrea Emshoff

AUTH: Wello
DATE: Wed, 23 Jul 2003
Hi Abby,

Since we already have an MBA (marketing) in common let me give you a hint on how things may go in the marketing dept. i have worked for pfizer pharmaceutical company as a medical representative and moved on to a product specialist from which i moved to Aventis pharma as business Associate. so as u can see my experience ranges from sales to marketing which i believe should be the correct pathway to persue if u choose marketing as a career. starting sales at the beggining gives u the opportunity to understand operationaly how things may go on which will always guide u to the applicability of tasks when setting for a plan or a project. for example tell me how succecful a plan could be if it were not implemented and so inapplicability of a set plan would hence hinder its implementation. so go on all best marketers in the world putting plans which are partially implemented due to its inapplicability to your market. furthermore speaking to follow up a set plan and to utilize all feedback that u can get in order to keep congruent to your current market u need a system of initiation, processing, filtering & finally reporting of data. since sales people spend most of their time with customers mainly emerging strategies come out of them facing problemistic situations. most of the time it is these people that have to be first in mind to collect your data and in such a dynamic environment this seems to be a tough challange. hense the understanding of the mer function of sales reps. is the lead to a strong marketing plan. marketing then goes on and not forgeting that sales is a function of marketing long term plans are set to meet the overall purpose of the brand (following organizational needs) short term plans, projects, campaigns, tactics are then set in detail to acheive shorter term objectives. succesful marketers will always focus on market data collection by which an ongoing cycle of need satisfaction is initiated and never ends through the true satisfaction of medical needs & penetrating unsolved medical areas also through continuous adding value to your customers. Other marketing tasks u will be able to function effectivlys as it depends on the data given to u by m.research.

finally i must say that your interest guides your way so if u beleive that u r in the mood of facing challanges, thinking different, acting different, spying on oppertunities, hunting them down & ceizing them fist then i believe that marketing calls on u to be one of the people who have added value to this area. Also i beleive that your area of excellance would be the area u r knowlagable at and in the area of pharmaceutical marketing u will find a lot of interesting challages to face. it is just like raising a child and guiding him to becoming a star and keeping him there.

if u need anymore specific data i will be more than glad to help. also i am holding a research in the feild of consumer behavior (the impact of audio-visual media on decision making in comparison to print media aided by detailing) so if u have any data regarding this area plz. send me what u got.

AUTH: Melissa Green
DATE: Wed, 23 Jul 2003


You have not mentioned your current professional experience.  As far as medical/technical writing or regulatory/safety work your scientific/clinical skills would need to be current to be attractive in either of those positions.  As far as pharmaceutical marketing, I would suspect that you would need recent experience in pharma marketing or market research.  In my Fortune 500 pharma company that I work for, there are plenty of people who have MBA’s, but cannot get a job in marketing.  At least in my firm, it is quite competitve.  The MBA does seem to help most individual move into middle management in their respective departments.  Although, the PharmD, PhD, or MD appears necessary to move beyond lower middle management.

Sales might be an option.  But as others have discussed you need a certain temperment and probably need to extensively network to get a job. Daniel’s strategy seems quite viable.  I have had an internal interview for sales and spoke to others in marketing in my firm, networking and having the right temperment seems critical to get a sales position. 

When I wanted to change careers within pharma, I ending up working contract jobs.  It is much easier to be hired as a temp or consultant than to be a direct hire.  Both times I changed fields, I managed to get a contract job and used the opportunity to gain experience.  After I had some experience, I was hired directly.

I have been involved in the hiring process at several companies and for quite a few positions.  Most of the time, it seems that the hiring manager wants to hire someone with direct or closely related experience.  The only time I have seen this “waived” has been in the hiring of contractors or temps.  Or those who had “connections.”

I have begun to network within my firm, for the next position I want.  A close friend has been my inspiration.  He is a MD with much clinical research in his last year of recidency.  He has been able to get work in VC– which in the current economy is quite remarkable.

So my advice?  Network and try consulting/temp work if you don’t have any direct experience.

–Melissa Green

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