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3 Tips For Job Search Success

By Lara Burgess


I started my job search in the fall of 2013 as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed newly minted PhD. I came from a traditional doctorate program (i.e. we didn’t speak of industry) in a part of the country with very few pharmaceutical/biotech/CRO companies, so I admittedly knew very little about how to find a non-academic job. However, like many other young scientists, I knew that while I loved research, academia was not for me. I was always very interested in reading about clinical trials and bringing new drugs to the market, so I started to learn about industry careers.

My husband found a software development job in RTP, which I knew was a hot spot for research, so we moved across the country and I started my job search. I was not entirely sure what kind of job I wanted (project manager? medical writer? research associate?), but I figured it would be a fairly quick and easy process. Months later, I can say that I was thoroughly humbled by the experience, and I learned a lot of valuable information that might be helpful to someone else in my position. Without further ado, here are the most important things I learned in my job search.

  1. Network, network, network! You knew this was coming, but I really cannot say enough about how helpful networking has been for me. I first found Women in Bio and went to one of their wonderful events at the First Flight Venture Center in RTP. In two hours, I learned that I needed to make business cards and develop an “elevator pitch,” beef up my LinkedIn account, research recruiting companies, and establish a firmer handshake. I also met some very interesting and friendly people who started to make up my network, which has proven to be vital in my job search. In addition to Women in Bio, I attended NC Biotech’s monthly Jobs Networking events, which offer very useful information for job seekers, and Triangle Biotech Tuesdays, which is a less formal way to meet people in the industry. Ultimately, networking led to my most serious job prospects and connected me with the amazing scientific community here in RTP.
  2. Recruiting companies can be helpful, but don’t depend on them. I met several recruiters at networking events, and a few of them had some good advice about the types of jobs for which I may be qualified. However, a lot of them specialize in recruiting for higher-level positions that require a lot of experience, so they did not have a lot of options for me. That said, I have been contacted by several recruiters who found my profile on LinkedIn, and I even took a contract position for a few months that I found through a recruiter. I learned that a lot of jobs with recruiting companies are contract positions, but they often turn into full-time jobs once the contract ends. Recruiters often find you, so this is where your LinkedIn profile is very important! I definitely suggest spending some quality time making your LinkedIn profile as thorough and impressive as your resume.
  3. Applying to tons of jobs on job websites (Indeed, Monster, etc), or what I call “cold-applying,” is a tough way to get a job, but it can work. The key here is not to waste your time applying for jobs you know you aren’t qualified for, but to spend a fair amount of time on applications for positions that are a really good fit. I applied to countless jobs in which I did not fit the description, and it turns out a Ph.D. is not equivalent to a bachelor’s degree and five years of specific industry experience. After submitting dozens of applications online, I got an interview for one job, and lo and behold, it required a Ph.D. and 0-1 years of experience. I certainly have heard of people who found great jobs this way, so it’s not something to skip, but it probably should not be your primary method of job seeking.

Early in my job search, someone told me to spend 75 percent of my time networking, 15 percent with recruiting companies, and 10 percent cold-applying. This ended up being pretty effective for me.

People say that looking for a job is a job in itself, and that is very true. It takes time and effort, but it will pay off!

I ended up with a job that I love, but did not even know it existed before I started looking. So keep an open mind and talk to everyone you can; even if they do not have a job for you, they may know someone who does. There are few better places to be looking for a job in the pharmaceutical/biotech/CRO worlds than North Carolina, so take advantage of your resources, and good luck!

Lara Burgess has a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience from Arizona State University. She is a medical writer at 3D Communications, a Raleigh-based company that provides communication consulting services for FDA meeting preparation and product launch. Lara primarily writes briefing books for FDA advisory committee meetings and training materials for product development and clinical use.


How great of you to share everything with others that can benefit from what you have learned. I am so proud of you!!

Thanks for sharing these details. I completely agree with all three points you have mentioned in this article. To get a good, desired job it is important to build up several networks. There are some popular job portal sites like Monster which are also helpful at times.

Thanks, Lara, for sharing! I randomly read this post and learned a lot from it! OK, time to adjust my job search~

Lawler Group is an executive recruiting group at I like your tip on recruiting companies. They can definitely be helpful in their connections and knowledge that they have but you still need to be able to do it on your own.

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