Written by Bassem Toeama
New life science graduates seeking entry-level jobs in the industry often need guidance from an insider. From my position as a pharmacovigilance specialist at Axiom Real-Time Metrics, I realized how HR personnel shortlist job applicants for in-person interviews and perceived an in-depth perception of the different biopharmaceutical career pathways. In the next few blogs, I will walk you through these career pathways, explain the tasks and responsibilities of many professional roles in the industry, relate them with the required knowledge and experience, and guide you on approaching your potential employer. But first let us talk about what the employer wants.
Industry positions are complex and demanding, which is why many job postings ask for previous experience. Apart from the technical skills which most of the freshly graduated life science job seekers posses, it is the mindset and soft skills that make the employer prefer applicants with industry experience. The mindset and soft skills differ significantly in academia versus industry. Applicant tracking systems and HR personnel filter the resumes of entry-level job applications by searching for keywords that show how fit you are for the job from an industrial mindset and soft skills perspectives.
Mindsets or ways of thinking develop over time. Workplaces are great examples of environments that contribute to mindsets. Academic (learning) mindset is shaped by individual beliefs that include sense of belonging to academia, self-improvement, self-efficacy, and sense of relevance of academia. Industrial (execution) mindset, on the other hand, is shaped by corporate characteristics that include productivity (i.e. revenue per labour and financial capital), scarcity (i.e. gap between limited resources and unlimited needs of the corporation), isolated measures (i.e. departmentalization for efficient organizational management), and disconnected incidents (i.e. audit and quality assurance for incident management).
To elucidate more the differences between academic and industrial soft skills, we will talk about the scope and objective of communication skills in academia versus industry. Communication in academia revolves around the integrity, quality, and reproducibility of research. The main objective of communications skills in academia is building a targeted collaborative team of research stakeholders in the workplace to move science forward. On the other hand, communication in industry revolves around business growth. The main objective of communication skills in industry is building a diverse network of business stakeholders in the workplace and outside the workplace to move business forward.
A strong set of soft skills is necessary to succeed in any position, but emphasis on certain skills may differ between academic and industrial careers. Academic careers are research oriented and are distinguished for critical thinking, writing, presentation, education management and problem solving skills. Industrial careers, on the other hand, are business oriented and are distinguished for financial management, leadership, communication, time management, and project management skills.
How do new life science graduates bridge the gap between academia and industry, prepare themselves for industry requirements, and become “industry ready”? Technical skills will be acquired during academia by default, but the mindset and the soft skills need to change from the academic mode to the industrial mode. Graduate students should attend different industrial seminars, networking events, and workshops to learn more about the mindset and soft skills that industry employers seek from potential employees. Applying for internships or seeking mentorships at biopharmaceutical organizations to observe and learn how industry professionals think, brainstorm and communicate will be a valuable experience. New life science graduates are advised to check the career section of the biopharmaceutical organizations’ websites periodically and apply for posted internship and mentorship opportunities.