How to think outside the box, identify your transferable skills, and open new doors
By Courtney Dee, Sr. Recruiter
Beyond the seasonal career reflections that happen around this time of year, it seems there’s also a new headline every week (if not every day) about layoffs and cuts being made across the pharma and biotech world – meaning there are a lot of people in the life sciences looking for their next opportunities. If you’re in that camp, I want to challenge you to consider your approach to what’s next.
Since becoming a recruiter in the life sciences, I’ve noticed that people frequently think about their job opportunities in a limited way. Always been in sales roles? Well, then my next opportunity needs to be in sales. Been in medical affairs for 10 years? Then I should probably only spend my time applying for medical affairs jobs. Always worked in healthcare? Then I’m in it for the long haul.
But I’ve also seen so many great people broaden their scope and find an unexpected opportunity that changed the way they thought about themselves, their skills, and their careers. Above all, it gave them new confidence and a fresh start doing something challenging and exciting.
Here, I want to give some pointers for how you can position yourself for a job you might not think you have a shot at landing. Let’s dive in!
Where to Start: Ask Yourself Some Big Questions
The first step I always take with candidates is to have a conversation about their careers – the past, present, and future they imagine for themselves. In these conversations, there are three essential – yet simple – questions that I ask to get the wheels turning:
- What broad skills have you developed that would be transferable to a new, different role? Maybe it’s as broad as public speaking, project management, or writing; or as specific as a type of system or software you have learned.
- What do you most enjoy about the jobs you have had? Maybe it’s the collaborative nature of the work, a research component, or people management.
- What would your perfect job look like? Include both things that you love doing and things that you would prefer not to do.
While having someone like me can help these types of conversations be more productive, they are a good place to start for anyone looking for a new job, particularly one that’s different from current or past jobs.
To illustrate, let me tell you a couple of short stories.
Improve My Resume by… Removing Experience?
Recently, I worked with a candidate with heavy sales experience who was laid off and wanted to maximize her opportunities outside of sales. After speaking with her and asking probing questions like the ones above, I found out her past roles had her collaborating with marketing, assisting and offering insights on promotional content, and being a primary point of contact for a marketing focus group to help identify engaging resource content. All of which she enjoyed.
It took some convincing, but we were able to highlight those experiences to create a second resume. This helped her apply and get interviews for roles beyond sales in areas like market access, strategy, and consulting positions with agencies that support pharma/biotech.
As she put it: “It’s weird to take sales accomplishments off the resume but it makes perfect sense to tailor more specifically to a true internal role. The new resume has opened the lines of communication with three companies within the last week!”
Skills Above Titles
Another candidate I spoke with had experience that was not in the pharma industry but rather in healthcare. He hoped to learn more about the pharma/biotech industry and how he could become a viable candidate for consideration for roles in data analytics, the area of business he’s versed in. When we spoke, I learned that he had a lot of transferable skills that could help him potentially make a career change.
So, after our initial conversations, I introduced this candidate to a colleague of mine who works on opportunities in the specific areas he wanted to move into. They reviewed job descriptions for roles he was interested in and could be a potential fit for, and we revised his resume based on how his skills matched up. As a result, his resume became something that could help him be considered for data analyst jobs on the pharma/biotech side, opening doors that he previously saw as closed.
Try Not to Wait Until the Sky is Falling
Unfortunately, too many people only think about their resumes when they lose their jobs. When that happens, it can become a fight-or-flight reaction that too often ends in a new role that is too similar to the last. It’s familiar and it may be easy, but it’s not exciting, challenging, or interesting – which is what we all want and deserve in our jobs. If you can, don’t wait until that “sky is falling” moment to start thinking about where you want to go next and how you’d like to see your career progress.
Last (But Not Least), Ask for Help!
Luckily, Mix Talent is full of experienced people who specialize in opening doors for professionals of all experience levels and skill sets. If you’re looking to change industries, searching for something new, or building towards a long-term goal, Mix has the practical expertise and unique insight to ask the right questions and bridge the gaps between your past and future experiences.
You can contact Mix Talent anytime and we’ll help connect you with an opportunity that’s right for you.
Before joining Mix Talent and focusing on relationship-based recruiting, Courtney spent almost twenty years in the pharma and biotech industry. She worked on both the manufacturer side, in sales/marketing operations and vendor management, and on the agency side, supporting brands by working on the strategy and development of HCP and consumer materials, sales training assets, and scientific communications. Now, as a Sr. Recruiter at Mix Talent, this variety of experience fuels her passion for helping pharma and biotech companies find the right candidates who will help their organizations thrive in the long-term.