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How to Get a Job in the Pharma Industry

Breaking into the pharmaceutical industry can be difficult.  A lot of companies are looking for candidates with pharma experience.  With so much competition, it can start to feel hopeless.  Don't despair; it is difficult, but it's not impossible.  People do enter the industry, but you have to be persistent.  You may have to apply for a lot of different positions but if you are strategic about it, you will find an opportunity.  Here are some tips that will help:

Use your network.  The pharmaceutical industry is small and tightly knit.  Everybody knows everybody.  If you know someone who works at a pharmaceutical company, their referral alone can go a long way towards getting you an interview.  Review your network and don't be afraid to ask for help. 

Join pharmacy groups.  Professional associations give you the opportunity to expand your knowledge and make connections in the industry.  Just being a member of a professional association demonstrates your interest in the field.  Since there will be membership fees, you should do some research to determine which professional associations will be most useful for you.  

Take a specialized pharma course.  There are private colleges, such as the Toronto Institute of Pharmaceutical Technology that provide specialized pharmaceutical education and practical training.  These programs are well recognized by pharmaceutical companies and they will give you an edge when you are applying for entry-level pharmaceutical positions.   

Be active on LinkedIn.  Pharmaceutical companies like to hire from within their network and people in the industry are active on LinkedIn.  This gives you an excellent opportunity to connect.  Invest some time into your profile to highlight your key skills.  Try to spend at least ten minutes a day on LinkedIn making new contacts, engaging with people, and posting content that is relevant to the industry.  . 

Target entry level jobs.  If you can get into a pharmaceutical company by taking an entry level position, you have a good chance of getting promoted.  The pharma community is close-knit and likes to hire from within.  Look at summer jobs, coordinator jobs and laboratory jobs as these are often entry-level positions.

When you are trying to break into an industry, it's easy to feel like an outsider.  The truth is, that may be how employers are perceiving you.  The way to get hired is to make them see you as a part of the industry by being part of a pharmacy group, acquiring practical skills, being able to speak the industry language or by coming through their network.  Even if you don't have pharma experience, if you look and act like an insider, you are more likely to get hired.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image by