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Career Quagmire: Solutions Welcome

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Re: Career Quagmire: Solutions Welcome

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed Feb 03, 2016 8:16 pm

Hi Nate,

Please understand that advisors and frequent posters of this forum could be literally barraged by CV's and Resumes if we opened those gates for personal review of CV's. I removed your request and would like to recommend you keep any requests that go beyond the normal business of the forum to private email or our web mail system. Thanks for your understanding. I can't tell you what a mess that would make of these busy peoples' days if we allowed CV's to be posted here or sent privately to advisors for comment. That's a path to a forum that has no long-term advisor support!

Dave
"Failure is a bruise -- not a tattoo." -- Jon Sinclair
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Re: Career Quagmire: Solutions Welcome

Postby Nate W. » Thu Feb 04, 2016 8:25 pm

Dave Jensen wrote:Hi Nate,

Please understand that advisors and frequent posters of this forum could be literally barraged by CV's and Resumes if we opened those gates for personal review of CV's. I removed your request and would like to recommend you keep any requests that go beyond the normal business of the forum to private email or our web mail system. Thanks for your understanding. I can't tell you what a mess that would make of these busy peoples' days if we allowed CV's to be posted here or sent privately to advisors for comment. That's a path to a forum that has no long-term advisor support!

Dave
Fair enough.
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Re: Career Quagmire: Solutions Welcome

Postby Nate W. » Thu Feb 04, 2016 8:55 pm

Craig B. wrote:Nate-

Reading your story, I don't know how much you "shot yourself in the foot." It seems like there was a real convergence of bad situations--PI not getting tenure, departmental funding collapsing, etc--that "forced" you into finishing with a masters.

If you're getting interviews for the type of position you want, you have to be doing something right. I suspect once you break into industry and start accumulating years of experience that the degree issue would fade away.

Would finishing your PhD help? Maybe, but it isn't necessarily a golden ticket in its own right. Given the troubles of your former department and that you're already offering to support yourself, would it be unrealistic to start looking at other schools in other cities? Departments may not be terribly interested in an abbreviated PhDs, but perhaps you could find a mentor take you in their lab for a few years? Even then, I can't say whether it is worth the time and effort to get the title when you seem close to finding a job as-is.


Craig, thanks for your comments. In my prolonged job search, the PhD seems to carry considerable credibility with many managers. I spoke with some other local schools about an attenuated PhD. They might give me credit for 2-4 classes max. The dissertation is going to be the rate limiting step. I'll have to start over. Most PIs want a student around for 4-6 years. There is a faculty member at UCSF who reviewed my papers and is interested in possibly building upon my findings. It is SanFran and UCSF. Terribly expensive and a highly competitive school. Maybe I should talk with this PI?

Frankly, the only reason I am considering this is because I want the credentials to be considered more openly by prospective employers. There is just a glut of PhDs out there who I am competing with in these business related fields. If there are ten PhDs and one experienced MS, why consider the MS guy for an agent, VC, or sales position? How do I draw a distinction between myself and the PhDs? It is difficult because I don't know my competition. However, I do know the degree issue has been raised and there are many PhDs competing.

When I graduated, one of my thesis advisors help me get an interview with a graduate school. They were concerned that "they didn't want to train a student to just get the credentials to be a guy reading and drafting patents at a law firm. A lot of effort for a few letters behind your name; so you gain better credibility with alternative track prospective employers!" These academic guys don't understand the job market. My friend who is a professor at that medical school said I should have been less honest with my goals and interests---tell them you want to be a research professor even though this is not likely.
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Re: Career Quagmire: Solutions Welcome

Postby Nate W. » Thu Feb 04, 2016 11:49 pm

Dick Woodward wrote:Nate:

Don't know what Dave Walker PM'd you, but I would take it seriously - he knows whereof he speaks.

If you are truly interested in sales (a great way to get started on the business side of things, by the way), the PhD is absolutely not necessary. Nice to have, but the hiring manager will be more interested in your personal skills and "train-ability" than in how many papers you have published. From what you describe, your scientific background is quite sufficient for all of the sales positions that I am familiar with, including the ones that have a lot of PhDs running around.

Once you get into that first business position, your academic credential will matter less than your track record of success. There will be some positions that you won't qualify for - VP of R&D or certain medical affairs positions, for example - but on the business side, I don't know of too many positions where the PhD is required.

If you are asked about why you did not get a PhD, keep it simple. Say something like "The details are complicated, but it involves my PI failing to obtain tenure and leaving for a non-lab position at the same time that the program ran into financial issues and was unable to support me any further. It just was not feasible for me to continue." If they press you, you can tell them the additional details, but they probably won't. The reason that they are asking is that the MS is often seen as a "failure degree" - what they give a student who flunks out of the PhD program. I am confident that once they see that this is not the case, and you were unable to get the PhD as a result of events beyond your control, this will cease to be a problem.

Best of luck to you - keep us posted as to your success.

Dick


Dear Dick, Thanks for your always sage advice. I agree with your comments about reagent sales positions. This is not a huge sales region for biotech sales to academic labs. It has only one major academic medical center. There are a considerable number of hospitals; thus, there are many MSLs advertised in the Dallas metro area. Many more MSL positions than reagent sales positions located here. Of note, many reagent companies will not sell to both hospitals and academic labs; there can be a fire wall between the two.

I have tried the typical detailer pharma sales representative positions. Managers who I have spoken with in this space tell me that you are too technical and don't have a proven sales track record. Reagent sales positions have been hit or miss depending on whether they are willing to train someone with the technical expertise and whether there is a local position. This is why I have applied for MSL positions. However, this has come with considerable objections from the gatekeepers. D-degree, OIG regulations, not clinical enough, etc. If you defend you background with these gatekeepers, they start questioning you ability to build relationships.

This is odd because when I speak with regional MSLs and VP of Clinical Development, I get a better response. Today, I spoke with an executive director and VP of Oncology at a major pharma company. He told me that they hire MSLs with a MS. There is no cut and dry policy for D-degrees or any OIG guidelines that mandate that a MSL have a D degree. Further, he agrees doctors are not less likely to talk with a non D-degree MSL; it all depends on the level of one's therapeutic expertise. We have collaborated with him for over ten years; so I trust his opinion over HR, MSL recruiters, and MSLs selling books. I think this whole D-degree is a smoke screen to discourage others from applying and so recruiters with an extensive network have an advantage to promote this notion w/o trying to understand what adds scientific value to the medical affairs team. He'll introduce me to several MSLs at the company. Any questions I should ask him about medical affairs or his referrals?

Dick you said "Nice to have, but the hiring manager will be more interested in your personal skills and "train-ability" than in how many papers you have published."

How would you prove that you have the right personal skills w/o having any direct sales experience?

Do you have any suggestions about reading materials on closing skills and dealing with objections?

I will follow-up with Dave about positioning myself for sales positions and this diagnostics MSL/Sales idea.
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Re: Career Quagmire: Solutions Welcome

Postby Dick Woodward » Fri Feb 05, 2016 10:13 am

Nate:

One of the better books on selling is "Relationship Selling" by Jim Cathcart. Most of the books out there (e.g. "How to Master the Art of Selling") are based upon transactional selling - the "I win, you lose" kind of selling. This type of selling is found most frequently in sales of houses, cars and insurance and those are the three areas that are focused on in those books. What houses, cars and insurance have in common is that they are typically one-time sales. When dealing with reagents, lab equipment and the like, you want to build the potential for repeat sales, and that requires a relationship with the purchaser.

With regard to personal skills, that is what the interviewer will assess when you meet. I have interviewed a lot of people for their first sales positions, and I always look for someone who is personable, relaxed, and gives what I consider proper answers to questions about their past behaviors. I also look for "canned answers" that lack in sincerity - I don't want to hire people who work from a script.

In one of your posts, you mention that you have mostly been asked behavioral questions rather than technical ones. This is pretty standard. You have the technical credential, so it is generally a given that you can learn whatever technology that you will be selling; they want to understand how you can deal with people. Your past behaviors are a great predictor of future behaviors. Dave Jensen wrote a good article on this some time back - it can be found at http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/1999/02/first-encounters-behavioral-interviewing.

I confess to doing one of the more extreme types of behavioral interviewing. I once had a sales force where the most common degree, after the BS, was the PhD. (We were selling high-end biosafety testing, and the technical competence was critical.) I would sometimes ask candidates to prepare a short technical talk - the subject was up to them - and present it to a group of our scientists. What they did not know was that I had asked one of the scientists to challenge everything that the candidate said, and to do so in a rather aggressive manner. I really didn't care about the talk - I wanted to see how the candidate behaved in a stressful situation. Some of our clients could be rather annoying, and I wanted to be certain that the candidate could stay cool and focused in that sort of situation. It resulted in very good hires.

Another thing to consider - you seem to be focused on staying in the Dallas area. Unless there is a compelling reason to stay there, you may wish to open yourself up for a relocation. In many cases, a company wishing to hire a salesperson (or whatever) will look first in the geographic area to be served; however, if they cannot find someone there, they will hire a good candidate and move them to where they are needed.

Best of luck,

Dick
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Re: Career Quagmire: Solutions Welcome

Postby D.X. » Fri Feb 05, 2016 2:37 pm

Nate W. wrote:
Dick Woodward wrote:Nate:

Don't know what Dave Walker PM'd you, but I would take it seriously - he knows whereof he speaks.

If you are truly interested in sales (a great way to get started on the business side of things, by the way), the PhD is absolutely not necessary. Nice to have, but the hiring manager will be more interested in your personal skills and "train-ability" than in how many papers you have published. From what you describe, your scientific background is quite sufficient for all of the sales positions that I am familiar with, including the ones that have a lot of PhDs running around.

Once you get into that first business position, your academic credential will matter less than your track record of success. There will be some positions that you won't qualify for - VP of R&D or certain medical affairs positions, for example - but on the business side, I don't know of too many positions where the PhD is required.

If you are asked about why you did not get a PhD, keep it simple. Say something like "The details are complicated, but it involves my PI failing to obtain tenure and leaving for a non-lab position at the same time that the program ran into financial issues and was unable to support me any further. It just was not feasible for me to continue." If they press you, you can tell them the additional details, but they probably won't. The reason that they are asking is that the MS is often seen as a "failure degree" - what they give a student who flunks out of the PhD program. I am confident that once they see that this is not the case, and you were unable to get the PhD as a result of events beyond your control, this will cease to be a problem.

Best of luck to you - keep us posted as to your success.

Dick


Dear Dick, Thanks for your always sage advice. I agree with your comments about reagent sales positions. This is not a huge sales region for biotech sales to academic labs. It has only one major academic medical center. There are a considerable number of hospitals; thus, there are many MSLs advertised in the Dallas metro area. Many more MSL positions than reagent sales positions located here. Of note, many reagent companies will not sell to both hospitals and academic labs; there can be a fire wall between the two.

I have tried the typical detailer pharma sales representative positions. Managers who I have spoken with in this space tell me that you are too technical and don't have a proven sales track record. Reagent sales positions have been hit or miss depending on whether they are willing to train someone with the technical expertise and whether there is a local position. This is why I have applied for MSL positions. However, this has come with considerable objections from the gatekeepers. D-degree, OIG regulations, not clinical enough, etc. If you defend you background with these gatekeepers, they start questioning you ability to build relationships.

This is odd because when I speak with regional MSLs and VP of Clinical Development, I get a better response. Today, I spoke with an executive director and VP of Oncology at a major pharma company. He told me that they hire MSLs with a MS. There is no cut and dry policy for D-degrees or any OIG guidelines that mandate that a MSL have a D degree. Further, he agrees doctors are not less likely to talk with a non D-degree MSL; it all depends on the level of one's therapeutic expertise. We have collaborated with him for over ten years; so I trust his opinion over HR, MSL recruiters, and MSLs selling books. I think this whole D-degree is a smoke screen to discourage others from applying and so recruiters with an extensive network have an advantage to promote this notion w/o trying to understand what adds scientific value to the medical affairs team. He'll introduce me to several MSLs at the company. Any questions I should ask him about medical affairs or his referrals?

Dick you said "Nice to have, but the hiring manager will be more interested in your personal skills and "train-ability" than in how many papers you have published."

How would you prove that you have the right personal skills w/o having any direct sales experience?

Do you have any suggestions about reading materials on closing skills and dealing with objections?

I will follow-up with Dave about positioning myself for sales positions and this diagnostics MSL/Sales idea.



Hi Nate,

I recommend you are careful with cherry picking on view over another - especially ones you want to hear when it comes to your MSL persuit. Especially recruiters and HR who are well in tuned with the overall market i would not toss thier views aside over one ED or VP. You may want to ask that ED and VP exactly how many non PhD, PharmD, and MDs they have on thier teams and of the non PhD, MD, or PharmD, howmany are HCP Nurses. You will get the real picture. Yes your contact is right for OIG, specifically they mention "scientifically qualified" but the industry has taken thier stance. If thier is a non phd, md, ofr pharmdm di you really want to be on a team where you are a minority, or a company?

Trust me hear you run the risk if you wont get the role that you wont get too far, the lack thereof a the PhD will cime to bite yiu in the future - your career growth in Medical Affairs will be very very limited, if any. Just look around and look at the profiles. Do you really want to play in an area where you will always be at risk? Or the odd one out? You are competing in a an area where you truely are at a competitive disadvantage.

If by now you havent secured a role here, then as i said before, re evaluate. You may be spending time and resourses where there are little returns. Avoid cherry picking and ask very direct questions...how many? The how many as Directors. then how many outside that function, that is within Medical Affairs. If you can get to the numbers. You will get closer to the truth - use linkedin..map it for your self. Go to that persons company on linkedin, find the MSLs, and look at thier profiles.

I only mention as a guide si that you dont waste you time. As i read it the clock is ticking and you neec to choose a path rather than dilly dally in areas where you are at a competitve disadvantage, i.ve giving you an area to look at - 3rd Party Service Providers.

Hope this helps but be objective and avoid cherry picking...look at the environment. First rule kf marketing - know your territory.

Good luck,

Dx
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