When transitioning to a new role, a new industry or just seeing what opportunities may exist; Conferences should be part of your career marketing mix. I often field calls from PhDs, PharmDs and MDs seeking to transition into the Pharma Medical Science Liaison role with no industry experience but having the building blocks for success; a doctorate, deep therapeutic and scientific knowledge and perhaps even existing relationships with Key Opinion Leaders. Conferences can provide the overview and relationships that take those building blocks and make a career. Here is an example of how to use a conference to network into job opportunities.
Although we may all be getting better at social networking, the original social networking occurs face to face and the giant industry that is medical conferences exists to bring people, products, data and messaging together. First target your therapeutic area (TA) and find the relevant conferences, both national and regional. Let’s say your TA is oncology, there is an American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) that meets every year in Chicago the first week of June. Using this as our example, go to the conference Expo area of the website 6-8 weeks in advance, say early April, and make a list of the Pharma, Biotech, Medical Device and CRO organizations that have bought space on the floor. Now you have your target list of organizations that may need to hire an MSL in Oncology.
Bring that target list to your already professionally developed LinkedIn profile and send out very strategic connection requests. First target the position titles you should contact; in this case people in Medical Affairs. Get to know your target organization’s various roles and who can help you. Send your connection requests to MSLs, MSL leadership, Medical Information and Safety Directors and Managers, Medical Directors and Publication and Communication Directors and Managers all within the Pharma Medical Affairs department.
In the 300 characters you are allowed for a connection request on LinkedIn ask the following; Are you going to ASCO? I’d like to meet and learn more about your products and pipeline and introduce myself.
Meet those that respond at the convention floor. Engage them in memorable conversation around their products and pipeline and introduce yourself in your current role as someone looking to transition to an MSL position. Do not ask for help or information in any way unless they offer. You are networking to engage them in industry focused dialog, not job hunting. The information they give you about their products and pipeline is part of your transition research and could prove very helpful in future interviews. But this discussion is about making an impression, so be sure to ask questions and engage in a back-and-forth conversation to develop a relationship. It is okay to go off topic now and then, but get back to a professional topic to build the impression you want to stick.
If anyone responds that they are not going to ASCO, try to set up a phone call for the same discussion. Once you are on the Expo floor (no need to buy the full conference pass, you can usually just buy an Expo pass for much less) go to your appointments and to all the other company’s booths on your target list. Go around the main booth at the larger companies to find the Medical or Scientific Affairs desk to begin your conversation.
Target the next regional conference and repeat the process always following up and staying in touch with your network. Engage in the professional interaction of conferences and your career will follow!
Follow up with everyone you meet every two to four weeks with some industry news of interest like what product got approved or rejected or some interesting clinical trial result recently released and give the slightest update possible on your career transition progress.
Want to talk some more? As an Executive Recruiter in Medical and Regulatory Affairs, I would love to connect. Nihar Parikh at firstname.lastname@example.org.