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Networking in industry

Courtney Chandler
Oct. 24, 2019

Talking to people already working in your area of interest can be an important part of deciding on a career path. Many academic institutions focus on networking for academic positions, leaving those pursuing other types of careers with fewer options to meet and greet those in their areas of interest.

Even at institutions that do provide nonacademic-focused networking events, more exposure can increase your contacts within the industry, giving you a better understanding of what your career might look like once you’re on the job.

This week, we’re taking a look at the ways you can get involved in networking for jobs in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. If you’re still pursuing your degree, looking to make a career change, or just looking to expand your contacts, these networks are a great place to start.

But, first, let’s acknowledge a caveat. Networking is different for everybody, as was discussed in a recent article in ASBMB Today. The biotech and pharmaceutical industries still have strides to make in the areas of inclusion, which may leave many feeling like they don’t have a spot at the table. While not exhaustive, we hope some of the options listed below serve as a starting point for expanding your network.

Online networking

The digital age has ushered in a whole new world of networking opportunities, allowing people with shared interests across the nation and globe to connect. Online networking is especially useful for those who don’t have access to in-person events.

LinkedIn is a great place to start browsing for biotech- and pharma-related networking groups. A simple Google search should yield results, but here are some suggestions to get you started.

The professionals in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry group is one of the largest with more than 206,500 members from around the world. It broadly encompasses jobs surrounding the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, and members regularly post about events and job openings.

Research-minded scientists in industry should consider joining Rx&D – biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology research and development. With more than 75,000 members, this group specifically focuses on research and development across the biotech and pharmaceutical fields and also has subgroups that focus on specific aspects including drug discovery, chemistry and pharmacology.

If you’re more interested in the clinical arm of industry research, the clinical research professionals group covers the fields of clinical operations, data management, medical writing and others related to the execution and management of clinical research trials.

Minorities are largely underrepresented in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, a fact that groups like the National Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Association (NBPA) are trying to change. NBPA focuses specifically on African Americans in the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry and connects with its members largely through its LinkedIn page and Twitter.

Local networking 

Finding pharmaceutical- or biotech-focused groups in your area may be the best bet for consistent face-to-face networking, although these groups can be disparate depending on where you live and your access to transportation. We’ve highlighted a few here.   

Regional groups such as the bio pharma networking group (BPNG) host montly networking events in North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts (and a recently opened chapter in Canada). The events focus on facilitating connections between industry and life science professionals.

State-specific groups such as the San Diego biotechnology networkNorth Carolina biotechnology center, and Texas industry cluster initiative are great resources for local events and job listings. Most events are searchable by type or location and are generally open to individuals in all stages of their careers.

You could also check out groups such as Women in Bio and the Association of Women in Science, both of which have chapters that host events nationwide for women in research and life-science careers including industry.

Don’t see your area listed here? Try looking on websites such as Meetup, where you can search for specific groups related to your area of interest. The scope and magnitude of each group varies, so be sure to check out the descriptions and also search using related terms. Useful search topics include pharmaceutical industry, biotechnology, pharmaceutical sciences, and medical technology.

Using conferences to your advantage.

If you’re serious about a job in industry, it may be worth it to attend a conference specifically related to the biotech or pharma industry you’re interested in. There are many annual national and international conferences that focus specifically on industry research and include networking events and career resources.

The American Association of Pharmaceutical Sciences (AAPS) hosts an annual PharmSci conference in the fall of each year and there’s still time to register for this year’s conference in San Antonio, TX. The meeting has different tracks that focus on specific aspects of pharmaceutical sciences and includes networking opportunities for its attendees.

Don’t forget to also take advantage of networking opportunities at more academic-focused conferences as well. Check the conference schedule for events that provide this type of networking. For example, ASBMB typically has a Networking 101 session during its annual meeting in the spring, and you can submit an abstract and register for it now..

Even if there aren’t industry-specific networking events, talking with pharma and biotech sponsors at their company booths can be a great way to build connections.

If you’re unsure about how to network, ASBMB’s tutorial is a useful primer. 

Job openings

If you’re ready to jump into the job market, here are a few job listings that may be of interest: 

AstraZeneca is looking for a scientist for viral and gene therapies at their location in Gaithersburg, Md., to develop next-generation therapies. 

MedPace is hiring a scientist with specialization in flow cytometry to direct research and development within their laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio

Dragonfly Therapeutics in Waltham, Mass., is hiring a senior research associate to characterize cancer drug candidates and their mechanisms of action.

PPD is hiring an entry-level biochemist at their location in Middleton, Wisc. This position will be responsible for high-quality sample testing for PPD’s pharmaceutical clients. 

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Courtney Chandler

Courtney Chandler is a biochemist and microbiologist in Baltimore, Md., and a careers columnist for ASBMB Today.

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