Lawrence Carter, Senior Director of Clinical Development at Jazz Pharmaceuticals, spoke at the ASPET Graduate Student-Postdoctoral Colloquium: How to Get Started on Saturday afternoon. The session was filled with talented scientists in careers from academia, industry, and the government sector. I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Carter and learned how his career has led to his current position at Jazz Pharmaceuticals, advice on ways to find positions in industry, as well as advice from his presentation on how to land a job in industry.
Dr. Carter received his undergraduate degree in Biology and Psychology at Kalamazoo College, and was himself a participant in the SURF program at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio (UTHSCSA). Through his undergraduate research experience, he was exposed to the field of behavioral pharmacology and joined the Pharmacology graduate program at UTHSCSA. Dr. Carter then completed a postdoc at Johns Hopkins University in which he performed human behavioral pharmacology research. Following his postdoctoral fellowship, he joined Jazz Pharmaceuticals as a Medical Science Liaison. Since then, he joined the faculty in the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and he maintains an adjunct position in the Pharm & Tox department at UAMS.
What does a Medical Science Liaison do?
In his previous position as Medical Science Liaison, Dr. Carter acted as the communicator between Jazz Pharmaceuticals and academic institutions and clinicians, as well as a resource for grant review and potential collaborations. “The MSL position is sort of like a field based scientist position,” he said. “You’re kind of the go between the inside of the company and the external face of the company for academic institutions and clinicians. You’re answering questions that are more scientific in nature than commercial in nature and you’re collaborating with folks,” he commented. Dr. Carter also interacts with scientists to learn about the cutting edge of the field and to tap into that expertise to benefit the company. In reverse, researchers communicate with the company though the Medical Science Liaison. “You might approach the company, saying, ‘Hey I’ve got this question about the drug that the sales rep can’t answer. I want to talk to a scientist.” When researchers are interested in doing some type of research with the drug, they would talk with Dr. Carter about potential research projects.
How does one find industry positions in their specific field of research?
• Review scientific literature for use of FDA-approved drugs, and find out who sells them
• Visit http://www.clinicaltrials.gov to determine who is performing clinical research in your field
• The Drug Information Association (DIA) conference is a prominent industry conference
• Keep up to date with companies by reading the industry and biotech news
• Review currently available job postings
Working with Pharmaceutical Companies: What does Industry Want from You?
Dr. Carter’s talk focused on the steps that trainees can take to become attractive candidates for industry careers and on several valuable resources to utilize along the way.
1. Become so good they can’t ignore you.
Attain expertise in at least one area. This will enhance your career capital, and open you to new opportunities. Dr. Carter added that people like to do things they are good at. He also recommended the following books as guides on your path to excellence.
Mastery by Robert Green
This book offers hard truths about the steps towards mastery of any skill. It discusses the following lessons:
• Value learning over money
• Expand your horizons
• Revert toward a feeling of inferiority (not to assume that you are the expert)
• Trust the process
• Move towards resistance and pain
• Apprentice yourself in failure
• Appreciate the how behind the what
• Advance through trial and error
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams
In this book by Dilbert comic author Scott Adams, the mastery of a few choice skills is also emphasized. Two important points from the book are that every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success and that the more you know, the more you can know.
2. Focus your efforts on strategic opportunities for you.
Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin
In “Playing to Win,” Lafley and Martin challenge readers to redefine their definition of strategy and winning in business. They ask the following questions:
• What is winning?
• Where are you going to play?
• How are you going to win?
• What capabilities and qualities must you have?
These questions may be used when considering jobs in industry. First, what do you want to do in industry? Bench research, regulation, or commercialization, for example? Next, where do you want to work? What type of schedule would you like? Industry is not monolithic– there are companies of various sizes and stages of development. Some companies are focused in a specific field of research. Based on what you want to do, find a company with a strong fit. Once you have chosen a few companies of interest, determine a strategy for finding jobs by carefully choosing with whom you choose to network, and learn how best to prepare for interviews in that position. Last, when considering positions from which to apply, use the job advertisement to establish what capabilities and qualities you must have to achieve this position.
3. Learn to be a good salesperson (of yourself).
Guerilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams by Kimm Alayne Walton, J.D.
While aimed towards law, this book is a good resource for someone seeking a new job. In fact, they offer a money-back guarantee and this book is one Dr. Carter goes to when he prepares for job interviews. It offers several valuable suggestions that are applicable to many careers.
• Know everything you can about your employer and your interviewers
• Create your infomercial. Take the requirements in the job posting and match them to your top accomplishments. For example, this could be phrased by, “I have this job related skill you are looking for as evidenced by the following accomplishments on my CV.” If the job posting requires someone with excellent communication skills, state, “I have excellent communication skills, as evidenced by the awards that I have gotten for my teaching and for the invited presentations that I have been asked to give.” Select 3-5 of these required skills to insert into your conversations, and make sure that you get them across by the end of the interview.
• Develop and polish your “Miss Americas.” You rarely see a Miss America candidate stumble over the questions she is asked, as she has rehearsed her responses to these questions previously. For your job interview, perfect your elevator pitch and review likely interview questions. If there is anything that can be perceived as negative on your CV, know how to put a positive spin on it so that you may address it when it comes up.
Bonus Book Recommendation:
Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas
“What did FDR, Socrates, Shakespeare and Jesus have in common? According to Sobel and Panas, they all knew how to ask “power questions.” Read this book, and you will too!”
– Marshall Goldsmith, author of the New York Times bestsellers MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There