Strategies for Success in the Life

Sciences Industry: How to land that first job

Henry Haringsma

B.S. in Cell and Molecular Biology, 2005


Background and experience

• B.S. Cell and Molecular Biology, 2005

• July 2006 – November 2007: Research Technician at the

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

• February – May 2008: Contract Research Associate at


• May 2008 – March 2011: Staff Biologist at Sirna


• March 2011 – Present: Research Associate at Clovis


Life after GVSU

• …begins before you graduate

• Graduate school

– Masters degree/certificate programs

– PhD and/or MD

– non-CMB advanced degrees

• Research in academia

– DFCI, MD Anderson, MSKCC, etc.

• Contract positions

– Aerotek, Kelly, LabPros, etc.

• Biotech/pharma

Grad schools

• Masters programs

– M.S. considered 2 years of work experience

– Non-research programs

• Business, law, marketing, management, etc.

• Patent agent, clinical research associate, quality assurance, forensic science, etc.

• PhD programs

– Recommend a gap year

– Necessary to shatter glass ceiling for “research” positions

• Medical School

– Flexibility to do research and/or practice medicine

Research in academia

• Focus on institutions with many research labs:


– Long hours and low pay, but invaluable and extremely rewarding experience

• can bolster grad school and job applications

Contract positions

• Kelly Scientific, Aerotek, LabPros Inc.

– Easiest way to get an interview in industry

– No benefits, hourly pay

– Contracts are typically 6-12 months


• Foot-in-the-door approach to a full-time position

Biotech and big pharma jobs

• Internships at Merck, Eli Lily, Genentech, etc.

• Without a PhD, you need to be local to interview

– using a relative or friend’s address improves likelihood of interview

Which research setting is right for me?


• Less resources/pay

• Best job security

• More intellectual freedom

• Greater opportunity for publications

Big Pharma

• Lots of money and fancy equipment

• Highly compartmentalized and bureaucratic

• Poor job security

• Defined career path

Early stage biotech

Effective job hunting

• You need to be around a job to get a job

– Biotech hubs = SF Bay, Boston, San Diego

• Duplex your job search

– Register with a contract agency while applying on your own

• Find jobs:

– >

– Individual company websites

• lists all biotech/pharma companies within a given state

• Follow-up one week after applying

CVs and cover letters

• Need to clear the HR hurdle

• A CV is always better than a resume

– Formatting matters!

– Be concise on the first page, descriptive on the following pages

– Word, PDF, and plain text formats

• Cover letters

– Unless specifically noted, always include

– Personalize the first paragraph, but the rest can be templated to make life easier

Universal skills

• Microsoft Excel

• Basic image editing

– Photoshop or Gimp

• Time and data management

– Lab notebooks

– Effective multitasking

• People skills

– Vendor relations, data communication

– Ability to ask for help when lost

How to interview like a champ


– Competitors, recent news, staff history,

• Express willingness to learn

• Interviews are a two-way road

• Ask tough questions

– Status of clinical trials?

– Contingency plans for failures?

– Opportunities for publications/presentations?

– Career advancement track?

I got the job! Now what?

• Confusion is normal, and you’re going to screw up many, many times

• Research doesn’t follow a 9-5 schedule, but don’t work yourself to death

• Take advantage of every opportunity to present your work

• Expose yourself to other facets of the industry

• Don’t be afraid to leverage the resources offered

• Network as much as possible


• Details on my job at Clovis?

• The future of cancer therapy?

• Emerging fields in biotech?

• Which skills are most valuable?

• Tips on surviving the CMB curriculum?