Will Her Education Compensate for Lack of Pharma Sales Experience?

Deb writes:
I am a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree currently working on my master’s degree. I am interested in a career in pharmaceutical sales. However all the ads state previous sales experience required. My question is whether my RN degree would carry enough weight to offset the previous sales requirement? Secondly would it be best to apply to the companies directly or to go through a recruitment agency? Thank you for your time in replying.

The Career Doctor responds:
Logically you would assume that a medical background is a plus in pharmaceutical sales…but the bottom line is that it is a sales job not a medical job — and many companies want previous sales experience. Can you sell your nursing education and experience as a critical benefit you can bring to the position as a pharmaceutical sales rep? Of course you can — and in fact some companies require some kind of medical
background or education — but you will also need to examine the traits of successful salespeople and determine if you have those skills from previous experiences.
First in what field are you pursuing your master’s degree? If it is nursing — and you know you don’t ever want to work as a nurse again — I would seriously consider withdrawing from graduate school. But before you make such a major decision I would suggest conducting several informational
with sales managers in pharmaceutical companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb Merck Eli Lily and GlaxoSmithKline among others to better understand what these managers want in the field representatives they hire.
Second you need to identify the skills that make salespeople successful. Obviously they need superior communications skills — especially persuasive communications skills; they need to be “people” person — able to build and maintain relationships; they need to be highly-motivated self-starters; they need to be well-organized. You’ll be able to glean all this information from looking at job postings and from your informational interviews.
Third you’ll need to develop a resume that portrays your mix of medical and sales skills and experiences in such a way as to identify you as an ideal candidate for a pharmaceutical sales position.
Best of luck in achieving your goals.


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