The Career Doctor: Career Advice for All
A Career College and Job-Search Advice Column
Dr. Randall Hansen a nationally recognized career expert is the Career Doctor. Discover more about Dr. Hansen read about the purpose of this column and find previous issues of this column at the home of The Career Doctor.
If you have any college career or job-related questions or comments that Dr. Hansen could provide valuable assistance with please feel free to email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Hansen writes this column on a biweekly basis.
Note: Readers can find other columns from this year in Current Year Archives of The Career Doctor Q&A.
In This Issue (07/15/05):
- Changing fields to pharmaceutical sales representative
- Deciding on a career while still in high school
- Re-entering the workforce after being fired
- Overcoming the overqualified label
|Q:|| Karly writes: Two years ago I received a bachelor’s degree in marketing and have been working in sales for a large consumer goods company. I am responsible for developing and maintaining accounts for a specific region pushing current or new lines of our food products.
However I have always had an interest in pharmaceutical sales and I feel my two years in sales now gives me a better chance of achieving my dream.
How do I go about making the switch from food to meds?
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: You break into pharmaceutical sales by answering these two questions: How am I qualified for a position? How will I expand my network to get contacts that can assist me?
Pharmaceutical sales is a booming career choice right now — all pharmaceutical companies have sales reps and many are hiring more. Of course the downside is that there are more job-seekers interested than there are slots’ so the competition is pretty fierce.
So are you qualified to apply? The basic requirements for most pharmaceutical sales positions are a 4-year degree sales experience (business-to-business or medical industry best) proven track record of achievement strong communications and organizational skills and a clean driving record. Some background in the sciences (even taking a few life science classes in college) is helpful. And this may be obvious but you must also not be a drug user of any sort; expect to be drug-tested.
Okay so based on what you’ve told me you sound like you could be qualified to make the career switch’ so how can you expand your network?
Networking is always an essential job-search tool but in any career field as hot as pharmaceutical sales it is just about the only way to get a job lead. Some firms will place job ads go to job fairs and hire headhunters but the vast majority prefer to fill positions through word-of-mouth’ through referrals.
If you have friends or associates who are doctors (including your personal physician) — and if not now is the time to find and build these relationships — ask them for the contact information of the reps that call on them; or better ask to meet the reps when they make their next office visits.
Read our article So You Want to Get Into Pharmaceutical Sales…
And use this tool to go directly to the career/employment centers of these Pharmaceutical Companies.
|Q:|| Alma writes: My name is Alma and I am a high school student and I am so confused because I don’t know what career I want. I thought that I liked journalism because I like to write. But I am not even good writing English. I really like history and Spanish literature but I don’t know if there is any career that includes those subjects. Right now I am taking my first semester of journalism in school and I am getting into the school newspaper next semester. But I don’t know if I really want to become a journalist.
Can you help?
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: First let me state that confusion is okay. You don’t need to have your whole life planned out while you’re still in high school. And even if my advice brings you closer to a career choice the courses you take in college may totally change your career choices’ and that’s okay too.
Now is the point in your life to explore different paths. So take the journalism class and write for the school newspaper. Writing is one of those skills that can easily improve the more you do it. So since you enjoy writing keep at it. Ask one of your English teachers for some extra guidance or tutoring.
Meanwhile do some research on careers related to writing history and Spanish literature. Talk with your teachers and go to the library or online and research those subjects. You’ll be surprised at how many careers use the skills from these subjects.
You can also get a clue about what matters to you most by examining how you spend your time. Make a list of the activities you do the most — and that you most enjoy. Look for some common themes. For example if you find you really do spend a lot of time writing whether in a journal or poetry or whatever that should be a sign that writing really is important to you.
And by the way there are lots of career possibilities beyond just journalism for people who enjoy writing.
Use the Career Exploration Tools and Resources found in this section of Quintessential Careers to help you in your quest.
|Q:|| Anonymous writes: After almost 20 years of employment with the same company I was fired last September due to excessive tardiness. I have read "Getting Fired: An Opportunity for Change and Growth" and found it very helpful. However the circumstances that led to my termination are very personal. It involved a divorce and a bout of depression that required psychiatric help and medication.
Leading to my termination. I have a very good resume 11 consecutive years of perfect attendance award good references from my former employer. I am physically and mentally fit for employment and I am eager to get back into the work force. How can I explain this to a potential employer?
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: First let me offer both my condolences (on the divorce and loss of your job) and congratulations (for seeking and getting the help you needed).
I think the first thing you need to do in terms of your job-search is bury all the bad stuff as deeply as possible. Prospective employers do not want to know any of the personal stuff so ideally no explanation is necessary. Certainly never — and I mean never — raise any negative issue yourself.
But you do need to be prepared to discuss why you are without a job and why you are currently seeking a new one. But the story you present does not have to mention your personal issues. I would suggest volunteering consulting or temping as ways to get some new experience on your resume — and thus avoid having the question ever raised. And if it were raised you could say you were fired for some issues that have since been resolved.
By the way unless you have a very spiteful boss your former employer will never give a reason for why you were fired’ but that does not mean you make up a lie about it either.
As for references why not ask some of your former co-workers whether they would feel comfortable providing a reference for you? References do not have to be former bosses or supervisors. And again by temping or volunteering you’ll be able to get some new references.
|Q:|| Ian writes: I am having problems finding a job but not for the reasons you would expect. I have a professionally developed resume and I am getting a lot of interviews. The consistent feedback that I am getting from employers is that I am ‘Over Qualified.’ Being a professional marketing coordinator who also has internet design skills I never expected finding a job would be this hard.
I have spoken with professional employment counselors who tell me that often the interviewer may say ‘Over Qualified’ as a way for them to not to tell me that I am a threat to them and may be out for their position.
I would really like your feedback as to what I should do.
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: Time for a douse of honesty and reality. You need to examine your qualifications and credentials and compare those to the jobs you have been seeking. Do you consistently have more experience than the jobs require? If so why are you applying for those positions and not others?
My sense of your situation is that you are in fact coming across as overqualified for a number of the positions that you have been seeking.
Overqualified is not code for he is ‘a threat who will be going after my job.’ Sorry. Overqualified is code for ‘will not fit the current position’ — and be forewarned that it is a difficult label to overcome. Typically you’re overqualified if you have too much experience too much education or too high a salary’ how many of these fit your situation?
You’re in marketing so you know that job-hunting is all about developing your brand and creating a story that prospective employers will understand. You are creating an image with your cover letter resume and interviewing’ In your case perhaps the wrong image.
There are two things you should do. First you need to take a look at your resume and make sure you are not selling yourself to an extreme — either too little or too much. Second you need to evaluate the best types of jobs that fit someone with your background.
For more suggestions read my article Fighting the Overqualified Label: 10 Tactics for a Successful Job-Search published on Quintessential Careers.