Random Ramblings about stuff I see going on in biotech, internet and the stuff I read.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Industry telling Industry about career options....

In the comments back here, Harry made a comment about the AAAS board. The next paragraph was this.

It may be that this is simply a function of the age of most of the forum participants. My impression is that most of the people posting there are grad students and postdocs, with a few people who have recently transitioned to more permanent positions. Also, people who are established in industry probably have other, more efficient means of obtaining career advice, including places like linkedin, their own network of contacts, or other more industry-specific blogs and forums.

Leaving aside the AAAS comments, as I think that issue has been sufficiently beaten, I would like to comment on the part where industry people communicate with each other. More specifically I would say that I don't think we are any better! There is no site I can go to and ask questions on the industry side either.

How do I know what I want to do next. ummm... I don't really, but I do look at succesful people and talk to them. I have had the "pleasure" of spending a large amount of time with a CEO and currently report to a very senior person at the large company. By most measures I am pretty far up the chain. BUT - I do spend an inordinate amount of time going "what am I doing?". SO - I ask. Not in a pleading kind of way, and only with people I can trust.

To flesh this out a bit, and I have absolutely NO idea on whether this works for other people or even will work for other people.

After I work with people for awhile (defined as more than just a few days - easily several weeks) I figure out which ones are bright, have made good decisions, and know the lay of the corporate landscape. You need to, very quickly, weed out the people who whine about where they are, complain about how "the man" kept them down or the organization doesn't appreciate them, or rely on "seniority" to get where they are going. I, and this fits with me, look for the people who are on board with the idea of driving the organization ahead as rapidly as possible. NOTE: They have to be realistic as to what the political landscape of a company will allow. Just being a reactionary highly driven pain in the rear will get you to irrelevant NOT to results.

So - once I know those people - I learn from them. If they do something in a meeting that doesn't fit with what I know their goals are - ask them later and alone why they did that. Tell them where you are trying to go, they may tell you something about the way to get there. Tell them what you are trying to learn. If they respect you, they will push opportunities for those things your way.

That is how I do it... BECAUSE I don't know any other way. I *wish* there was a place to ask questions. I wish that there were more people writing about it. I wish there were "instructions".

All of that said, these things may be impossible. The "instructions" most certainly are impossible as the situations are all over the place. The "board" probably wouldn't work as I don't, in general, trust people I don't know (and thus write a blog for people I don't know thinking they might care about what I say....).

SO - LinkedIn and it's ilk are useful to me for finding people and for when I was hunting for jobs. For getting career advice, I haven't found them to be too useful (and I only use LinkedIn and Plaxo)


harry haller said...

I'm not sure if you were trying to refute my comments that many people in industry have better ways to get career information -- but I think you've actually kind of proved my point. You are an industry insider. When you have a problem that is related to your professional advancement, you have an established network of professionals -- including the CEO you mentioned -- to either explicitly question, or to watchfully observe. People like you are not spending a lot of time posting your career questions on forums to be answered by strangers.

Even if there aren't any internet forums specifically dedicated to biotech/pharma career advancement, I think that you could get better use from resources like Linkedin than you are obtaining. The power of Linkedin [I don't use Plaxo -- I used to hate being bombarded by automatically generated Plaxo invitations from people I barely knew] is that it allows you to find contacts of your contacts who have a particular type of expertise. Then you can have your contacts arrange to put you in touch directly. For example, I am a medical writer, and I recently had a question about a kind of project that I didn't have much experience with. Using Linkedin, I was able to quickly find several people who were friends of friends who had the expertise I was looking for. There is also a "question" section, where you can post questions to your network directly. I think these uses are more powerful applications of Linkedin than the purely job search function, which is how a lot of people tend to think of it.

yes said...


Definatly NOT trying to refute you, but as you point out, also not pointing at a "forum". I would agree that I have a great network to help me make career decisions.

I don't use LinkedIn like you describe, but I do totally see that power in it. For Career decision type stuff, I still don't think I would use it that way. I trust peoples advice on stuff more when I know them better and understand their bias's on matters. Generic people on forums, I trust less. Still read, because it is interesting and I stand a very good chance of learning something but I am still a bit skeptical of a radically different approach than I would be using otherwise. If someone in my network tells me to behave totally differently (and they have, in sales presentations, changed me dramatically) I will (depending on the person obviously) do it. The same advice from a forum...less likely to make a radical change.

For that reason, I understand your LinkedIn point, but am leery of doing it.