From the comments two posts back, comes a successful job search and some advise of their own.
I first posted on your blog sometime in July, asking for advice for my job search. I have posted off and on since then (I am the "anonymous" who kept getting pretty far along before things fell through). As of this past friday, my search is over, and i am very happy with the result. I will be in Boston working as a capital-salesperson for a large diagnostics company. The technology fits very well with my dissertation, and i will be working with a variety of industries throughout new england. (it's a field position). I just wanted you to know I found your blog extremely helpful, and probably wouldn't have considered a sales position until i read your descriptions and opinions.
If I may supplement your advice with some of my own:
1. Don't limit your job search to any function or technology...I interviewed with consulting firms, a variety of biotech, drug, and research tool companies...I pretty much looked for anything that was at least tangetially related. As far as function: apply for consulting, field applications, sales, marketing, etc...anything that will get you out of lab. Try any and every company you can think of or that pops up in a google search.
2. BE PERSISTANT AND BELIEVE IN YOURSELF...This took me 6.5 months and 10 interviews, each with multiple rounds and stretched out over weeks...some of the best advice you gave was to decide what you want to do and keep trying until you get there.
3. It's very difficult, but if at all possible, having an offer (even one you won't take) in hand when you defend your thesis seems to help grease the wheels considerably. I had a pretty average BME thesis, but the offer letter seemed to help sway the committee (this was another offer that i didn't take...i got the sales offer 1 week after my defense). Just be aware this means you need to work very hard on both the disseratation and the job search process in the last few months of grad school.
4. Know what to expect. I would say my callback rate per submitted application was on the order of 7-8%. That is, for every 100 full applications i would fill out online, i'd get 7 chats with recruiters. And that was after carefully choosing each job i applied for and putting some effort into the cover letter/application. From others i've talked to, i think 7-8% was on the high end.
5. If you are later in the phd program and know you want a businessy role, try to take any business/mgt/entrepreneur classes you can. Get a certificate, if possible...attend seminars, and try to get something on the resume that shows your inclinations and motivation for the business side.
6. GET THE RESUME IN GREAT SHAPE. Mine was 1 page of descriptions and 1 page of publications/posters/business plan competitions/etc...worked really well. Format the sh*t out of it, and get many other people to look at it. Also, ask to look at others' resumes who have been successful at leaving the bench.
7. Network yourself as much as possible...be a wh*re. Talk to your school's alumni association...mine has a databse of alumni that have expressed interest in helping people....try to collect at least one business card/contact at every conference, meeting, semniar, etc you attend your last year of school. Call them all. Repeatedly.
OK, that's all...I just wanted to let the other readers know that it is possible, it is very difficult, and that Dr. Yes's blog is filled with valuable insights.
Happy PhD Sales Guy
(BTW--from looking at various offers, i think this particular position will provide more $$$, benefits, and contacts with fewer hours/week and more flexibility than just about anything else...so i'd endorse sales jobs to anyone looking for an in on the business side)