Hired! Image Makeover Proves Healthy for Pharma Rep

Pharmaceutical sales resume focus keeps career on track.


Ja’Net Adams wasn’t looking for a job in 2008. The 27-year-old mother of a one-year-old was a sales representative at Pfizer, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, and had no intention of entering an unfavorable job market or relocating outside North Carolina.

But fate said otherwise, and Adams was laid off in October along with several others in office.

Between severance and her savings, Adams said she had about an eight-month cushion and initially gave herself six months to find a job, “but after a week or two, I got bored. I realized I had an opportunity to build on what I had done already and wanted to start working again. So I started buckling down.” That included signing up with SalesLadder.

Adams was looking for her first job since she graduated from college with a marketing degree. She knew pharmaceutical companies were laying people off, not hiring; she knew she might need to leave sales; she knew she needed to move fast; and she knew her resume wasn’t ready.

“I was told by several recruiters it needed to be completely re-done,” she said. “They told me it was too task-oriented; it needed to be more results oriented.” Adams was told employers want to see what she had accomplished, not a list of her duties or a description of her job.

“It took me three days to re-do my resume. I re-wrote the whole thing, based on the things I had been told,” she said. She highlighted her experience in a way that showed what she had contributed in her previous position, and she began to see the pharmaceutical sales opportunities she thought were too scarce to rely on.

“The big pharmaceutical companies are laying off,” she said. “But I saw listings from biotech companies, medical supply companies—companies I didn’t know about. These companies are a little harder to get into, a little harder to find out about. Ladders opened the door to other recruiters I didn’t know existed.”

Keep an open mind
From October through early December, Adams interviewed for sales positions, doing phone interviews and face-to-face interviews. She kept an open mind, applying for positions in marketing as well as sales. “I thought, ‘I’m young, I could move into something else,’ ” she said. “I think you have to be open to other areas. Look at a layoff as a chance to discover other passions you might have, look at other industries,” she said.

She landed a job in pharmaceutical sales at InVentiv Health, a Somerset, N.J., company that provides nationwide support and consulting to healthcare and biotechnology companies. The job will allow her to stay in North Carolina. While still in sales, the scope of her job will be more wide-ranging than her position at Pfizer, offering her a new path to her ultimate goal of becoming a hospital representative for a pharmaceutical company. She begins her job at InVentiv in February.

“It’s going to be different,” Adams said. “InVentiv will contract with a pharmaceutical company, and I’ll be working for that company for a while. When that contract ends, I’ll work with another company. I’ll get experience working with more people in my district. I’ll work with a lot more physicians. I want to use this as a learning tool in how to deal with a lot of different people.”

Adams, who is also pleased that this job won’t require relocation, was happy to find a job as quickly as she did. “I had a cutoff of five or six months. That’s when I was going to take something that might make less money, just to have income coming in. A lot of people told me it might take six months, so I was happy to find something in three.”

It helped that she was so diligent in her job search.

“It was a full-time job,” said Adams. “I was always on the computer when I first started, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.” People were surprised when she told them she was so busy during the day. So busy, in fact, that she continued to pay for daycare for her 1-year-old son.

“That was the last thing that was going to go,” she said. “If we had to cut back, I wasn’t giving up daycare,” she said. “I needed to be able to concentrate, and to talk to people on the phone. And when people asked if you’d be available the next day for an interview, you can’t be scrambling for a babysitter.”