Let me turn back time one year: Welcome to January 2014. I had just started my master’s thesis, and I was aware that I had to find out what my life should look like after studies. I was already convinced that a graduate programme would be a good option for me. But nowadays many companies offer graduate programmes, and so I could opt for various industries.
To narrow down my options I assessed various programmes on their ability to satisfy three wishes:
- I wanted to work for a company where I’d being doing something meaningful
- I wanted to work for a company that would care about my professional and personal development
- I wanted to work for a company that could offer me international opportunities
Three companies stood out to me, one of them, however, in an industry that I had absolutely no knowledge about; Novo Nordisk and diabetes care.
Although Novo Nordisk’s graduate programme appeared to satisfy my three wishes, I was left with two concerns. Can I at all get accepted into such a competitive programme with no prior experience with the industry? And if yes, would I actually want to apply?
Can I apply? (Can I get in?)
Short answer: yes (all you need is two large free-range eggs, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, a knob of butter and some cheddar cheese – no wait, that’s an omelet, but this may be a tasty companion for your application writing). My point is, you do not need to have experience with pharma to get into the programme.
My master’s in marketing and communications had been focusing on developing small geniuses primarily for the FMCG industry or advertising/communication agencies, and pharmaceutical companies did not figure in the cases we worked on throughout the degree.
That meant, one year ago I knew as much about the pharmaceutical industry as about navigating a burning spaceship through a meteor storm – which is rather sparse.
Now, despite my non-existing experience with the industry, I managed to get in. Of course, I prepared as much as possible throughout the application process, but it will be fair to say that my knowledge about diabetes and pharma was still at a very basic level when I flew in for the graduate recruitment centre in April.
My advice for other pharma-novices interested in applying is to learn the basics about the company and industry in advance of the telephone interview and recruitment centre. Use the corporate website, the graduate blog and use various news sites to immerse yourself into what is currently happening in the industry.
Most important, however, is your motivation and attitude – why do you want to work in Novo Nordisk? As one of the programme managers (Ove) puts it: we hire for attitude and develop for skills – and not the other way around. In-depth knowledge on the products and the industry can be developed – the right attitude rather not.
Should I apply?
Short answer: there is no short answer. It will depend on what you want from your job, and I think my best help for this question will be to list a few additional questions that you can ask yourself to reach an answer.
(1) How do you feel about starting from scratch?
It is no secret that especially the first months can be hard and frustrating when you participate in meetings where every second word or abbreviation is new to you. One must be willing to see this as a learning opportunity, and understand that it takes a bit extra from you to get up to speed. That being said, you do not need to be an expert on the industry or products to contribute to your team already in the first rotation – analytical qualities and a curious mind can be useful from day one.
(2) How do you feel about working in a relatively slow-moving industry?
The pace of developing, launching and getting new medicines to the market is certainly slower than that for consumer electronics, toys, beauty products, etc., and you should ask yourself if this matters to you. However, be aware that whereas new product launches may not be happening on a monthly basis in this industry, other areas – such as lifecycle management – present highly interesting work tasks.
(3) How do you feel about working in a highly regulated industry?
In this industry, regulations establish certain structures and procedures to be followed. This is necessary and understandable. Looking back at my first four months, I still feel that there has been plenty of room for creative work, and developing competitive solutions “inside the box” may actually be even more challenging than to do so “outside the box”. However, if you get claustrophobic in a structured environment, this industry may not be your first choice.
I hope this post has been helpful to those of you with limited knowledge on the industry, and for those interested in applying, find your preferred programme and send us your application.
If you have other topics you would like addressed here on the blog, let me know, and I will give it a shot!