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Shelley DurazoShelley Durazo received her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2008, and since fall of 2009, has been a graduate student in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Department at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center.

Students need to step away from the bench and learn about other aspects of pharmaceutical science such as drug development, clinical trial design, patent law, and regulatory affairs. Those with a diverse skillset will be more employable, fit the job description for more jobs, and be more apt to improving public health and leaving a bigger footprint. But diversifying your skillset is not enough. Merck & Co., Inc., recently announced its plan to cut annual costs by $2.5 billion by the end of 2015 and eliminate 8500 jobs, which will flood the market with excellent job candidates with relevant experience. With the job market becoming more competitive due to the declining number of jobs and increasing number of unemployed scientists, students need to step up their game.

Even with the dismal job market and stiff competition, Ph.D. students so often fail to seek extracurricular professional activities, which in some cases may be the deciding factor for a job candidate. Learned-knowledge and experiences are important, but the way you go about seeking growth in your profession is just as important. One key to my own strategy is networking. Networking is not just handing your business card to someone; it involves interacting and maintaining a professional relationship. So far, my networking experiences have strengthened my communication, professionalism, organization, prioritization, etc., while still giving me access to a breadth of new pharmaceutical science.

Here are some key points that I hope will help leverage employability:

1. Have a clear direction in mind for your career goals. Know what position (or types of positions) you are looking for. Know your strengths and weaknesses and how you fit into the job description.

2. Join LinkedIn and spruce up your profile with a relevant summary. If you are actively looking for a job, state this in your summary and the type of job you are looking for. Be sure to highlight your abilities and what sets you apart from other candidates. Your profile will essentially be your résumé posted online.

3. Become an active member in student chapters outside your primary field of expertise such as joining the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs—a society that provides physicians with guidance in bringing their ideas to market—or local university clubs such as Alternatives in Science.

4. Seek other professional groups in your local area. For instance, Denver has a Regulatory Affairs Professional Society local group. In the Washington, D.C., area, there is a professional group called Women in Bio (WIB), which has frequent networking events.

Reach into your network bag and find colleagues that are in small startup companies that could use a free assessment of their technology, patent, regulatory process, or other operation. This will allow you to gain real world experience and the company will gain some free advice.

More About the Author

Shelley Durazo’s research is focused on ocular drug delivery and nanotechnology; however, she has broad expertise in patent law, technology transfer, and regulatory affairs. Currently, Shelley is an active student member in the AAPS Regulatory Sciences section and the Non-Clinical Dosage Formulation focus group. She is also a student representative for the Bioinnovation and Entrepreneurship certificate program at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.