Posted by: Audrey Erbes | March 11, 2009

A Great Resource for Your Career Transition in Tough Times or Otherwise

Sometimes a “good kick in the pants” like that afforded by an economic downturn is a good thing in that it frees us from jobs we didn’t really enjoy or a career path which probably had no future. When I was laid off from Syntex Corporation (along with thousands in Palo Alto) in the min-1990s, I didn’t  initially agree with the outplacement coach that I was getting “out of jail” or embrace the opportunity to explore new career paths. Looking back, it was a downright frigthening experience hitting the pavement without any contacts outside the large international Syntex family of 9,000 and viewed as a “big pharma” misfit by the evolving companies of that era. The challenges happily opened up new career opportunities in both marketing and business development, a chance to cofound a company, developing and teaching the first courses in biotech business and marketing and having time to devote to giving back to the community.

I spent the first three years after the layoff in 1993 (smack dab in the middle of what we thought was a mini-depression in the first half of the 1990s) exploring alternative marketing careers in nonprofit organizations and trying to figure out what “following my joy” might be. I didn’t find a resource like the professional peer-to-peer Bio2Device Group or a  relevant book to read like the carefully researched and written one by Toby Beth Freedman, Ph.D., President, Synapsis Search ( and local guro on life science careers. I had to “sink or swim.”  Toby freely shares her experiences acquired as a researcher, business development manager, recruiter and her indepth research in this insightful and extremely helpful book. Be sure to go hear her lecture when she speaks locally.  The next opportunity is Thursday, March 26th when she will speak on “Finding Work in Tough Times” at the evening East Bay AWIS meeting. (See list of meetings.)

Given the current economic climate, this is a wonderful time to prepare for a career transition and to reassess your career path so that it is aligned with your personal and professional goals. Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development,, published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, is a comprehensive, in-depth exploration into the many careers found in the life sciences industry (biotech, pharma and medical devices), based on interviews with over 200 industry executives. It covers 20 vocational areas and over 100 careers. The book was written with the goal of helping readers identify career areas that best suit their interests, values, skills and goals. Each chapter explores the many in-depth nuances of each vocational area. Additionally, there are chapters on resume preparation, job search strategies, informational interviewing and more. A free sample chapter on careers in Project Management is available at

The target audience for this book is people working in academia or in industry who are considering a career transition. It has a broad appeal to scientists, doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers, business executives, high tech professionals, etc. The book is available on Amazon and a paperback version will be available soon.


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