R&D jobs in pharma are snow leopards – scientists must embrace social media now!

I was inspired by my friend Robert Moore to write this post. He had written back in October on how to find members of the C-suites at businesses, which are positions treasured by marketeers. He compared CEOs to snow leopards, a very rare species, that can be found if you are smart and know where to look. Robert described how to find them by the content they shared from business publications. I have kept this burning in the back of my mind because its a beautiful image, until a few circumstances have made me think of parallels elsewhere.

Wednesday Dec 3rd, GSK announced they would cut 900 R&D jobs in RTP here in North Carolina. This is but another example in the long line of big pharma layoffs over the past decade. But its not just big pharma that is laying off scientists, it is the likes of Purdue, and this is also happening in Israel with Teva and France with Pierre Fabre etc. It also makes you wonder what Merck will do once they digest Cubist. If we needed more evidence of big pharma’s failure to innovate itself, then this would be it. If you are a company that relies on researchers buying your wares then this is a wake up call too. Finding customers in pharma may be very similar to finding that snow leopard and its going to get harder. Where will those customers end up in future, how will we find them again if we do not track them?

Well it is looking increasingly like the R&D for future drugs will come predominantly from small companies or academia. More ex-big pharma scientists will be in these organizations or they will start their own company, perhaps working  initially as consultants. That is where we should be looking for the drugs for the next decades to come. We will see this shift as scientists update their LinkedIn profiles, update their Facebook pages and maybe even tweet if they are lucky to find a new job. I think this also points to the importance of scientists marketing themselves using social media. Those days when scientists could just rely on patents, publications or their ability on the speaker circuit to market their abilities are perhaps resigned to the past.

Networking by social media is likely a huge asset as hiring companies look (Google you) before they interview. If you are like me, you may feel like a social media dabbler. I exploit LinkedIn, Twitter, this blog, and a whole array of other tools like Slideshare, Figshare, Kudos to raise awareness of the science, projects, articles I collaborate on and skills on offer. I wonder is it enough? I am barely scraping the surface of what is out there and honestly it is a challenge to find time to keep up. I am not the only one both taking this approach and likely feeling the pain.  So the challenge for companies that want to sell to me will be knowing what to look for as people like me spread themselves thinly across social sites in the hope of finding someone that will hire them one day or pass their details along.

What do I want to buy? I can tell you that if I had someone that could take care of my own ‘personal marketing’ that would be fantastic. Someone that could update my Kudos pages, tweet for me, and even write these posts! I can imagine a future full of these social media assistants. Software exists on the other end to find people for marketing purposes but my guess is its not being used nearly as much as it could be. You could say the same for trying to find patients for clinical trials. Its likely that recruitment by social media will be the norm. Will recruitment for R&D jobs by social media also follow suit? I have this image of warehouses full of people mining Twitter and other social media hubs, finding targets, be they customers, patients or people they want to connect others to.

Some of the ways you as a scientist can raise your profile and do it in a way that’s not equated to spam are as follows:

1. You could tweet at conferences – This could be useful to others and people will follow you for doing this.

2. You could capture your papers in tools like Kudos and explain them in simple terms, combine other content that might increase their audience.

3. You could be ahead of the curve and write a blog post on something that is timely, a scientific observation or just what you are working on – this could be as a guest for someone else’s blog, and just put what you do into simple language. You could even put something informative on your Linkedin profile.

We are embarking on a new era, the scientist that is connected, no longer bound by the walls of the lab but connected to the world. Collaboration will be even more important, software that facilitates these collaborations will be essential. Mobility will be important as will the tools that they use.

GSK can only hope that those last employees leave the building next year and clean the whiteboards after them this time. I would also encourage them over the next few months to embrace social media so they can be found by those companies or other organizations that are hiring. As a scientist your profile and social media persona matters, you do not want to be the snow leopard.

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