Having a strong science background is a good start for aspiring pharmaceutical sales representatives. But you’ll need more than that A-plus in organic chemistry or a double major in biochemistry and physics to make it in the world of pharma. There’s a whole host of skills you’ll need that you can’t pick up in a classroom or by burying your nose in a textbook.
As in any sales job, pharma reps must be enthusiastic and persuasive, goal-oriented, and team players. They must be likable. They should be able to talk about many different subjects (maybe a doctor will be persuaded to use their drug after an extensive chat about his golf game), be adept at conversation, and be able to juggle several relationships with the doctors in their region.
A key attribute of a successful pharma rep is also flexibility. Try as you might, you are not in control of your schedule, since you’re angling to find time to meet with doctors. Any time meetings are scheduled, chances are that doctors get tied up seeing patients or taking care of a medical emergency. Sometimes these meetings have to be postponed or canceled altogether. In other words, fill out your day planner in pencil, not pen (or, invest in a smartphone or laptop or tablet).
And, of course, pharmaceutical sales representatives must be well put together. Heck, you’ve got to look presentable, wear nice clothes, and have washed your hair that morning. You’re the soldier on the front line representing a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical company, and you can’t do that if you show up wearing sweatpants with a mustard stain on them, a pair of flip-flops, and a ratty T-shirt.
You may be the stellar candidate for a pharmaceutical sales job, but if you’ve had your fair share of fender-benders and speeding tickets, you had better look elsewhere for your dream job. Since many pharmaceutical companies give you a company car to drive around for appointments, they check your driving record and car insurance policies to make sure they can trust you with that investment.
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