Written by: Abla Tannous
In today’s world and market, hard skills are not the only determinants of success and career progress. Soft skills, such as how you interact with others and market yourself, are also main contributing factors to how your career trajectory could be shaped. This is how Dr. William Soliman, the founder of the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs (ACMA), began his workshop on interviewing and career acceleration strategies. Dr. Soliman has over 20 years of experience in medical affairs. We were lucky enough to have him come to Rutgers, upon an invitation from iJOBS (http://ijobs.rutgers.edu), to help us prepare for the future steps of our careers. This is not my first time attending a workshop by Dr. Soliman. A few years back, he gave us an introduction and overview about medical affairs (also through iJOBS). Dr. Soliman is an engaging and captivating speaker, and I knew this workshop would be very informative.
To have a successful career, being a subject matter expert is not enough. You must also develop a holistic view of the market and its dynamic changes. For example, the pharmaceuticals industry is now more global than ever before, and there are new emerging pharma markets around the world. Therefore, global awareness is key in this industry. Another thing to be mindful of is emotional intelligence. It has been shown that emotional intelligence or EQ (emotional quotient) are strong indications of career success. Emotional intelligence is about effectively understanding and dealing with one’s own emotions and those of others. Elements of a high EQ are self-awareness and the ability to maintain composure under certain situations. Studies have suggested that emotional intelligence accounts for a large majority of achievements. It allows you to “respond” rather than “react” in certain social situations. This results in the ability to build better relationships, better coordinate with others and increase engagement.
Understanding emotional intelligence leads to the next part of the workshop: interviewing skills. Emotional intelligence comes into play when knowing what hiring managers are looking for. A manager wants to know that, if someone is hired, they will make their team better. Thus comes the importance of your aptitude to interact with others and how you present yourself. Some of what hiring managers are looking for are your abilities to understand the needs of the team and putting them first, though not at your own expense. Such a balancing act is an important part of putting your emotional intelligence in action at your workplace. Giving a positive and genuine image during an interview goes a long way. A simple thing such as smiling can make a big difference in defining the image you project about yourself. Communicating effectively and articulating clearly what you want will show that you are a confident candidate who knows what they are looking for. Communication is not only about what you say, as more than half of communication is body language. During an interview, or any social situation, your body posture will tell a lot about you. Avoid postures that might show arrogance, over or under-self-confidence. For example, simply sitting straight and slightly leaning forward would demonstrate that you are confident while also conveying your high interest in the position. Play close attention to the tune of your voice and the words you use. If during your interview you say something along the lines of: “That would be a perfect fit for my background,” while emphasizing the underlined words, you would highlight your interest in the position and your confidence in your background.
When you are on the job market, you need to leverage all of your resources. Make sure you are a member of LinkedIn and expand and maintain your network. Check the online profiles of the companies you are seeking, and learn all you can about them. What have they been up to recently (you can find that under their latest news section)? Who are their investors? What are the current trends in their industry? Such information helps you in understanding the company’s culture, their interests and future directions. During an interview, asking questions related to recent news about the company is one way to make yourself stand out. Finally, prepare for the interview questions. Most interviews put a lot of focus on behavioral questions. The most important question is: “Tell me about yourself”. This is your first opportunity to market yourself and showcase your brand. Make sure to speak about your background in a way that directly relates to the position. For answering other interview questions, do not overgeneralize and make sure to have specific examples ready. Emphasize on describing the situation in your example, what you did to address it and what were the outcomes. Even in answering questions that may not be favorable (e.g. what is your weakness?), use a positive tone and show how you worked on addressing the issue in a way that does not hinder your productivity. Lastly, always have questions ready for your interviewers at the end of each interview.
In summary, by clearly defining your goals, educating yourself about the position and the company/institution you are targeting, and preparing for the interview questions, you can set yourself up for success and career advancement.
Junior editor: Maryam Alapa
Senior editor: Monal Mehta