I have heard a number of career gurus talk about personal branding. I'm having a hard time with that concept in my field as a pharmaceutical scientist. I'm employed, but lately (as I have posted), have become ancy (tired of watching high-D manager waste so much time rushing the science) and so I'm doing the usual things of checking in with my network, updating resume, etc.

The most important thing on my resume are the projects and dosage forms I have worked on, and the different areas. So that is what I list, and I think it is a pretty good resume if I start applying.

But when I think of my "brand" something different comes to mind that I can't put on a resume. It's that in my life, at this job, in grad school, in my jobs as an engineer before grad school, and even for my wife's recent health problems, there's a trend: I encounter an unfamiliar situation that is on the edges of multiple scientific disciplines, I research and connect with others and learn the fundamental principles of the different disciplines, usually realize something is being done wrong, then develop and evaluate innovative paths forward that relies on the biology/chemistry/physics, and my skills in organization, computers, statistics, presenting, and team facilitation, and then share that knowledge usually for lasting change.

Is there a shorter way to describe the above? Does it belong on my resume, on a Linkedin profile, or save it for an interview? How do I promote this in my current job?

Some real examples of the above:

- before grad school, joined a manufacturing place as an engineer and it was in terrible shape. I had never worked in this type of product. Standard chemistry on this area were hard to apply since we were on the boundaries of disciplines, so I learned it from vendors and picking and choosing literature from college libraries, ran experiments, discovered new scientific things about our product and processes, facilitated teams, implemented quality control, set up an overseas plant that was problem free from day 1, left, and heard they were still problem free.

- my PhD thesis, also on the boundary of different fields, so I learned from mostly literature, recognized we had all the wrong test methods, ran experiments, again discovered new things, published papers and my PhD, tried to tell my advisor he had to change everything -- he left the university and this research area instead.

- current job, working on an aspect of this dosage form that has never been studied, again having to synthesize and apply literature from different pharmaceutical fields, reach out to people in different places to get advice, developed an experimental plan that a contract lab is running right now, and potentially discovering things in this field that have never been examined before.

- wife's health, she's pretty young, but has gotten worse (wheelchair, breathing assistance). Over the last three years, I got her in front of 30+ best doctors in the NYC area and at NIH, none of whom could figure it out  because it was on the boundary of several disciplines. So instead, I started searching the literature, read 140+ papers on the molecular biology and genetics, E-mailed authors (networked) to get idea of tests or other doctors to talk to, developed theories, had tests run, found these tests that looked normal were reported incorrectly, and then connected the results to similar cases in the literature. Finally, a few months ago, I proposed that she had a new, never before seen form of a rare disease that a world famous specialist in this area said she didn't have. A different famous specialist has now almost confirmed she has this disease, and most importantly, started her on a treatment 20 days ago for which we are seeing improvements.

I'm glad I read about branding because I realize this theme in my life. The question now is, what do I call this attribute, and how do I communicate it?


jrb3's picture
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So you pioneer the terra incognita between disciplines, and blaze trails from which you and others successfully start bleeding edges.

No idea whether / how such a statement would appear on a resume.  It sure seems to be a very unusual passion (and set of talents), and core to what you bring to the world.  The "problem-free overseas plant" certainly counts as a major accomplishment worthy of mention on-resume, I would think.

jhack's picture

The resume should list your accomplishments, not how you achieved them.  You can describe how you work, how you do it, in the interview. 

On the resume, you describe results in short sentences: 

- Discovered 6 new drugs, one is in trial. 

- Redesigned and built test equipment which led to discovery of new gene expression pathway.

THOSE are accomplishments that go on the resume.  The "how" is what you talk about in the interview.  And if you haven't purchased the interview series, you should.  I can't recommend it highly enough.  

John Hack

TNoxtort's picture

 Thank you for the input. Being able to cross multiple disciplines is good -- the problem is that it is hard to persuade people it is worth it, and not to take shortcuts. I'm big in Quadrant II in Covery's Urgent/Important matrix (Important, but not Urgent), but no one appreciates. With that factory, it wasn't just setting up the overseas factory problem free, it was first making our domestic one problem free too. My first boss as a reference told people he never thought I'd be able to do it, that's why he pushed for the urgent stuff, and he's so glad I proved him wrong. In Sep 2010, after NIH in Washington DC said my wife's problems were psychological, my wife's doctors specialists and super specialists told me we probably would not figure it out during her lifetime - and we would just manage her worsening condition. Oct 2010 I figured it out, Jan 2011 confirmed it, Feb 2011, starting treatment. The frustrating thing for me, is that no one ever believes you, and you don't have a chance to prove yourself unless they give you time.

I appreciate the distinction of the accomplishment vs how accomplishmed. That makes sense - it does NOT belong on the resume.
So after writing all that, I feel really, really bad. I had my 2010 performance review and got a below average, having got only average for a few years, but the highest rarely given rating before that. Why? Because they lumped job classes together when they did the bell curve; I'm like a 1st Lt, and got bell curved with the Captains and Majors. Also, none of my projects were in the clinic, versus 2nd Lts who were. First 6 months of 2010, I didn't have a boss, so I obviously can't put something in the clinic, especially since the VPs and SVPs who approve it were getting layed off at that time due to our acquisition. We just had a meeting last week to plan a clinical study and it would be hundreds of patients at $25k PER PATIENT - I can't do that on my own without a boss. All the comments from her and her boss were positive, She says that if we get my current project moving, she'll fight all the way for a promotion for me. She said she dreaded having this meeting with me, but when all the bell curves were done, they didn't have enough accomplishments for me. The problem is that for the last four years, I had moved to a group that focused on EARLY stage innovative projects (more biology)-- unfortunately, when they do performance ratings, they focus on your late stage results, which don't happen if you're on early state projects! She said my boss's boss liked me a lot and so my raise and bonus were the highest they can give for that performance rating. She said that 2010 was a terrible year because our company got aquired and my boss and  boss' boss changed, and the previous one always shafted people of mine and her specialty. She says now I'm working for her, three of my specialty left the company already in 2011, and because of my presentations, my project has been approved for a small clinical trial. Again she says there was nothing i could have done, since my project had been held up, and they don't give credit for all mentoring, research, preparing, proposing, etc I did. She said 2011 could be a great year since my project is only major project in our department and she'll fight tooth and nail for me when it goes to the clinic, telling me she comes from a family of lawyers. She called me gifted and talented and many other positive words, said everyone has blips in their career, etc. 
I went home for lunch with my wife since I was so distraught.
But this is why, on other threads on this board, I have argued the point about blindly following a boss when you know it is the wrong thing to do scientifically. Because in the end, your rating is based on what you accomplished, and if it's the wrong step scientifically, and doesn't go forward, you don't get any credit for doing what your boss said. I wasted 2009 this way, following my old boss when I knew everything we were doing was wrong and my boss didn't listen (which is why he's not here anymore).
I guess a couple good things could come about. I feel like my boss often wastes so much time having me explore things that don't matter. Based on what she said above, if it is not relevant, I can bring that up. I got on the phone with two other recruiters (not ones I mentioned on previous threads) whom I have known. They are eager to work with me - one even said clients have been frustrated that they see my Linkedin Profile, I return calls, I talk about all the great things I'm doing, but then I'm not open to leaving. Another recruiter said they still can't fill a position he approached me about 4 months ago, and it much like my current job, but for a generic company (a large portion of my job is about fighting generics and I make sure my wife doesn't take any generic drugs). 
In the early stage, trying to develop a new product that was both safe and more effective. My boss now told me to only work on the chemistry to get it into a clinical trial - let someone else worry about whether it is safe or if it works, because even if it is complicated or crosses multidisciplines, they'll figure it out when it gets into a live human. She told me that when she worked for my retired boss, his boss was an extreme high D practically beating people up. They got many drugs in the clinic, and while some got pulled out due to problems, they got their credit for putting it in the clinic. She emphasized that no matter what executives say about wanting more efficacy and safety, getting into the clinic is how I'll me measured. 
I have not looked at the Interviewing Series only because I was more thinking of my overall presence. I'm actually a pretty good interviewer; I've gotten every job or gotten positive indications for every job I've ever interviewed for (about 15). In two of jobs I've had, I was offered a salary above the top of their range, and for my PhD, they told me to skip the GRE - they knew they wanted me and to just xerox my old transcript for them. But these all happened in good economic times (1997, 1999, 2001, 2006). I still feel terrible about all my hard work. Thanks for letting me vent.

jpklein62's picture

 Artsmith222 - I do think the paragraph you put together, or something similar to it, is appropriate in the summary section of your LinkedIn profile.  I agree with JHack, not appropriate on the resume.

afmoffa's picture

Being able to identify behavior patterns, and being able to discuss the specific, observable behaviors that compose those patterns, is great. Those are great starting points for your own personal "elevator speech," or for a LinkedIn prose paragraph, or (sometimes) for a cover letter. Knowing what makes you effective and unique is a great starting point from which will flow many of your answers in any job interview/promotion interview situation.

But "branding" statements should stay off your resume. Imagine your resume is a materials data sheet, or perhaps the abstract of a clinical trial result. Your resume is information, inputs, outputs, and results, over time.

LinkedIn doesn't have formal rules of etiquette or what-goes-where or protocol (not yet). And I think the skills you have, the introspection you demonstrate, and the paragraph you wrote describing that is all very good stuff.

TNoxtort's picture

Thanks for everyone that posted and gave me some good advice on this.

As I wrote two days ago, I felt real bad about my performance review, especially because it was due to circumstances beyond my control, as my boss acknowledged, and I'm not supposed to change anything about how I work. To be put on a bell curve with accomplishments with people one and two levels above me, who have people under them, and I didn't even have a boss for first 6 months in 2010, is unfair. But since that time, I've had these positive events and these thoughts:

- several lower ranking (non-PhD) colleagues sitting in my office feeling the same way, and hearing about others at my rank who also received low ratings, and hearing that their bosses were even reprimanded for trying to fight for a higher rating for them

- I have been delighted at how recruiters whom I met a long time ago are eager to help, and especially how they remember nice things I have done for then. So far, I've given permission for them to pursue 3 positions - all three have been open for at least 3 months. They can't find anyone who has worked in that dosage form (i have worked on it a little but others in my department have done a lot, so I'm quite familiar with it and their other candidates have no experience) who have strong skills in communication and leadership.

- I met non-recruiters a few years ago who told me to call them if I was ever looking for a job, and they have E-mailed me their cell phone numbers to call them as they think they can help

- I still enjoy what I do quite a bit, the people I work with, and my very short commute. My boss gave me a little more focus of putting higher emphasis on the chemistry, not the biology. But my boss's boss approved an expensive  contracted out biology project, for which a good portion has already been paid out, and the work is about to begin. Obviously, I have to take the time to provide oversight. I think the results of this study will be extremely exciting, regardless of whether I get credit on my performance review for it. Meanwhile, the chemistry part of my projects are moving forward, and there's a lot of learning and credit I can get.

- I was reviewing Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and his emphasis that if you have your inner game sound, things will work it out. That I do, as I've always focused on doing good science, always focused on really good writing, speaking, and organizing skills, have built relationships for a long time, and had good money management skills at home.

- The reason I have not found a new job is not because of my fundamentals or strategy or communication - it's because I tell every recruiter who has called me that I am not looking, but still talk and maintain the relationship. Now I am looking, and reaping the relationships I have built. 

- If I do get some decent offers, I can then go back to my management and negotiate. Another thing I remembered is that by our company being bought, it triggered a very generous severance agreement if we are let go before mid-2012. So I should not be afraid of asking for what I want.

I still feel a little bad about not getting as high of a bonus due to the rating. But I remember years ago I felt the same way about an offer -- today, that $ amount seems so insignificant to what I make now, and I feel like a fool for how much it upset me back then. I do have many things to feel good about, both in the opportunities in my current job, and the opportunities elsewhere.

jfarrall's picture

You are obviously a talent. You are not your "sub-par" performance rating from a company that was involved in a merger over the past year, which just happened to be your first year with them. Mergers, as you might have not experienced before, are very messy. The culture thing cannot be understated. Plus, most everyone is searching for the "me" in "merger," and the "me" comes way before the rest of the letters in the word for a reason: What does this mean to me and my career, how do I rank in the new organization, how has the game changed in getting ahead?

Sounds like you have an advocate in your boss and are a big part of her plans for 2011. That is a great position to be in, and something that should make you less motivated to leave. You also have learned that the new organization is a what I would call a "counter" system. How many awards or achievements can we count this person got last year? Which ones (i.e. progress in a clinical trial) count the most? Multiply one by the other and stack rank everyone for a slice of the bonus pie. That system is easy for a person of your intelligence to operate within, but... If you do not have a project going to clinic of your own, then you have to negotiate credit for all the people you help before they go and achieve something that gets counted and conveniently forget about your contributions. That leaves them with something in their column for their reviews and you with little formal activity other than good feeling from everyone around the water cooler. Might be something to work with your legalistically minded boss.

Meanwhile, if operating in the white spaces between disciplines and the organization, there is freedom since few know what it is you actually do. However, that freedom comes at a cost when a "counter" organization tallies contributions for the year and few of yours "fit inside the boxes" up on the white board in someone's office. My bet, given you have lost several people doing what you do, is that your roles just are not as valuable to "merged Vertex" as they were in the "pre-merged Vertex" company you now work within. In other words, your typical boxes carry little weight if accomplished, or you don't have boxes "on the board" at all.

I have some recommendations:

1) Document, document, document. Every phone call, consultation, project you had anything to do with. Imagine that you are like an attorney, and in effect you are all about "billable hours."  Yes, it is not as exciting as the science itself, but it helps quantify your worth.

1b) Figure out what the higher-value boxes are from someone who played the game well last year and might have a better idea of the political landscape.

2) Go read this book... OK, more like booklet, and old, copyright 1999:

The powerful message that reminds me of your questions is that our "Brand" and worth is based on three things:
a) What have you accomplished in the past; b) the power of your network to get things accomplished; and c) the projects you are working on today.

3) Your LinedIn profile could use some work, but that might be best in a conversation, not a forum post. Look me up and send me an in-Mail or connection request so that we could have a phone conversation. I am the John Farrall, CFA on LinkedIn, and we both know Andrea Bici.

4) Let last year go. Sounds like with your wife's health issues, a merger in your employer, and a relatively new job for you at Vertex, it was a lot of stress. You might not have been your best, even though you did the best you could do given the situation you were in. If it motivates you and you are a person who works well when on a vendetta, then frame your review and set it on your bed stand as a constant reminder that this year is going to be different. If all it does is make you sad and want to leave the company, then burn it, or toss it out as "doesn't reflect my worth" and get back to enjoying work and what you do best.



PhilipR's picture

I intern in a college career center, possibly with the goal of working in career advising. There's a fair amount of debate on whether an objective on a résumé is helpful to the candidate or not. In about 75% of cases -- especially for the early-career people I'm advising -- I lean toward the view that it is not. In your case, that seems like a perfect means to present your "brand" at the top of the résumé without being too brash.


Something like: 

Objective: A role as a pharmaceutical scientist using my ___ years experience researching and connecting with others to innovate improvements to prior practice in biology, chemistry, and physics.

If that still feels a bit wordy you can pare it down to the essence of what you want to say. You could also just take out the "objective" part (my preferred approach) and just call it a summary or some such.


I emphatically believe that a résumé is a place you should be presenting your brand. Of course you have to play within  "the rules" of your field.

As for accomplishments versus the "how", MT's official policy is apparently, "ONLY accomplishments as bullets." But the message about the "how" should inform your presentation of the accomplishments. In other words, your presentation of the accomplishments should reflect a lot of introspection about the common themes behind them. More importantly, the clear theme of your résumé should be the claim that those accomplishments are predictive of future performance, and some commonality of the "how" is essential to making that claim.

In the end your value proposition is based on you as an individual who unifies various capabilities, not on a disembodied bundle of accomplishments thrown on your manager's desk your first day.


(EDITED substantially for clarity.)

TNoxtort's picture

 Thanks jfarral - and for everyone else reading this, he and I have communicated privately, and I do NOT work for Vertex; he thought I was someone else. But i really appreciated that from the little bit I posted, you could see I do have some talent.

I'm not sure if my boss is my advocate or just doesn't want me to leave since so many others have recently. But we'll see.

On Thursday I got the bad review. On Friday I started reaching to my network. On Monday, I already lined up my first interview, which is today at lunch with a VP of the company. A few other recruiters are lining things up too. I started listening to the latest podcast on dealing with a career upturn and it seems I am what Mark and Mike call the MVC (Most Valuable Candidate). And I'm realizing why, which is relevant to branding. It has to do with what dosage form I am have worked on. Most pharmaceutical scientists work on pills. I work on something else, and they can't find anyone who does this. So these companies want me.

But based on my brand, I have to decide if the job is right for me. All the positions I have talked to folks about so far deal with my CURRENT knowledge, and don't seem to expand on it. Of course, I don't really know yet. But if I'm good at learning new things, that's something I have to keep in mind.

The other thing is, and I really think about it, is I do like where I work and who I work with a lot. Furthermore, my project is going more forward, and my workload is going to increase a lot because of it. All within what I can handle, and all good stuff. Anyways, gotta run so I make the 8 minute rule.

TNoxtort's picture

I wanted to update on my interview and my new thoughts on Personal Branding that have come up.

So my interview went very well. He was very impressed, but not to toot my own horn, but I interview well. I remember when I had my first one on one with our new boss's boss, and the secretary told me how impressed he was. At first he was checking my knowledge, but we talked about lots of things, including, with laughs, how I try to block things companies like his does, and how he gets around it. They want to get into the specific dosage form I work on, and would look to me to lead it. But do they realize how difficult it is, and would they invest in it? He wants to bring me back to meet others at his organization. It was also a long drive. This position has been open for several months. I discussed it with a coworker who left recently, and my retired boss, who suggested several cautions to ask about.

I spoke to another contact who knows lots of people in the industry. He thought my resume was superb. So superb, his manager wants to talk to me. However, we agreed not to pursue because his company and mine do business together. But he'll let me know about other recruiters. He said that it is very hard to find people in this dosage form, and believes I will have no problem finding a job.

And that is helping me define my brand. It is the dosage form I work on, more so than the how I do work. That's what is getting people's attention.

At my own job, things are getting better. On my project, my boss is making it clear to all the outside groups that I am the leader of it. So that it is good, and I'm putting together timelines and such. But her whole approach of telling me I need to bug people is so bad. So many people hate her because of it, and she's known as one of the managers that is smart technically but never gets things done. And in two weeks. I'll be the only one working for her since the other goes on maternity leave. But oh well. By giving me the lower rating, whether it was her or the organization, she actually reduces her role power. I really like my work, the benefits, the pension, the people, the short commute. I just don't like the environment right now, and that my work doesn't get recognized. But I am feeling better about possibilities for the future, and what I need to do to set myself apart.

I also got a newsletter from a recruiter i know well saying many of the same things MT said on the upswing, that it is happening. It also said that employers better make strong offers when they are approaching employed candidates.

edwinkelleys's picture

Before grad school, joined a manufacturing place as an engineer and it was in terrible shape. I had never worked in this type of product. Standard chemistry on this area were hard to apply since we were on the boundaries of disciplines, so I learned it from vendors and picking and choosing literature from college libraries, ran experiments, discovered new scientific things about our product and processes, facilitated teams, implemented quality control, set up an overseas plant that was problem free from day 1, left, and heard they were still problem free.

I appreciate that but also you must read this topic Resume Objective.

alexisrois's picture

LinkedIn marketing is one of the good strategy to grow your business networking & LinkedIn Profiles are an expansion of your resume & professional brand. It helps people who are looking for work, gain a aggressive benefit. When used successfully, LinkedIn is one of the good social networking sites. By growing your social network & marketing on LinkedIN, you can leverage the power of a well created LinkedIn profile.

I hate my job