Rutgers Fellowship, the First Post-PharmD Pharma Fellowship Program
The Rutgers Fellowship is the oldest post-doctoral pharmaceutical industry fellowship program in the United States going back to 1984. The Rutgers Fellowship was founded in 1984 at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy with two pilot programs at two pharmaceutical companies. Today, the Rutgers Fellowship offers pharma experience to approximately 80 PharmDs from twelve different companies every year. The Rutgers Fellowship is primarily geared towards recent PharmD graduates who are looking to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry. This initial experience or proverbial “foot in the door” is crucial at increasing one’s chances at landing a job in the pharmaceutical industry. This article and future articles will cover invaluable application tips that will increase your odds of becoming a fellow.
Pharma Fellowship Background
I graduated recently, so I understand that the traditional pharmacy market is getting squeezed and residency match rates are decreasing every year. You may want to look at a career in the pharmaceutical industry since your clinical training is valued by these research and science oriented company. Pharmacists can be found in various departments within pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies such as Medical affairs, Regulatory Affairs, Chemistry Manufacturing and Controls (CMC), and Commercial. There are so many departments where I have seen PharmDs work that it would take an entire article to cover them in detail.
Fellowship Application Process
The application process begins by first paying for ASHP’s Personnel Placement Service (PPS) and registering for ASHP Midyear (taking place in Orlando, Florida this year). PPS opens up mid-September with early bird pricing available until mid-October.
Contrary to popular belief, previous pharmaceutical industry experience is NOT required. The Rutgers Fellowship understands that some students attended pharmacy schools that have limited experiential sites due to geographical location. More importantly, your acceptance into a program is based on your demonstration of your problem-solving, team work, communication skills, professionalism, and working style. You should have copies of your polished CV printed and ready to go for the ASHP Midyear conference. The Rutgers Fellowship recommends that you bring about 40 copies to ASHP Midyear. I highly recommend that you invest in heavier, high-quality paper such as the one pictured below from Amazon. Also, make sure that you have a family member or friend proofread your CV.
Please note that within the Rutgers Fellowship program other companies will be able to see what functions and companies you applied for since they all fall under the Rutgers Fellowship umbrella. This is a very important point since it will not look good if you apply to too many fellowship positions or if you don’t seem to have a focus in the area that you are applying for. You do not want to be applying to various different departments at each company. Instead, you want to have a more focused intent in functional areas and have a clear story about why you are pursuing them.
Do your Research!
Do your RESEARCH! I can’t emphasize the importance of this point enough. You should look up what the Rutgers Fellowship program entails and a few things about the companies you will be applying for. I highly suggest that you subscribe to FiercePharma for free daily updates on the pharma industry. I have been subscribed for over four years now, and I can tell you that it has really benefited me by keeping me up to date with the top 5 pharma-related stories of the day. Also, LinkedIn is a valuable resource. We live in a world where you can track the career progress of individuals with a few clicks of your mouse! Take a look at what past Rutgers fellows have ended up and the experiences they have garnered over the years.
Rutgers Fellowship ASHP Midyear Logistics
You want to book a hotel nearby the conference center because you will have several interviews on site as well as nighttime receptions hosted by the different pharma companies. These receptions are usually at different hotels near the convention center and provide you with a time to connect with current fellows and employees of the companies.
In the past, the Rutgers Fellowship process started with you lining up on the first day to receive a number to begin the interview process. If you did not attend the Fellowship Information and Networking Day (FIND), you had to check into a room to receive an orientation and watch an intro video. The FIND takes place on the Rutgers campus in New Jersey, and not everyone is able to attend it. Although it will not alter your chances of being accepted, you will need to view this video before you can sign up for interviews. I recommend that you line up for the Rutgers Fellowship earlier than the suggested start time if you have not attended FIND. Even if you attended FIND, many applicants tend to line up earlier than the published time.
You will have to apply for interview times for specific fellowship positions during the first day. Each company may have two to three rounds of interviews depending on your performance. After the last round, you will be done for the ASHP Midyear portion. Upon returning home, you will need to complete the online application through the Rutgers Fellowship website. At this point, if you haven’t already done so, you will need to get your letter of recommendation writers to submit your letters online. Your application is not complete until you submit your application (which includes a form, a copy of your CV, and a letter of intent) and your letter writers submit their letters. You can assign who will write your letters before ASHP Midyear (highly recommended and may now be required).
Many applications will bring blank thank you cards to write after their interviews. The Rutgers Fellowship team has a basket in front of their booth for you to drop off your letters. I recommend that you buy your thank you cards ahead of time in bulk on Amazon to save money. I provided a good Amazon product below or you can browse for others.
Prepare for your Fellowship Interview!
I highly recommend the following book by Ron Fry which I used to prepare for my fellowship interviews last year. It not only goes over the top 101 questions asked by employers, but it also puts you in the right mindset when you are in front of your potential future employer! It’s a quick read that I got through in less than two days.
Many of the questions at the interview follow the STAR format:
The STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result)
- Situation: The interviewer wants you to present a recent challenge and situation in which you found yourself.
- Task: What did you have to achieve? The interviewer will be looking to see what you were trying to achieve from the situation.
- Action: What did you do? The interviewer will be looking for information on what you did, why you did it and what the alternatives were.
- Results: What was the outcome of your actions? What did you achieve through your actions and did you meet your objectives? What did you learn from this experience and have you used this learning since?
These require practice in front of the mirror or with a trusted friend or family member. Although you can predict the high frequency interview questions, you do not want to be memorizing entire answers since you want your responses to seem natural. Having talking points and examples ready to go is a good way to be well-prepared.
Rutgers Fellowship Application Tips
- Don’t apply to too many Rutgers Fellowship positions! Pick the areas and companies you are most interested in.
- Dress professionally. Last year, I was surprised at some of the non-professional attire that I saw among the applicants.
- Buy thank you cards ahead of time. Amazon is a great place to buy them for an affordable price (link above).
- Have polished copies of your CV ready on high quality, “heavy” paper.
- Plan on attending the networking receptions in the evening. Some of the companies may have overlapping receptions which will require you to plan ahead to attend multiple receptions or to prioritize.
- Rutgers Fellowship website: http://pharmafellows.rutgers.edu/home/index.php