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Rutgers Fellowship – Increase Your Odds of Becoming a Fellow

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.

Rutgers Fellowship - Campus

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.



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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.



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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.



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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

 

24 Comments

  1. Great post! Certainly helped answer some of my questions as I continue to research pharma fellowships/positions. Thanks for sharing.

    (p.s. the twitter link in your sidebar is broken)

  2. Miraj, thanks for the comment and the notice. Just fixed the Twitter link.

    Let me know if you have any questions about fellowships or pharma. I am doing an outcomes research one right now. I have friends who got full-time pharma or FDA jobs out of school as well.

  3. That’s great! I am still trying to figure out my exact interest (there are so many things that are appealing to me right now), so I guess one of my questions is whether you have any advice on how to narrow one’s interests. Unfortunately, I am not near any large pharma companies and am in a program with shorter summers, so internships, etc. are out of the question. I am currently looking at APPEs that I could potentially get for next year though.

    Also, do you think it is worth it to attend the Rutgers Pharmafellows FIND one year before the year I would interview (I am class of 2015, but thinking of driving up to check it out this year as it is only ~4 hours from where I am)?

    Thanks,
    Miraj

  4. I don’t know if they will allow you to go to the FIND session, but you can email them and ask. A good way to know what areas are out there is to look at the “partner companies” section of the Rutgers fellowship website.

    For APPEs, I suggest looking at the FDA, CDC, or pharma companies in that area that offer 6 week rotations. Our school had opportunities which were with the FDA (once in a lifetime experience!)

    Shoot me an email, I have saved PDF brochures from several companies last year that I can send you. info (at) pharmapplicants.com

  5. Thank you for such a great post! I am very interested in PhaRMA (Med Affairs) and am getting more nervous as it draws near…Do you think that if you dont get there on Saturday that it will put you at a severe disadvantage (I booked my flight and didnt know that Rutgers table started Sat!!)?…And do you think that you can overcome the fact that you havent had internships/rotations at the FDA to become a Rutgers fellow?

    How can you be hired by PhaRMA straight out of school?

  6. What day are you flying out?

    If you attend FIND, you don’t have to watch the video at midyear (an additional step that MAY delay you from signing up for interview slots).

    Having internships + rotations is not necessary (the fellowships know that some schools do not have access to these experiences).

    Polish CV, practice behavioral questions, do some research on positions/companies – you’ll be fine, GL

  7. And yes, it is possible to be hired by pharma straight out of school. Some departments (commercially oriented ones especially) are difficult to break into as a grad with no past experience though.

    If you talk to fellowship directors, they will say your 2 year fellowship is worth 3-4 years of experience. But I guess this depends on who is hiring you and how familiar they are with PharmD fellowships.

    Some fellowships (non-Rutgers) will pay for a Master’s program that makes up for the reduced pay; you might want to take a look at some of those depending on your interest. (MPH, MS Health Outcomes, MPA, etc)

  8. Thank you for the quick reply! I wont be getting there til Saturday evening about 630pm….I am planning to attend FIND but im afraid that all the slots will fill up by Sunday. Yeah I heard about the condensed experience as a benefit of fellowships, which is why I am looking into it (and as a foot in the door)…but I also heard if you can get into a consulting firm that you can get experience in a wide variety of disciplines also…its just hard to get it.

  9. And by polish CV do you mean aesthetically or by active/aggressive word choice?

  10. Nice post, John.

    When PPS opens for both sides, how does one go about contacting the fellowship director to schedule an interview and what would an ideal request look like?

  11. When PPS opens up, there is a private message function that you can use to reach out to the programs you are interested in. You can also email the contact person listed for that program. You can format it (I made mine relatively brief):
    [brief intro of your background]
    [why are you interested in the program]
    [ask how one goes about signing up for interviews]

    Note that Rutgers is different in that you will have to sign up on the first day in person for interview slots for the positions that you are interested in.

    GL!

  12. Hi John,
    I actually wanted to know what is the average number of fellowships that seems good to apply too. I have found multiple that are in my area of interest but definitely do not want to overbook myself with interviews from the RU fellowship program and other programs as well.

  13. Hi John,
    I had a quick question..Do I have to be part of PPS in order for me to schedule an interview with RU fellowship program at ASHP Midyear?

  14. I am pretty sure that you do need to pay for PPS. Most applicants also apply to non-Rutgers programs which definitely require PPS (and setting up an interview through the online system).

    To sign up for a Rutgers interview, requires you to do that in person at their booth (unlike other fellowships).

    Is this what you are asking?

  15. Yes that is what I was wondering about. I heard from someone that you have to upload your CV, at least 1 reference letter and letter of intent on the portal before you can sign up for an interview at ASHP midyear? Is this true?

  16. Hi, John:
    I just want to ask would business cards are necessary to prepare? I checked the price. It is pricy, designing is 30 dollars, and minimum printing is 250 copies for 40 dollars. Since we would graduate soon, the title would be changed soon, all cards left over might be wasted. But if it can really increase the chance of acceptance, i think it is worth it.

  17. Dear John,

    Thank you for sharing your insights and experiences. A comprehensive, well-written, and value adding breakdown of how applicants need to think when pursuing industry or a professional career.

    Have a nice day.

    Best,

    Danny

  18. HI John
    Great post; very informative.
    I have a few questions:
    What would you say is the maximum number of Rutger fellowship positions that one should apply to to not seem indecisive? I have a particular area of interest and believe that there are 5 companies that offer it. Right now I am considering them all to up my chances but I still am interested in some other fellowships outside the Rutgers fellowship.
    What would you say is the maximum number of interviews overall that I should sign up for to insure that I do not get overwhelmed or overbook?
    What month does FIND usually fall in?
    Would you say that the interview book that you suggested thoroughly prepare you?

  19. Great article, quick question, does it look better to be more involved in ashp? I used to be a member but am not currently involved. I planed to rejoin next semester at the start of my 5th year

  20. Hi John,
    Is it important to be a very active member in ASHP? There are several pharmacy oriented societys at my school and I currently am more vested in other orginizations

  21. Hi John,

    Great article. This info helped me tremendously.

    (Side note: I seem to be following in your footsteps. I’m entering into a post PharmD HEOR fellowship this July and beginning MS studies in the Fall)

    My classmates and I made a video to help future fellowship candidates. Check it out and let me know what you think.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eswjfH0bYGM

    -Kyle-

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