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Losing your job in the CR industry? 3 tips: Education, education, education
Make the most of transition opportunities
Most people working in the clinical research industry will find themselves unemployed at some point in their careers, and it's wise to prepare by updating your skills and improving your resume through advanced education.
One veteran of the industry offers a few pointers on how to weather a job loss and rocky economy without losing your CR career:
1. Prepare for job loss while you are still employed.
All industries shift, change, and evolve, and the well-prepared professionals are the ones who are in the best position for handling economic storms.
One way to do this is to take advantage of your employer's continuing education benefits and study evenings and weekends for a degree that will make you more marketable as an employee, suggests Janet F. Zimmerman, MS, RN, an assistant clinical professor and coordinator of the clinical trials research track at the College of Nursing and Health Professions of Drexel University in Philadelphia.
For example, Drexel University has an online program that offers a master of science in nursing for clinical trials research.
Online programs give working professionals the opportunity to make their own schedules and pursue advanced degrees without jeopardizing their daytime jobs.
"Most of our students, probably 75%, are currently working in a clinical trials nursing role as study coordinators, monitors, or in pharma in regulatory affairs or safety," Zimmerman says. "They're all RNs, and so these are individuals who want to validate their contributions and expand their understanding of the clinical trial process while getting a graduate degree in the process."
Many of these students receive reimbursement from their employers for their tuition costs, she adds.
"It's a tremendous incentive for a lot of people to go back to school when you work for an employer who offers X number of dollars for an academic education in an accredited school, college, or university," Zimmerman says. "That's why a lot of people will take advantage of it."
2. Make networking a top priority.
"I'm not sure people understand the importance of networking in this economy," Zimmerman says. "It's all about making contacts, being assertive, taking the initiative, being resourceful."
Some people may understand its importance, but many do not, she adds.
"You have to market yourself," Zimmerman says.
This might be difficult for many nurses, but it's essential in today's marketplace, and it's especially crucial in a slow economy, she adds.
3. Earn an advanced degree to enhance your resume.
For clinical research professionals who lose their jobs during this downturn, the best career strategy might be to return to college for an advanced degree.
"Getting further education adds to your portfolio," Zimmerman says.
While it used to be true that a professional with a bachelor's of science degree or nursing degree would have a job in clinical research, this no longer is true, she notes.
"It's an advanced role, and one thing we promote here at Drexel is that it's not for entry level people," Zimmerman says. "It requires a higher level of education, and it's very much based on the nursing model."
Today's pharmaceutical industry isn't hiring as many people as it once did, so increasing numbers of CR students are looking for work at investigator sites and academic sites, she says.
"They're using their advanced degrees to distinguish themselves from their colleagues who either are not nurses or who don't have a graduate degree," Zimmerman adds.
There are a growing number of universities that offer master of science degrees in clinical research operations, including online programs, such as the one at Drexel.
"I do feel the economy is going to pick up and clinical research is not going to go away, but there may be a readjustment in the allocation of resources," Zimmerman says. "Nurses who are studying for graduate degrees now might find themselves positioned in the right place when things resume in a more normal pattern, whether it's in clinical research or the pharmaceutical industry."
The best time to go to back to college is when the economy is floundering, she adds.
"Go back to school and get yourself prepared for whatever you might need when things return to normal," Zimmerman says.