When I give career talks, I sometimes refer to Peter Fiske, a geochemist-turned- entrepreneur who recently wrote Put Your Science to Work: The Take-Charge Career Guide for Scientists (American Geophysical Union, Washington, DC, 2001). In 1996, while attending an American Geophysical Union meeting, he conducted an informal survey asking scientists this question: "Of the many skills that people develop while in graduate school, which ones are the most valuable in the outside world?" One of the top-five answers was "circumventing the rules."
This skill comes in handy for job seekers who get blocked at the biotechnology or pharmaceutical company human resources (HR) office--without ever talking to the scientists who can advise on the company's research portfolio, or provide inside information about available jobs.
The first goal: Obtain names, telephone numbers, and E-mail addresses. Adam M. Silverstein, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in...