From Battlefield to Lab Bench: Leveraging Military Service to Forge a Career in Pharma

Every year, hundreds of thousands of US veterans are transitioning from their military life to civilian life. The journey of finding a place in the world outside of the military can be a tough road. That’s why there are numerous programs to help veterans find a new career path, and one of the fastest-growing fields is biopharma. By joining a program geared towards veteran transitions, veterans can find their place in the biopharma industry, making the most of their unique skillsets and years of experience.

For many transitioning military service personnel, finding the ideal role can be a challenging endeavor. That’s why Merck provides a way to make it easier. Through the Merck Veterans Leadership Network, led by Derek Heim, former service personnel can discover meaningful ways to use their knowledge and skills with the company’s mission to save and improve lives. Merck provides a mission-based focus that appeals to veterans looking for a rewarding career.

Merck has been listening to the needs of veterans and their families for far longer than the formalization of its Veterans Leadership Network in 2009. Now, with almost 1,500 veterans, family members, and supporters within its global network, Merck strives to employ a workforce that mirrors the diversity of its customers from around the world.

Veterans bring a unique skill set to their civilian roles, especially in international affairs. Their service has honed their strategic and critical thinking in the global political arena, in addition to their laser-sharp commitment towards project management. As former members of the military, they understand the necessity of working in diverse and uncertain situations and have the capability of committing to a job 24/7.

Merck is taking the initiative to recruit veterans through the Department of Defense’s SkillBridge program, where servicemembers can gain invaluable civilian work experience prior to transitioning out of the military. Merck has worked to align military service as a valid alternative for experience in the pharmaceutical industry and have revised job requisitions to represent this.

The Veterans Leadership Network at the company is committed to providing meaningful employment to service members. They assist them in building comprehensive resumes and provide mentorship to help them get up to speed with the demands of their new role. Newly-hired veterans in the network are assigned mentors to guide them through the integration process and identify roles that best suit their individual skillset and passions.

Helping servicemembers transition into the biopharma industry is a priority that Merck shares with many of its peers. Joining forces with Amgen, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Roche, the firm looks to recruit and retain veterans as they take their first steps into the biotech space.

In addition to SkillsBridge, the U.S. government has established several other programs to help former servicemen and women transition into exciting civilian careers, especially in the booming biopharma industry. North Carolina’s NCBiotech program, for example, offers internships to veterans, allowing them to get their foot in the door of a industry they may not have thought possible. Meanwhile, the Department of Labor notes that the Army, Navy and Air Force specialize in roles like laboratory technician, pharmacy specialist and medical supply specialist that are absolutely essential for biopharma companies.

Veterans play a vital role in Merck’s success, as the company works to find ways for them to make contributions far beyond the traditional manufacturing pathways. Jeffrey Heim, Talent Acquisition Director, outlines that Merck is now committed to viewing veterans from a more holistic perspective, expanding their career opportunities and taking into account all of the contributions they can make.

Crafting and communicating a clear narrative of our mission across the various departments of the company is essential. To achieve our objectives, we must think through what it is we are aiming to accomplish and present it in a way that is precise and accessible to all stakeholders. By doing so, we will be able to effectively coordinate and see success.

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