I am a very creative person who loves science but has grown tired of typical bench work. I will be completing my PhD this spring and I'd like to break into marketing and/or advertising, with a long-term goal of working for a pharmaceutical company in their marketing department. I have an excellent science background. I have some hand-on experience in marketing, advertising, and PR for groups I volunteer with (college alumni group and sorority), but I have no formal training in marketing and my experience is rather spread out over the years. Any advice on how to break into a marketing/advertising job? I know I'll have to start at the ground and work my way up and I'm very willing to do it–how do I convince potential employers to take a chance? Thank you for all answers!

Your profile is interesting. Even if you don't have experience, you can convince the inteviewer, and make him listen to what he's looking for.
I have got more than 10 face to face interview for marketing positions, in FMCG, IT and also pharmaceutical.

Below are some advices :

– Show them that you are interested in the position cause you want to build a long term career with them. Do not say that you want to join the company caus it's really very important with high turnover.

– Try to find all arguments to show your interest for pharmaceutical companies : You want to help poeple, I that's your way doing that, working for a pharmaceutical company that makes poeple feel better.

– Employers wants someone who is pragmatic, result oriented, creative, and also have to find solutions for difficult situation.

Try something like " I am not the kind of person that try to say anything to answer a question, if I don't have the answer I will say I don't know now, But make sure that I'll get it"

In term of marketing, make Focus on the 6P's, try to speak about them and apply them to a pharmaceutical product

– Proposition : what is the promise of the product
– Place : is it distributed in the right place, is there any channel else where we can distribute it.
– Price: is it positioned at the same price
– Packaging : do you have an attractive packaging, how is it perceived by the consumers versus competition
– Promotion : Do we need promotion, when? where.? What can we offer (for the trade or consumers)
– Product : do we have the right product attributes (physical and chemical composition), is the form of the product appreciated by consumers (pills ot anything else)

Try also to show that you have to analyse the situation of the product, that you have to identify the gaps versus objectives, and set up plans to get to these objectives (Marketing plans : Above the line, Below the line, promotion, activation, …)

Hope that will help. Try to read some basic knowledge about marketing.