I am thrilled to welcome an (anonymous) guest blogger from the Life Sciences training industry who has offered to give us some insider perspectives. The first blog post is about surviving and thriving in difficult times for the industry and economy:
Are you part of a pharmaceutical learning function and facing a merger, buyout, or downsize? This could be triggered by lackluster product sales performance, or safety concerns uncovered during phase 3 trials for that promising new compound in development. In the case of a merger, there may be redundant sales teams and support functions. While instability may be the new norm in pharma, it doesn’t get any easier to experience it. If you haven’t yet been affected by these types of events, you more than likely know people who have lost their job, lost their responsibilities, or simply ‘lost their mind’ due to living in fear of the unexpected!
I have been through ‘all of the above’ situations during my pharma career: survived three downsizes, two mergers/buyouts, and lost my job once. It doesn’t mean I don’t cringe, sigh in disbelief or sometimes panic when the company du jour announces workforce reductions, because it’s more than just the job that’s at stake. How will I tell my spouse that I lost my job? Tell the kids? How will we pay the mortgage? Do we have enough money saved? When would we have to switch our benefits to my spouse’s employer (which, by the way, is not nearly as comprehensive as what we have now)? What will happen to that major training initiative I was overseeing? And, how will I ever find another job that I love when it seems like no one is hiring?
After this last free-association rant you might think I’m crazy, or maybe you can identify completely. In either case, I have learned how to not just survive, but thrive when uncertainty is the norm. It’s a very freeing experience when you realize you can still be in control of your career, instead of being controlled by uncertainty about the future. While there’s no such thing as job security, I’ve found myself giving the following advice when people ask for my advice during uncertain times:
1. Get in the gutter, then get out. When news hits about impending negative change, people flock together to talk about it. It’s simply human nature. Speculation abounds as to who and what will be impacted (and, of course, they can’t cut us because ‘what we do is sooooo important!’). Many folks in leadership positions will say ‘don’t commiserate’, but we all need to vent. As a past and current leader, you have to give your people the opportunity to share their feelings. There’s nothing wrong with a little speculation and commiseration; the trick is to not go to the extreme and spread poison around the office. Certainly don’t share anything confidential if you are privy. Be choosy about who you vent to, do it, then cease. Moving on is paramount- nobody likes listening to poison all the time (eventually it will kill your attitude). Get in the gutter, then get out.
2. Focus on what you can control. You’ve probably heard this one before, but take it to heart. While it may not feel like you have any control, you can positively impact your attitude, behavior, and performance in your current role. Even when performance may have nothing to do to with a job loss, delivering above-average work helps to secure your next job. When I found myself in a job loss situation, my boss and his boss had been very happy with my work. I consistently delivered results, instead of sitting back waiting to see what was going to happen when rumors of downsizing surfaced. Both provided glowing recommendations and tapped into their networks to help me get that next role at another company. I doubt they would have gone the extra mile to help me if they were not happy with my contributions. ‘Focus on what you can control’ is a great mantra to share with others who show signs of freaking out during difficult times, especially if they are your direct reports.
3. Grow and nurture your network. Building contacts outside of my current company has been one of the most important investments I have made over the years. When times are great, your network is a valuable sounding board for problem solving, idea exchange, and finding a great solution provider for a specific need. When times aren’t so great, such as when facing a job loss, your network can surface opportunities you might not have ever known about. Ongoing communication is key – if you only tap in to your contacts when times are bad, it can appear one-sided. Make it a ‘win-win’ for everyone and give as well as take from the relationships.
4. Build a portfolio. Rolled out a major initiative that demonstrated a positive impact on the business? Overhauled a process to streamline efficiencies? Created an effective certification form for a new product launch? Don’t wait to build your portfolio of work! As time goes by, we tend to forget about our successes as we rush on to the next fire drill. By taking this next step beyond your résumé, you have further documentation and examples of your work to show to new leadership or a prospective employer. Keep a copy of those valuable contributions you built that you are proud of!
5. Continue to learn. Just as your network needs nurturing, so does your competency. Attend conferences, take on stretch assignments, acquire a certification or MBA, and keep up on industry happenings. Why? It doesn’t matter if you have 20 years experience if you’re using yesterday’s techniques. Today’s fast paced environment demands out of the box thinking, and making the investment in yourself gives your brain the ability to identify the right solution for the right need. It also keeps you more marketable compared to other candidates should you need to compete for a new position.
While uncertain times can be unsettling, it doesn’t mean you have to put your career and life on hold. Adopting a positive, yet realistic attitude while staying busy with a focus on investing in yourself is empowering. I am most thankful for making the conscious decision to not put my life on hold for fear of what might have happened. Job loss did happen to me, and not only did I survive, I learned to thrive. Had I let the fear of the unknown take over my world, I probably would have put off starting a family. And when I look not only at my job, but at my amazing kids, it certainly puts everything in perspective.
Impactiviti is the Pharmaceutical Connection Agency. As the eHarmony of sales/training/marketing, we help our pharma/biotech clients find optimal outsource vendors for training, eMarketing, social media, and more.
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