Managing your career – Part 1: A crash course on how to manage your career in Medical Affairs
By Cezary Statuch, MD, VP, Medical, International Markets, Biogen
Like many things in life, when managing your career timing is everything, and being in the right place at the right time is important. Knowing whether it is the right time for you to move on is not always easy. The pharma and biotech industries are an attractive place to pursue your professional dreams, and some markets are in great demand for medical affairs talent–so the phone rings more often than ever with calls from headhunters. Unfortunately, at times of high demand for talent the recruiters are less likely concerned if you have completed your career cycle, and if your skill set fits what they are after you will have to deal with serious temptations. Here are a few tips on how to manage your career planning and how to get ready for your next job.
- Look back and do a quick assessment of your career to date. Understanding your career trajectory, what you have accomplished and where you want to go will significantly help with the challenge. But most importantly understanding your limitations is critical. Only when you know them will you be able to close the gaps. Ask yourself these questions: Have you have been in your current role long enough? Have you completed a career cycle? Have you fully learned the role? “Job jumpers” or “non-stickers” as I call them are very easy to spot. If you happen to have a very short stint in the role, be prepared to provide a compelling explanation why.
- Understanding what the industry can offer is a common challenge for candidates, especially the younger ones. The knowledge of basics of drug development and the commercialization process is crucial as it will help in understanding what opportunities exist in your country/territory and how to navigate them. The industry has evolved dramatically over the past decade and there are many roles now which never existed previously. There is a wealth of resources offering insights into how pharma companies are structured. Many companies offer training in the drug-development process as part of their curricula for employees. If your company does not, look online. Talking to more senior colleagues is also a good source of acquiring that knowledge.
- Compete for the right job, one which matches your skill set. Understand your strengths and create a competitive advantage. Create a simple checklist of attributes/skills which may differentiate you from other candidates competing for this position and sell yourself well.
- Do not be a title junkie! Titles are important as they help to position us in the industry and make us proud of what we have achieved. We all like attractive titles, particularly those which reflect our seniority, but beware of inflated titles which are easy to spot. Do not take the job simply because it offers a higher grade or a more impressive title, as this could easily put your career on the wrong track. Reversing this could take a long time.
- Having a great boss is a big draw, but don’t choose the job purely because of the manager. Follow the job content and opportunity to learn, not the person. Your boss will always remain part of your professional circle and you will always be able to rely on his/her career advice, even if you stop working together.
- Having the right work-life balance is critical for your success, so ask yourself how moving to your next career step will affect your personal life and if you are ready for it. Frequent travel, need to relocate, necessity to work out of hours—these things can seriously impact your job satisfaction.
- Creating the right image is very important and is a process which takes time. You can start with creating a high-quality LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn has become a powerful tool. Read profiles of those whom you respect and admire. Use a professional, high-quality photo and ensure the use of proper English. When you apply, provide a quality CV adapted to showcase your skills for the role for which you are applying.
- Always respond to recruiters but be very transparent about your true intensions. Do not interview if you are not seriously considering the opportunity. Telling recruiters that you are not ready to change the job yet will speak highly of you, proving you to be loyal to your organization and mature about your career goals. They will remember that and will keep you on their radar screen.
- Get help from those around you. Pay attention to relationships and build your social capital. The pool of professionals in the industry is defined, and so is the number of companies. The proverbial “small world” applies to our industry as well, so take care of your reputation, not only within your own company, but most importantly within the industry. Become visible within your organization and outside of it. Build your own pool of advisors, coaches and mentors. They can be peers, but don’t have to come from the same department or the same company.
- Make your company aware of your aspirations; otherwise your manager may assume that you are not interested and therefore not consider you for the job you want. Apply for the jobs which may be a stretch for you even if you think that the probability of getting them is low. It will send a strong message to your manager as to what you aspire to, and will help you and your manager to understand what you need to learn to land the job the next time. Treat every interview as a lesson and always ask for feedback. Unfortunately, providing high-quality, timely feedback for those candidates who failed to get the job is still not a common practice in the industry. If feedback was not provided to you, do not be afraid to reach out to the hiring manager or the recruiter to discuss the outcome of your interview. Constructive feedback is an invaluable source of direction for your future career steps and providing it is not always easy. You may need to be persistent and ask questions as to why the interview was not successful or why you were not chosen. Regardless how well you are supported in your career development, there is one principle which should always guide you: remember that ultimately, you own your career and no one else but you should drive your development.