How do today’s pharma employees feel about their careers?

Jane Chin

9Pillars

How do today’s pharmaceutical employees feel about their careers as industry professionals? When we recently posed this question to members and the networks of pharmaphorum, the answer appears to be, “depends on who is answering the question.”

On the one hand, I hear industry service provider colleagues with former industry experience and strong ties with current industry employees express the concern that they have seen and heard from current industry employees. Robert Nauman (@BioPharmaRob) summarized it as, “Afraid, very afraid!” and Pete West (@VoxMarketingLtd) said, “Insecure, concerned, directionless.” I’ve personally heard from employees who feel powerless, disillusioned, and defeated about the way their industry is being perceived by the public today.

 

“I’ve personally heard from employees who feel powerless, disillusioned, and defeated about the way their industry is being perceived by the public today.”

 

On the other hand, I hear from healthcare professionals like João Duarte who is working in oncology R&amp,D flank his anxiety and concern with optimism. Product manager Pablo Perlado (@paper74) sees challenge, change, and collaboration. Paul Tunnah (@pharmaphorum), director of pharmaphorum, is “excited, optimistic and energised” because he sees this as an exciting time to work in the pharmaceutical industry, as the convergence of drugs, diagnostics, medical technology and the internet will change the way diseases are managed in the next ten years. Even Roche (@RocheCareers) chimed in, saying that employees are feeling excited, passionate, and rewarded! I’m always encouraged when pharmaceutical employers join in the conversation and share what they think employees may be feeling about their industry careers.

Why does it matter how pharmaceutical employees feel about their careers? Because most of us are not working in a profession where we may be with the same project (or pharmaceutical compound) from beginning to end. This is not a short term career: the pharmaceutical career is a long term marathon where many things can go wrong during the drug discovery and development “run”. Even a product launch is not the end-goal, albeit an important milestone: the commercialization phase of the product life-cycle has just begun.

 

“Roche chimed in, saying that employees are feeling excited, passionate, and rewarded!”

 

Managing a pharmaceutical product life cycle is complex and requires decades-long investment. This makes ideas like “motivation” and “mojo” have a nice-sounding buzz during a corporate meeting aimed to motivate people and excite the mojo back to employees. But then people return to their laboratories and cubicles and manufacturing plants and corner offices and company cars… and it’s back to status quo.

Perhaps, like the nature of the demands of this industry we work in, we as employees and advisors and service providers need a different way of framing why we’re here – why we want to work in the pharmaceutical industry. Perhaps this is where “significance” can play a role: a way of thinking about our pharmaceutical careers both as a journey and a destination. We begin to view the reason for our careers as congruent to key aspects of our personal values – our raison d’etre.

We begin to recognize that we do what we do not only because of the successes and the rewards (those are indeed important), but that the meaning we give to our careers as pharmaceutical professionals is what sees us through the most challenging times and the darkest hours. We are working as scientists, manufacturers, marketers, clinical directors, executives, medical representatives… because much of what we do in these roles fulfill part of our personal mission and conviction. Hence, we are willing to weather through the beating that our industry may have taken and to stick with the vision of how we would like our industry to evolve. This gives us no option but to keep moving forward.

 

“…the meaning we give to our careers as pharmaceutical professionals is what sees us through the most challenging times and the darkest hours.”

 

We’re all familiar with the company vision, the corporate culture, and how important adhering to these are to the health and vitality of a company. We may feel the tides of uncertainty about our job prospects. We may hear the public storms of skepticism against this industry. We may see the incredible potential of what this industry can offer in diseases once debilitating or fatal. We may know the difference this industry has already made in the lives of countless patients. All this cannot shake the personal vision that each of us should have as industry professionals and our personal connection to the significance that we can contribute through our work.

This significance – our personal vision of our role as pharmaceutical professionals – is what remains even if we’d already forgotten the many different steps to getting our “mojo” back.

About the author:

Jane Chin, Ph.D. is Managing Partner of 9Pillars (www.9pillars.com), a pharmaceutical leadership and healthcare advisory firm, and founder of Medical Science Liaison Institute (www.mslinstitute.com/), a consulting company focused on field-based medical science liaison teams. Chin is author of Practical Leadership for BioPharmaceutical Executives, a book that identifies the conditions and competencies for creating a leadership experience (where “Charisma” is optional).

Web: www.pharma-leadership.com

Tel: 310 876 2680

How do you feel about your career as an industry professional?