I had worked in commercial roles in the pharmaceutical industry for nearly 20 years. My most recent post was with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in London, where I spent a lot of time doing research behind the sales process. I engaged in exploration of patient behaviours, measuring what they did and did not know about specific diseases or medical conditions, etc. I was part of a customer experience (CX) team that explored patients‘ treatment journeys: from diagnosis to treatment on to how patients handle the emotional and rational aspects of treating their
In early 2014 I learned that my position at GSK would be cancelled based on an internal decision to downsize some operations. However, I didn’t take this news in a negative way. I had just under a year to plan a transition and was certain that I would find a suitable job from among multiple internal roles that GSK had open at the time. Ultimately though, after submitting several applications, the right job match just wasn’t there.
So I took this opportunity to do some thinking and deep reflection on what I wanted to do during the next 20-25 years of my life. Did I want to be self-employed or go the consultant route? Did I want to stay in pharma or move to another industry? Essentially, I used this moment to carry out a detailed self-evaluation of my professional skills and experiences.
Everyone approaches analytical and developmental processes differently. I tend to engage in brain-storming-type assessments. So, once I understood that I would have to look for a new position outside GSK, I went to work making mind maps. I outlined all my skills and experience; focusing particularly on what type of jobs or roles I might find where I could make a true difference for customers and the given organization. With support from my family, I took a month to specify and define that direction of my job inquiry, i.e. what I really wanted to do in the next phase of my professional life. I also took advantage of outplacement support programs arranged by GSK and enrolled in one of their coaching programs. This included one-hour sessions with a professional coach every 3-4- weeks, which gave me important insight into how recruitment processes currently work, how to edit and improve my CV, how to write effective letters to HR departments and how to conduct impactful job interviews. The GSK-arranged support programs also provided other invaluable input that later helped in my job search: lessons in reputation management, using LinkedIn as part of the search process, etc. During the 9-month period for the redundancy package provided by GSK, I even had options to work with counsellors on analysing the pros and cons of corporate vs. self-employment.
For me, the entire transition process lasted 7 months. However, these were seven months full of intense work and development of my personal job search tools. During that time, I sent out 35 applications for positions, where I thought I was a suitable candidate (i.e. roles in commercial sales, medical positions or CX-facing functions). I was strongly interested in jobs, where I could add value and make a real difference. Ultimately, I only interviewed for 5 jobs and got offers for 3 positions; and I used this process – specifically following up on rejections to job applications – to collect insight from various companies. I wanted to learn why my application was passed over or did not move forward. This helped me improve my approach to companies in subsequent applications.
In April 2014, I was contacted by the UK offices of the pharma company, Teva. This was the start of an interesting, professionally-executed interview process that ran for roughly two months, and during which I learned that the roles we envision for ourselves can sometimes be different from those where we can truly succeed. For example, I applied for a role in the UK, but Teva recruiters told me they had a role for me in Amsterdam. Yet ultimately, I didn’t end up in that second role, but rather a third (new) position in their Amsterdam offices. The role was my dream job: one where I got to work in a patient support program, while using my skills in behavioural and economic analysis.
Now I am in a situation where I commute between London and Amsterdam, since my family remained in the UK (due to my wife’s career and our having children still in school). I have been lucky that my family is so open and flexible as regards my career change. Also, I work with a very supportive line manager in my new job, which has helped me better deal with spending time between two cities. Needless to say, the reality of commutes is much different from what it seems to be on paper or how we tend to initially imagine it. Yet, I now have my dream job and I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world.
Improve your self-awareness: the transition period allowed me to think not only about what I wanted to achieve in my future professional life, but also about what was/is my maximum future value for employers. I did my best to set up a professional structure for managing the entire application process: noting which companies had received my CV and reassessing where it made sense to follow-up and push for an interview, etc.
Bring clarity to your professional experience: one drawback that surprised me during the search process was the breadth of my personal experience. When asking for feedback from different HR departments and recruiters, they told me they found my professional experience in multiple fields confusing. They asked why I hadn’t chosen to focus on a specific area? Why had I seemingly dabbled in a little bit of everything? This led me to re-focus my CV writing and underscore how different skills or tasks served to fit a specific mission.
Start your job search early in redundancy situations: one lesson that became evident to me quickly in my search process was that I should have begun looking at external positions sooner. In some cases, there are options for internal transitions with your current employer, but this should not be taken as a given.
Understand job search as a learning process: for me personally, doing research and reading books on professional development and even industry trends were critical parts of my transition. I committed myself to not just researching what roles were available, but also to investigating the day-to-day tasks and skills needed for specific positions. At this point in my career, I didn’t want just a job, but a great job! Additionally, I read a number of books on the importance of timing in the job search process.
Learn how to speak impactfully: since many interviews are conducted over the phone or on Skype, I found it very valuable to have consultations with a speech expert. She provided me with great tips on how to speak clearly and with confidence, which words to use, which words to avoid and how to sound authentic. I found this really important for making the right impression over the phone or on Skype.
Sourcing Talent in in an Evolving Africa. A white paper on executive recruitment in African regions. Executive Summary The following document is the first in a series of white paper documents prepared by consultants at SpenglerFox Executive Search to provide our clients and business partners with insight into new developments on African markets. We focus primarily on changes taking place in four key regions on the continent: Northern and Maghreb Africa East Africa Southern Africa West Africa This issue of the comprehensive white paper looks in particular at the market in Southern Africa and addresses a number of key issues: growth markets in the region and how businesses plan the location of hubs and headquarters; the HR outlook and how talent sourcing occurs in the region; regional specificities related to finding talent that might not be obvious at first glance, and standard salary packages for executives and upper-level managers. Picking up on the regional specificities point mentioned above, we feel it is important to point out particular regulatory measures on hiring implemented in various countries in the region: namely, in South Africa. These countries have strict quota systems to equalize the hiring of both white and black citizens as well as men and women. Such quota systems, with their noble aim of trying to integrate historically-discriminated populations and afford new opportunities to disadvantaged groups, do have an impact on how businesses hire in the region and how they plan incentive and career advancement programs. To make the document more timely and relevant for readers, we have also included an interview with a business partner who has first-hand experience managing operations in the Southern Africa region. This testimony highlights what areas are most difficult for sourcing talent; what successes have been achieved with programmes for finding talent (best practice); what mistakes have been made and learnt from in recent years and what advice the interviewee has to offer on succession-planning. The interview provides added value and real-life examples of how a business has addressed issues that impact a number of organisations in the given region: sourcing expat vs. local talent; promoting worker mobility; setting up attractive remuneration packages and talent retention programmes; and managing long-term talent development programmes. We hope this text proves both informative and useful. Africa_Southern_Africa_2018.pdf Size: 3.35 MB
Sourcing Talent in an Evolving Africa. A white paper on executive recruitment in African regions. Executive Summary The following document is the first in a series of white paper documents prepared by consultants at SpenglerFox Executive Search to provide our clients and business partners with insight into new developments on African markets. We focus primarily on changes taking place in four key regions on the continent: Northern and Maghreb Africa East Africa Southern Africa West Africa This issue of the comprehensive white paper looks in particular at the market in Northern and Maghreb Africa and addresses a number of key issues: growth markets in the region; the HR outlook and how talent sourcing occurs in the region; regional specificities related to finding talent that might not be obvious at first glance, and standard salary packages for executives and upper-level managers. To make the document more timely and relevant for readers, we have also included interviews with business partners who have first-hand experience managing HR operations in all the Northern and Maghreb Africa region. Their testimonies highlight what areas are most difficult for sourcing talent; what successes they have had with programmes for finding talent (best practice); what mistakes they have made and learnt from in recent years and what advice they have to offer on succession-planning. The interviews provide added value and real-life examples of how businesses have addressed issues that impact a number of organisations in the given region: sourcing expat vs. local talent; promoting worker mobility; setting up attractive remuneration packages and talent retentionprogrammes; and managing long-term talent development programmes. We hope this text proves both informative and useful. Africa_NorthernAndMaghreb_2018.pdf Size: 3.65 MB
Mis Güleryüz, Regional Practice Group Leader of SpenglerFox, talks to Talentpolitan magazine about her career that brings new talents to the business world. In a few sentences, tell us about yourself and your business. I was born and raised in Istanbul where I studied to become an electrical and communications engineer. I ended up working in the executive search sector; most recently in the Industrial and Manufacturing Practice Group at SpenglerFox. When and how did you begin working in this field? How did you choose this profession? I worked in sales and business development for 25 years. I was eventually approached by the SpenglerFox executive search company to come work for them. Their contacting me happened at just the right time, for I was considering a career change and a role with less travel. It took two years and five rounds of intense meetings, but I ended up here. Is there a difference between headhunting and executive search? Generally, the processes are the same. In both roles, you are looking to find the right person for a specific role. “Headhunting” is more of marketing term that had been previously used to reflect the challenge of finding highly-skilled people for critical professional roles. That term tended to reflect the perceived aggressiveness of the process. In executive search, we tend to deal with C-suite level positions that focus on company strategy and leadership. How is the executive search process evolving? What are the critical points in the process for finding talent? And what methods do you use: from beginning to end? The process has evolved mainly based on how clients perceive the market. The market for placing new talent is now more global. So, we address all projects from a global perspective working with all the experts in our team to provide input. The most critical aspect of search is communications. There has to be chemistry between ourselves and the client. A successful search process always starts with a very good brief: we sit down and talk to the client about what they want and what they need. The client has to trust us: they need to see that we understand their business, how leadership interacts with employees, and that we can deliver the right talent to execute the given role. The process is not just about one-off assignments: businesses grow and change and, for us, this means we need to monitor our clients' evolution and develop relationships and care programs that are responsive to their changing needs. Does successful recruitment require specific skills? Communication is critical. To be a good executive search consultant you need a strong level of social and emotional intelligence. You have to view assignments from a global perspective, sometimes taking a deeper look at what clients need just as much as what they want. Success in our industry involves having a superb network of contacts and knowing our clients’ businesses from back-to-front. What are your favorite questions used when interviewing candidates? Do you feel that any specific questions are either loved or hated? Do you have a favorite trick question? My favorite question to ask is “What makes you happy?" I ask this both generally (about life) and specifically (about career). Other questions I like to put to candidates include “Can you define an ideal leader?” and “What does success mean to you?” These questions usually give me good insight into the candidate and help me get an idea of their work process, what metrics they use to evaluate other employees’ success, as well as their ability to manage and delegate work. Have you ever experienced failure in life? When and how? For me, failure is a relative term. I think we all have different measures for where we think we “should” be at any given moment in our careers and this defines how we feel about success or failure. I can remember a time at a former company when I really wanted to move to a role at the company's offices in Switzerland. I had delivered on my work, executed well but, in the end, I didn't push hard enough. I later realized that perhaps I didn’t want the move as much as I thought. If I had, I would have pushed myself much harder. What defines your ability to succeed in your business? I think I’ve been successful because of my openness and my honesty. Plus, I am very eager to learn. I think my approach to our business as a positive, but analytical, thinker has helped a lot. So much of what we do is about how we speak, how we approach people and how we deliver on client requests. I think my biggest success has been learning how to engage with clients and deliver specific messages. This has helped develop trust and personal bonds over the years. Do you follow up with people after you’ve placed them in a job? How do you feel watching their personal development? The key thing here is that we’re not selling a product. We are changing peoples’ lives. That’s why we integrate follow-up tools into our placement support processes. We have a multi-phases review scheme to monitor how candidates are doing and to discuss their satisfaction. As a rule, I also make calls to candidates right on the first day. I want them to know that we care how they do in their new role and are willing to pass relevant information back to their bosses so that management can work to improve onboarding processes. Finally, follow-up with candidates is definitely an investment that pays off, because many times over we’ve received very good referrals from people we’ve successfully placed. They trust us and know their colleagues will be in good hands with us. Let’s talk about your customers? Why do, or should they, choose to work with SpenglerFox? I’d say because of our commitment to candidates and our thoroughness in managing the placement process. We do client feedback reviews and most often they compliment us on our communications process, our support programs, speed of response and our integration of coaching services into our search process. There are many other businesses out there that do what we do. However, we invest a lot in relationship-building. We place emphasis on our trusted advisor role. We also focus on a borderless approach to doing business, where we leverage the contacts and know-how of experts in our global practice groups to find clients the best talent available on the market. How does someone follow in your career path? How do they begin and how do they advance? Essentially, there are two routes. Either you join the business as an intern and then gradually move to a consultant role. Or, in other cases, people move to this business after having worked for several years in a specific industry segment. I think that, afterwards, to thrive in our business you have to have a strong interest in people: in building long-term relationships. People in our business advance and succeed because of a willingness to learn and take on new skills. Our business is constantly evolving and we increasingly see impact from sector overlap (i.e. integrating disciplines like tech and psychology) and the need to learn continually. How would you define a talented candidate? I think your best talent comes from people who are willing to engage. You want someone with people skills as well as emotional and social intelligence. It truly depends on the situation though. Some businesses may feel that the top talent is the executive that performs best; the one who meets quarterly targets. Others may define success as the manager who finds the best solutions to problems. At SpenglerFox, we do our best not to pigeon-hole talent or insist on working within the paradigm of traditional roles. In some cases, we help clients define and place candidates in jobs that hadn't existed in the past. Top talent is able to work across disciplines and inspire and motivate colleagues and teams with their problem-solving skills.