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.
The Governance Revolution: What Every Board Member Needs to Know, Now! SpenglerFox CEO, Jens Friedrich, invites Deborah Hicks Midanek to discuss her recently published book 'The Governance Revolution: What Every Board Member Needs to Know, Now!' Deborah is a veteran independent director, a pioneer in the corporate restructuring industry, and a serial entrepreneur. Widely respected for her turnaround skills, she has diagnosed and remedied problems for over 60 corporations and facilitated the growth of nearly 30 other ventures, including her own. Described by the late Fletcher Byrom, CEO of a Fortune 25 company, as a “pure thinker” – quickly gaining a deep understanding of complex problems and demonstrating an extraordinary ability to assimilate information and craft resilient solutions. More_on_Deborah_Hcks_Midnek.pdf Size: 161 KB Deborah_Hicks_Midanek_Slide Deck.pdf Size: 920 KB
A White Paper/Conversation with Industry Leaders What GlobalBusiness Leaders Have to Say about Successful Product Roll-outs and Meeting KPIs. The following paper includes insights from executives representing a handful of global companies. These individuals serve in roles such as general manager, business unit head, regional marketing leader and supply chain manager. They have experience working all over the world and represent markets such as Asia, the Middle East and Africa, North America and Western Europe. When speaking with them, the team at SpenglerFox sought to map the current environment for acquiring new leadership and managerial talent. Our discussions also focused on how this talent helps their organizations ensure the success of launching new products on the markets where these businesses operate and how these manager-leaders set KPIs to evaluate and measure the success of said launches. WhitePaper_TheEssentialsOfTalent.pdf Size: 1.07 MB
Rex was hired as a Project Director for a multinational factory in China. He held a similar role with another multinational before accepting this new position. The recruitment process was rigorous and exhaustive with many rounds of interviews with various department heads at regional and global levels. Rex was offered the position and accepted, reporting to his new boss (The Global Head of Supply Chain) who was based half way around the world. In his new role, Rex did not directly manage a team, however, he was responsible for managing several department heads that did not report to him. Rex was also responsible for updating all key stakeholders at headquarters on a project’s status. Sadly, Rex only lasted one year in this role, since he was not able to match the performance expectations of multiple stakeholders. This is a situation where Rex would have benefited from executive coaching. Amidst the daily demands of his job and the expectations of his stakeholders, Rex needed to better manage his focus while making strategic decisions at every moment to achieve goals and make progress. Like Rex, every level of management can benefit from coaching. But the individuals who benefit the most from executive coaching are those who are motivated to pursue growth in their personal and professional lives. In most cases, new hires at every level do not receive enough support for grasping an organization’s culture. Michael D. Watkins, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at IMD and author of “The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels,” explains that all new hires at every level must gain insights into the values, norms, and guiding assumptions of an organization. At the same time, they must navigate the very fine line between working within the existing culture framework and seeking to change it. Executive coaching is a natural next step in working with companies transform their businesses and aligns perfectly with my own life purpose and passion. I have been working as a retained executive search consultant for over 10 years, helping companies succeed by finding the right leaders as a search consultant, and then coaching these senior executives to reach their fullest potential. Transitions are always difficult for any organization. Whether through an internal promotion or an external hire, most senior executives receive only a basic orientation and onboarding. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, “Onboarding Isn’t Enough,” co-author Michael D. Watkins finds most companies are doing little to support the onboarding process. “Nearly all large companies are competent at the administrative basics of signing leaders up, but that level of onboarding does little to prevent the problems that can arise when working with new colleagues and grappling with unfamiliar cultural norms and expectations,” Watkins says. In my discussions with HR decision makers and business leaders about their biggest challenges, I have learned that many companies are trying to transform their organizations in a marketplace where disruption is constant. In this VUCA environment, some of their strongest business leaders were not performing as successfully as they once had and were having difficulty adapting to change, new market landscapes and new processes. These are very common themes and challenges that I consistently hear from companies in my travels. I realized that as an executive search consultant, my value in impacting a company positively stopped at the recruitment and hiring process. I knew that I wanted to continue helping clients and executives succeed beyond the appointment of a senior leader, and this is why I began executive coaching. Technology advances in the last several years have created a much faster and more complex world. According to the renowned mindfulness expert Rasmus Hougaard, our attention in the workplace is under siege. We are constantly under pressure, always on, overloaded with information and trying to work in distracting environments. Executives today face many more challenges in adapting to change and successfully keeping pace with these complex work environments, compared to ten years ago. Authors Thomas H. Davenport and John C. Beck in their book, “The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business”, advocate that understanding and managing attention is now the single most important determinant of business success. Coaching positively impacts a company’s bottom line by helping executives remain present, be focused and make optimal moment-by-moment decisions that deliver optimal results. As I look back at my work as a search consultant, my most fulfilling moments were helping executives achieve their goals. Many senior executives in Asia, Europe and the US have reached out to me to explore job opportunities, but also seek career guidance. With every inquiry, I always tried to take the time to share my thoughts and advice. In doing so, I felt I was giving back to those who mentored me throughout my own corporate career. Many search firms like SpenglerFox offer executive coaching and HR consultancy services in addition to traditional retained executive search. To receive further information about the executive coaching services, please contact Mary Kramer at firstname.lastname@example.org. About the Author: Victor Filamor Victor Filamor was SpenglerFox’s Country Manager Hong Kong and Asia Consumer Practice Leader in 2007/8. He is currently a Partner and Certified Executive Coach with a retained executive search & leadership advisory firm in Hong Kong and Singapore specializing in the Consumer & Retail and Industrial sectors. Prior to his executive search career of over a decade, he had 25 years of P&L management, as well as marketing, sales and operations management experience with Consumer and Industrial Fortune 500 companies and Asian multinationals. He has lived in four countries across Asia Pacific.