MSL Career Development: Reinvent Before You Need To

I was listening to a public radio interview with two people who appeared in the 2010 film, Up in the Air, a movie about people losing their jobs. I was intrigued by a movie that takes a very personal view of getting laid off.

Image by Sigurd DecroosOne of the guests worked in HR, specifically in the hiring process. She said that when she lost her job, the hiring freezes made her job search even more difficult, because her specific function has become downsized by virtue of less hiring. Talk about double bad luck. When the host asked her about her plans, she said she may go back to school, and that she needed to reinvent herself.

I’ve seen some tough employment years for MSLs. I know many MSLs who have gotten laid off, some who have a lot of experience, and MSLs who weathered long months of job hunting and many more disappointing rejections.

For those of you who kept your jobs and have since found new jobs… a lesson learned from job market turmoils is this:

The time to reinvent yourself is BEFORE you need a new job!

We can get caught up in the busyness of business and get comfortable in the routines and the stresses of the MSL job. So we are not always thinking about “what if” and “what’s next” – until we are forced to think about it.

MSLs are luckier than pharma sales representatives (this is my personal opinion) in that MSLs often come into their positions with skills that transfer into other related, but different careers. Pharma sales reps who have gotten laid off by the thousands have a tough time doing the same thing – pharma sales is an interesting beast where you act as a middle man (rep) to another middle man (docs) who then writes your product for the actual customer (patients). There aren’t that many careers related to pharma sales, other than perhaps sales of other types of life science products (devices, diagnostics).

Did your MSL job description call for you to be entrepreneurial? Then take that trait seriously.

Often companies mean “self starter” when they use the word entrepreneurial in their job descriptions. Anyone who has founded a business: had an idea, build a company around that idea, and sustained that business beyond the 5 year “death of most start-ups statistic” – knows that self starting is a given in entrepreneurs, but is far from sufficient. Even good organizational skills and creative thinking are expected in entrepreneurs who want to generate an actual revenue out of their ideas.

Entrepreneurs who succeed reinvent all the time, often before they are forced to capitalize on that reinvention. They look at service extension, creative collaborations, and sometimes strategically enter new segments one or two years before they plan to work that segment.

What this means for the MSL professional:

Start creating the pathway for your next jobs, when you do not need these jobs. This may be a good time to look at skills that you have, but may not have developed them to capacity in your current position. Don’t rely only on your manager to develop you, you are accountable for your reinvention! You do want to ask for help and work with your managers and mentors, but don’t hand over the direction of your future to someone else.

How have you been reinventing – do you know where to start? Email me at .
Jane Chin, Ph.D.