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All things Pharma

Born survivors: can redundancy be a good thing?

Redundancy has sadly become more commonplace within the pharma sales industry as the sector responds to difficult and changing market conditions. The horrors of losing your job are obvious, but is it possible to find positives and emerge stronger from the experience? Pf’s Assistant Editor Diana Spencer spoke to several redundancy survivors to find out.

However unpleasant, redundancy is now a fact of life within many industries. The current economic situation has resulted in higher redundancy figures across the labour market and research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and KPMG has revealed that more redundancies are on the horizon, with more than a quarter of employers planning further redundancies in the next 12 months.

Sadly, the pharmaceutical industry has not been immune to the trend. A move towards smaller sales teams and a reconfiguration of business models means that many sales professionals have recently found themselves in a consultation situation despite their hard work and good sales figures.

The fact that redundancy is so widespread today has led to a considerable shift in attitudes. It is no longer seen as an indication of poor performance, and being made redundant is very unlikely to affect your prospects of securing another job. Indeed, the circumstances could provide a timely opportunity to explore other roles or take time out for travel or further training. Pf spoke to several people who lived through the experience to find out how there really is life after redundancy.

“Things happen for a reason”

For one NHS Liaison representative, redundancy provided a legitimate reason to leave a company where she had been unhappy, as the company’s downsizing meant her entire team was no longer needed. “At the time I was very upset and angry, but it was the best thing that happened to me, as it gave me a valid reason to leave after being there for five years.”

Rather than experiencing any stigma surrounding the redundancy when applying for other jobs, she felt it actually helped to have a valid reason for leaving despite five years of success with the company. Now an occupational hazard of working in most industries, redundancy is no longer associated with an implication of professional failure.

Having successfully secured a position in another company working in a niche market, she is thankful for the chance to explore other opportunities. “I truly believe things happen for a reason and for the better. I am definitely better off now in many aspects, such as work/family balance, income and benefits, though this is an area of the industry I never would have explored had I not been made redundant.”

“My employer asked how I could leave them!”

It seems that even senior roles and those with considerable years’ service with a company are no longer immune to redundancy. One Senior RBM/Project Manager reflected on her feelings at being put into consultation despite ten years’ loyalty and being considered one of the company’s best RBMs: “It was all a bit of a blur. My whole national team were in a consultation position and I was busy managing their expectations, which was bizarre as I was about to be put into the same position.”

Having been told to look outside the company for a role, just in case there wasn’t a suitable alternative to offer, she took stock of her situation. “I was far more relaxed than I ever thought I would be. I have a family and a mortgage so I needed a salary. Fortunately, I had mortgage protection, something I would advise anyone to get. I wondered whether I should do something different or even set up my own business, and registered with a few agencies both within and outside the industry.”

An offer was made of a job she had done six years previously, but grateful to have a position at all, she accepted. However, when an agency contacted her with a position working in facial aesthetics, she realised she was ready for a change. “Now I have the most amazing national team of product specialists with my new company. My consultation process really forced me to look outside my comfort zone, something you don’t get a chance to do when you’re caught in the rat race.

“My consultation process really forced me to look outside my comfort zone, something you don’t get a chance to do when you’re caught in the rat race”

“The irony was that when I handed in my notice, the company asked why and how I could leave them! My response was to thank them for the opportunity to look outside.”

“Thank you for making me redundant!”

In the current industry climate, it is not unusual for people to experience the redundancy process more than once, and though a huge inconvenience, this should not be taken as a negative reflection on your abilities. Indeed, it is not uncommon for sales professionals to face consultation with the same company for the second time.

This was the situation of an employee of one organisation when she was informed that her contract had come to an end for the second time. “I couldn’t believe this was happening again and I was very uncertain as to the future. I ended up securing a position with the same company, but it was a step back and I was merely hanging on in the hope a management position would come up.”

When she was put forward for a job in a company outside mainstream pharmaceuticals, it seemed an ideal opportunity. “All I can say is ‘thank you for making me redundant!’ I wouldn’t have been looking for a job if I hadn’t and would never have had the opportunities that I do now.

Looking back, it was worth all the worry and uncertainty to have what I have now.”

I will survive

Redundancy is never a desirable situation. You might not have to eat live insects and build shelters in trees a la Channel 4’s ‘born survivor’ Bear Grylls, but being made redundant can leave you feeling stranded without much hope.

However, rather than being a turn downwards, with the right approach redundancy can provide real opportunities for development. Being forced to leave your company can help you get out of a rut, consider roles you never would have previously and discover where you can be happiest.

Anyone forced to cope in harsh conditions will tell you that survival is about positivity and being able to adapt to your environment. It’s important to sit back, take stock of your situation and consider where you are heading. A new direction could be exactly what you need, and it might be the threat of redundancy that provides the momentum to make that change.

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