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Overcome career obstacles


Pharmaceutical Representative

Having the proper mindset and attitude makes it easier to sidestep potential career obstacles.

Career success depends upon a number of factors, including having a definite plan and timetable for professional advancement. In reality, though, unforeseen circumstances can often occur that present stumbling blocks along a person's career path.

When that happens, the most important goal is to deal with the adverse situation and stay on track. As much as anything else, having the proper mindset and attitude makes it easier to sidestep potential obstacles.

Smart managers realize that when their team succeeds, it makes them look good. Some managers don't operate from this perspective, however. By their attitude and actions, they provide only lukewarm support for the professional advancement of their employees.

The reason? Some bosses are insecure and perhaps even threatened by highly successful employees. They feel that, if they keep highly ambitious employees in their place, they won't be outshined by anyone's stellar performance.

A similar explanation is that some bosses are on a career path that is a virtual dead-end. Without having a good future in the organization, they are hesitant to propel the career advancement of anyone else under their supervision.

Fortunately, an unsupportive boss is only as much of a career obstacle as you allow him or her to be. Consider these practical tips to handle the situation:

Demonstrate sincere appreciation for all the help the boss has provided. This dispels any concerns that he or she may have regarding your loyalty to them or the company. Plus, expressing appreciation for previous assistance increases the likelihood that your manager will be in your corner in the future, even if they aren't wholeheartedly supportive of your career ambitions.

Maintain appropriate professional distancing. It's definitely a disadvantage to be psychologically linked with someone whose career has stalled or peaked. While showing your boss due respect and professional courtesy, be sure to distance yourself appropriately.

Begin to blaze a trail on your own. This is not to suggest bucking authority or in any way exceeding your area of responsibility in the sales organization. Rather, this implies the need to strive for career accomplishments that are not linked specifically with your current employer. One way to promote career growth is through active involvement in professional organizations. The networking contacts you make can be invaluable in terms of leveraging your career at some point in the future.

Like other segments of the healthcare industry, pharmaceutical companies are subject to the merger mania that has swept through corporate America recently.

Any corporate merger involves the interplay of a host of organizational dynamics. Typically, successful sales persons need to define and protect their respective turf. As is often the case, they may end up competing internally for territories or clients that they previously took for granted.

Mergers typically involve significant changes among the ranks of management. Therefore, it's possible to end up working for someone who previously managed a sales force at a competitor firm. It's only human nature for managers to favor the sales reps who worked for them previously. Such favoritism may significantly affect the working relationship of the sales force - even hindering the success of individual sales persons.

What's the best way to handle this possible career obstacle? A few suggestions deserve consideration.

Play smart office politics. This includes voicing positive feelings about the new organization and the outlook for individual success. Not knowing who has established allegiances with whom, the best approach is to treat everyone professionally and respectfully. Be open-minded regarding changes in the organizational dynamics. Some changes are easier to deal with than others. Rather than nit-pick over inconsequential matters, focus on achieving goals that advance the mission of the company and support your personal success.

Keep your employment options open. Staff reductions are an inevitable consequence of corporate mergers. If you survive a merger, it means that you are deemed valuable in terms of past accomplishments and potential for future contributions. As secure as you believe your future may be, it's wise to keep eyes and ears open for exceptional opportunities that might be too good to ignore.

This is perhaps the most difficult career obstacle to face. Even when there is previous "handwriting on the wall," it's never easy to deal with unanticipated job loss.

The longer anyone is unemployed, the more difficult it is to find suitable employment. This is especially the case for sales representatives. In the view of most employers, anyone who is good at selling products or services should be able to sell himself in a job interview. When sales persons are out of work for any significant length of time that raises questions about their innate sales ability.

That being the case, what's the best way to cope with job loss before it becomes a major hindrance to future success? Here are some pointers:

Network extensively and intensively. No one can forecast how long a job search will last. The easiest way to shorten it is to make as many contacts as possible with individuals who can provide bona fide employment leads - or who know of others who can do so. Go through your Rolodex and contact former college buddies, past clients, fellow members of professional associations, and any other networking contacts who can steer you in a helpful direction.

Be realistic in setting re-employment goals. If you need to find another job fast, don't let ego stand in the way of adopting a practical job-search strategy. As much as you might like a fancier job title and significant salary increase, that might not happen. Making a lateral move with a good company that offers advancement potential is a realistic expectation. Instead of holding out for the perfect job, carefully consider any and all offers that come your way.

Don't slacken your search efforts until you land a job. It's tempting, though impractical, to think that every favorable interview will lead to a job offer. The reality is that employers keep interviewing until they identify the best candidate for a specific opening. Even if you interview exceptionally well, your qualifications will be compared to those of other pharmaceutical reps who favorably impress the interviewer. So maintain the momentum of getting good interviews and following up in a timely fashion until you receive a bona fide offer that's acceptable in every way.

Career upsets can occur at any point in time. If you have a successful track record, think positively and stay focused, you're much more likely to sidestep potential career obstacles and forge ahead in reaching the professional goals that you have established as a responsible pharmaceutical rep. PR

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