Having spent eleven years in the pharma industry I am have seen my share of professionals. The personalities are varied. I have worked with some unbelievably smart professionals, some intuitive and inventive individuals, some that utilized effort, will, and passion as their calling card, and yet others who seemed uninterested. I was always the worker who looked at my job as a career and put maximum effort and passion into it but I was always was very curious when I came across those who were perhaps good at their job but seemingly uninterested. That person who we all knew could be great, but they simply had a mind for something else and did not see pharma sales as a career. With the introduction of the millennial generation into the work force, when I sat in the car with one of these young professionals and asked them what they wanted out of their career, and many of them responded by letting me know that they had aspirations to do something else, something other than pharma, I found it curious and it got me thinking. Do pharma reps look at pharma sales as a career or a temporary job in their professional trajectory?
Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with aspiring to do something you are passionate about and if pharma sales is not it than so be it. And there are plenty of professionals other than millennials that jump ship too. No one should do anything in the long-term that they do not truly want to do. But this type of thinking marks a change in the culture of pharma sales. When I first started in this industry, if a young professional mentioned that they aspired to owning their own business (while working as a pharma rep), during some managers meeting they would be spoken about negatively as someone who is not committed. Many would see this as harsh and unfair, but if you think about it, just as the pharma rep has every right to aspire to something bigger, the manager and management has every right to want to build a team of committed and dedicated pharma professionals….that actually want to be there!
“Times are a changing” as they say and the new professional that works in pharma sales may not be the “gung-ho” professional of old who looks at the organization as the end-all and be-all. The paradigm shift is that professionals are more and more looking at their own interests and passions and placing them before the the over-arching interests of the organization. In pharma sales as a manager you are often taught and trained to give the rep the “wiifm” which means “what’s in it for me” to motivate them to do something. You try your best to understand their motivators and match the “wiifm” to those motivators hopefully getting them to perform a task successfully. This way of thinking is more and more difficult if the motivation of the representative is to simply get a paycheck until they can achieve their goal of moving on to what it is that they are truly passionate about which may be away from pharma sales.
At POA meetings, there are these elaborate stage shows that are put on during the general sessions. Some pharma companies hire a house band even to play music. There are fancy lights and guest motivational speakers. Frankly it is quite impressive and I couldn’t tell you how many times I have heard people say; “I wonder how much all of this costs the company”? But is it all for naught when half of the professionals in the room are looking on their cell phones at job listings from Indeed for a job in the field they truly aspire to be in?
Just today I spoke to an old rep of mine who had moved on to another company and then yet another to increase his pay. I don’t blame him at all as more money is good!! He is now making substantially more than when he was working for me. Yet with that said, he told me he simply was not happy and that he aspires to do “his own thing”. He informed me of the inner workings of the particular company that he is working for and how politically it sucks. He feels like he is in a difficult situation and this has prompted him to think outside of the industry.
We all watch the news and read about how Bill Gates started Microsoft out of his garage and how Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook while he was drinking beers in his dorm room. We all want that one idea that absolutely shoots us into the stratosphere financially. Though the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, now more then ever, young professionals believe that they deserve to work in a position that they love and care about. Passion has become a major motivator and primary in many minds. In the past we had jobs and were thankful even thought it may have sucked. Now pharma reps may just be using the industry as a stepping stone to doing what they actually want to do. So you tell me; Do Pharma Reps look at Pharma Sales as a Career anymore?