Today, I got an email from a pharmaceutical sales rep, who wrote, "I am having a difficult time finding jobs in my industry (in NYC) against steep competition. I am very open to careers outside of pharmaceutical sales, but I don't know how to present my situation and find the right fit for myself. What can I do?"
I can appreciate this situation; pharma sales forces have declined by about 25 to 30 percent within the past two years.
There are two ways of looking at it all. One way is through the lens of emotion. In the pharma industry, you tend to walk under a cloud that's threatening and digs at your self-esteem. When you are confronted with shrinking opportunities, you tend to feel less confident, and that can often start a cycle of self-defeating thoughts or actions. The worst thing you can do is to accept less and less; this causes you to get stuck in a rut.
The other way to look at this situation is to objectively appraise it and ask, "How can I transform and adapt my skill set to another sales field that offers me a better chance to shine?" You have the ability and talent to learn, adapt, and grow. Here are four quick ideas to consider:
1. Sell to the same client base, but switch to a different product category.
If you like the clients that you have been calling on, you may want to consider selling a different category of products to the same clients. There are many medical-software companies looking for salespeople. Search the Web for medical-software solutions, and you'll find 100 different medical-software vendors. For example, DrFirst sells prescription software to the same hospitals you have been calling on in the past. Instead of calling on busy doctors who don't want to see you, you call on hospital executives who are actively looking for new solutions. Next time you call on a hospital, find out what's on the medical-software shopping list, then search for companies that sell what's needed.
2. Switch to an industry that has higher growth rates.
The industry that shows the best growth rates today is technology. For example, Bluewolf in NYC is hiring talented people from any industry. As long as you can sell yourself and have the ability and willingness to learn, you can essentially write your own paycheck. You may have to take a step down at first, but within a year, you may double your current income.
3. Improve your job-hunting skills.
You may also want to examine your career-navigation skills and find ways to improve them. Go to TheLadders and read up on career navigation and how to land a better job. Present yourself in the best light in the social-media space. Here is a great Wall Street Journal article on how you can enhance your personal brand with a better profile picture.
4. Work on your attitude.
The most important piece of advice is to start selling yourself to yourself. Zig Ziglar once said that the word "enthusiasm" ends with four letters: I-A-S-M, and they stand for "I Am Sold Myself." If you are not sold on your sales talents, if you are not sold on your own winning attitude, if you are not sold on your future, then you are just preparing yourself for the role of a loser.
You can land a great sales job anywhere in NYC, just stay away from real estate, banking, finance, and pharma. Hunt for that sales job with a positive attitude. Think of yourself as going after Moby Dick with a spear in one hand and a jar of tartar sauce in the other.