On The Job

How to break in and move up in the hospitality, pharmaceuticals, and technology industries

industry, a technical background is necessary. Getting technical and computer experience in a non — high-tech company can boost marketability, say experts.

Moving up. For many, the strategy is survival as opposed to advancement. Launer suggests that you hold onto the position you have. Some companies are keeping employees, but cutting salaries. For a while, says Launer, salaries were overinflated. That’s no longer the case. Looking for a new job right now is no less stressful than dealing with cuts in salary.

Demand for medicine and new therapies continues to grow because people are living longer, according to WetFeet.com. From January 1995 to February 2001, WetFeet reports that drug stocks produced total returns averaging more than 450%. Consolidation and mergers, however, have been rampant for the last 10 years and are expected to continue.

The industry is broken down into two parts: Big Pharma, which are major pharmaceutical, Fortune 500, and biotechnology firms; and younger companies, typically emphasizing research and ranging from fewer than 10 employees to in the thousands.

Where the industry is headed. Smaller biotechnology companies are forming alliances and partnerships for marketing and distrib
ution purposes. Such partnerships increased from 121 in 1986 to 712 in 1998, reports WetFeet. Industry experts say today there are 40 major players. Predictions indicate that by 2003 there may be 10. Other trends, include drug companies investing in alternative therapies and growth in direct marketing to consumers.

Breaking in. The best bet for business professionals is large pharmaceutical companies, which “have a full product manufacturing, distribution, and sales,” says David G. Jensen, founder and principal consultant for Search Masters International, a biotechnology and pharmaceutical executive search firm headquartered in Downers Grove, Illinois. Biotech areas are primarily focused on research and development, thus most opportunities require backgrounds in science. Opportunities may open for those with backgrounds in managing, staffing, and manufacturing operations as biotechnology firms begin to produce therapies and other products. About 60% of pharmaceutical companies hire professionals without science backgrounds who have excellent communication skills and strong track records in all areas of business, particularly sales and marketing, says Jensen. But as the industry continues to consolidate, competition will stiffen among applicants.

Moving up. Good communication skills, having multiple skills sets — for example combining science engineering and business — can increase your chances for promotion. It is also important to keep learning, not only taking job-related courses but also courses that “enrich your mind.” Show that you are constantly trying to improve, says Jensen. Good teamwork skills are key to moving up in an industry with plenty of scientists and academics used to working alone. Those who know how to motivate and those who work well with others are likely to be promoted.

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