Transition from Business Manager to a Pharma Manager Job

Demographic changes in the United States mean pharma manager jobs will continue to grow in pay and prestige. More members of the “Baby Boomer” generation are retiring and finding themselves challenged by medical costs and expenses. The pharmaceutical industry must adapt to a growing market that is filled with increased competition from generic brands and smaller biotech firms. Professionals with a strong sales background will be well-positioned to transition into healthcare jobs, but must show they can adapt to the unique demands of the industry. Preparing for healthcare or biotechnology jobs from another field also means strengthening one’s healthcare credentials.

Although pharma manager jobs require a working knowledge of healthcare products — from one’s own firm, their competitors, and from cutting edge research labs — they often rely on core business management skills for the ability to get things done. Most senior pharmaceutical managers do not deal with direct, front line sales. While they may be the “responsibility owners” for certain major accounts, they spend much of their time working on top level market analysis and strategy. To leverage a sales or business administration background into a healthcare jobs transition, build and emphasize these skills:

Project Management: Project leadership is a huge part of pharmaceutical management roles and is an area traditionally associated with business. If you demonstrate the ability to lead and coordinate multiple teams, you can easily contribute to the kind of multi-faceted projects that are common in the pharmaceutical industry — such as new product launches, rebranding, and multinational strategic shifts in response to competitors.

International Leadership: Although we think of healthcare jobs as a domestic industry, pharma manager jobs are distinctly international. The legal status of any medical product is constantly in flux across dozens of emerging and developing markets. Likewise, consumers in different jurisdictions react differently to marketing and sales initiatives. Prior expertise juggling multinational expectations is enormously valuable.

Government and “B2B” Experience: Although face-to-face sales experience isn’t always necessary, business-to-business sales skills translate easily into the strategic planning and lobbying you’ll have to do when dealing with a variety of regulatory bodies and influential stakeholders. Fundraising experience can also help — since it involves a similar sort of relationship management.

Versatile business leaders can penetrate pharmaceutical management in a variety of ways. Neither direct sales experience nor a thorough medical background is indispensable. Core business skills are the backbone of a career switch.