How do we shape our professional development as consultants? 19 Oct 2021
A life working as a consultant in the pharmaceutical industry offers substantial benefits, including flexibility, variety, and fulfilling engagement with a range of individuals and companies. Many of us have found that the advantages far outweigh any initial niggles of setting up limited companies and managing tax affairs. However, one key difference between working as a consultant and life as an employee is personal development and training. As employees, especially working within a large pharmaceutical company, we tend to have defined career pathways and ample opportunities for training and skills development. It is a mindset shift when working as a consultant to take charge of our own career growth and ensure that we continue to develop our soft skills and technical know-how. However, taking control of our development is not as daunting as we might think, and there are steps consultants can easily take to ensure we continue to steer our careers in the right direction.
Find a mentor
While there is a preconception that mentors are most helpful at early career stages, in fact, having an experienced colleague to help as a sounding board is invaluable no matter your seniority. Mentors can help to guide you through your consulting journey and support you as you build your professional network. Less formally, developing a working relationship with a supportive colleague who works in a related consultancy space provides an opportunity to brainstorm and help one another navigate tricky issues.
Invest in training
Even though consultants are often seasoned professionals, targeted training can still pay dividends. Skills-based training such as learning to be a more effective presenter, technical and IT training or specific training in our functional area all play a part in building us up as rounded professionals. As Stephen Covey highlighted in his book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, it’s essential that we take time out of the day-to-day routine to “sharpen the saw”, not least when working in a consultancy role.
Networking is vital for personal and career growth- after all, we learn much from our colleagues. It has, of course, been challenging to network in person over the last 18 months, but as we take our first tentative steps to face-to-face meetings, investing in networking is key. Whether just catching up with an old colleague over a coffee, or attending an industry social event like our recent PharmaMedic get-together, networking can help provide context and insight into industry comings and goings and key trends. Associations such as the ABPI offer formal working groups which can provide opportunities to engage with others on areas of common interest and opportunities to collaborate, while One Nucleus offers both formal events and informal mixers.
Attend complimentary sessions
Not all training needs to be formal. With the boom in virtual meetings and webinars, there are many opportunities to gain new insights from complimentary sessions run by consultants and organisations.
For example, PharmaMedic runs a virtual breakfast briefing every other month, tackling varied regulatory and medical affairs issues. Publishing organisations such as Pharmaphorum and CROs such as Parexel also provide regular series of events on topics of interest from real-world evidence to rare diseases. Taking an hour out of our days as a consultant to gain new perspectives helps us continue learning and developing.
John.F.Kennedy once remarked, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”. As consultants, continuing a journey of career discovery helps us to do better work for our clients and fulfil our professional potential.
PharmaMedic’s next virtual breakfast briefing will take place on Thursday 28th October at 8 am. Register via the link below to learn how the UK is shaping a new role in the international life sciences community.
If you would like to learn more about life as a PharmaMedic consultant, click here.