Making the right career choices in the current times

Making the right career choices in the current times


Akhil Awasthi
Partner, Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare

Baring India

The year 2009 is going to be a difficult year for the Indian economy. Slow down of growth and lack of visibility on its revival will adversely impact investment decisions by corporate India at large. In this backdrop it is likely that little new job creation will take place. However there will be segments like the healthcare industry wherein the demand for products and services is more secular and is expected to be less impacted given the enduring need it tries to address. The demand for general healthcare from a rural and semi-urban India with its new found purchasing power, an urban market with increasing incidence of lifestyle and specialty diseases accentuated by a fast growing CRAMS opportunity will ensure good growth prospects and a demand for relevant manpower in these segments. How does one then go about making career choices in this context. What are the common dilemmas faced by young people who are about to enter the work force and how can they take a balanced decision? Let’s look at this in some detail.

“Should I take what I get now or wait to look for something better later”

A common approach taken in a difficult year where the job in hand is viewed as transitory till the ideal opportunity comes along. This short sightedness discounts the opportunity at hand and does not appreciate the critical fact that companies that recruit in these difficult times are relatively better placed in terms of the overall growth prospects which is why they are still recruiting and will be more rewarding from a medium term career perspective. Many a times in a slow down companies have a natural tendency to be cautious and not look for opportunities in the adversity. It’s this tendency which provides a window of opportunity to the more visionary companies to take away market share and emerge as a leader when the economy recovers. Many such leaders of tomorrow would be recruiting for people today and it would not be a mature decision to look at them from a transitory perspective.

“Which is the most valuable function to join

Marketing OR Finance OR Operations” – A timeless debate with no clear verdict. In a downturn when demand is elusive, the ability to sell might seem like a godsend but at the same time a prudent finance professional by astute management of costs could bring about an equivalent if not greater growth in profits. The real question to ask is not whether a particular function is more important but for the individual to understand and be aware of where their strengths and inclinations lie and whether there is a fitment with what the company has to offer. Most often career decisions go wrong because of this mismatch and lack of clarity at the individual level of what skills, competencies are they strong in. Spend more time on understanding what your strengths are and in which function you can best leverage them.

“More mature companies with best training programs OR smaller company with unstructured work environments”

The pharmaceutical industry has had its share of challenges much before the global crisis happened. People who are entering this industry today need to be cognizant of these problems and the fact that the industry is going through structural change and the manner in which this change will pan out will result in fundamentally different organisation structures and impact roles, skill requirements, incentive structures. In such a fluid setting, the ability to wear multiple hats, not have fixed mindsets and an overall receptiveness to working in an unstructured work environment will get valued at a premium.

“Job in India OR a global role”

The world is no doubt a larger canvas to paint your ambitions on. The world however is looking today at India and China to drive growth and value creation in the decades to come. This awareness is so strong today that many workers from the developed world are vying for opportunities that give them a shot at this valuable India / China work experience. Indian students should appreciate the importance of India in the overall global economic context and the fact that working in India, being part of this growth, leveraging this opportunity is being at the “right place at the right time”. At a global level large companies are announcing series of layoffs across departments whereas counterparts in India have several growth options and are struggling with a need for qualified manpower. It is no wonder that we are witnessing a reverse brain drain of sorts where people who had left the country for better opportunities elsewhere are returning in droves.

“Mainstream healthcare OR Affiliate sectors”

A lot of purists look down in scorn at peers who join feeder sectors to healthcare or are in affiliate areas. The healthcare industry in India has historically been a generous recipient of FDI and will continue to see investments going forward. A lot of the investment decision making needs a domain input and there are specialist providers of such services that are coming up now in an Indian context from market research firms to consulting companies.

These are often less understood and less recognized as an attractive option for playing a larger role in the industry and can be an interesting option to pursue.