As a student, friends and family would frequently ask me what I wanted to do after I had finished my science degree. The answer would vary depending on who I was talking to, and would always be suitably vague. An answer like I’d love to do more scientific research was generally enough to appease most people, but truthfully I didn’t really have a clue.
It was only in my final term of my undergraduate degree that I even got a flicker into what exactly in the world of science interested me. I had electively chosen a module in drug development, and I would sit there listening acutely in lectures, not even glancing at the clock on the wall or wishing the lecture to end. This prompted me to apply for a one year’s masters degree in Pharmacology, and my pathway into the pharmaceutical industry shortly thereafter.
Despite doing the same degree as many others, my path was different. Some of my friends couldn’t wait to leave university and get money in their pockets and the thought of another year’s study seemed completely alien, whereas others pursued further study. What I have learnt from the process is that each of us has to go on our own individual journey in life; our personal horizon. For some of us, it might feel easy and come naturally and for others, it seems more like a daunting challenge.
Finding your personal horizon involves asking yourself questions like:
- What interests you the most?
- Who are the top brands or role models in your area of interest?
- What legacy do you want to leave?
- What would it take for you to be branded as a leading expert in your area of interest?
- What relationships are key to your success?
- What is holding you back?
From here you can make a plan for how you might reach your goal. This may involve, for example, doing some voluntary work to gain experience or enrolling in a new course to develop new skills.
To make sure your goals are clear and reachable, it is important that they are ‘SMART’:
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
- Achievable (agreed, attainable).
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
- Time-bound (time-based, time-limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).
Equally important when setting these goals – be kind to yourself – don’t put yourself under unnecessary pressure.
Anything is possible with the right mindset. What we set out to achieve and what we actually achieve might be very different, but that is also ok. It is also ok to change path, and re-evaluate our personal horizons at any point, after all, “The only constant in life is change”, Heraclitus.
Don’t forget to take comfort from your power sources (friends and family) during difficult times, and always keep any set-backs in perspective – remember your strengths and that everyone will encounter some set-back at one time in their life.
For example: Colonel Sanders was rejected around 1,009 times before he was able to set-up his first chicken restaurant at the grand old age of 62. This became the first Kentucky Fried Chicken, and the restaurant quickly tripled its sales figures in less than a year.
So back to my story, when I left university and applied for my first job, I had no previous in pharmaceutical development. The job description specified that an advanced degree and at least 2 years experience in the industry was desired. I was able to convey my passion for improving the quality of peoples lives by talking about paid, and voluntary work I had undertaken in caring for adults and children with life-limiting conditions. Employers can detect authenticity especially when it comes from the heart, so just be true to yourself during the interview process.
In terms of my own horizon, I am enjoying my journey – I have performed a variety of roles in the pharmaceutical industry over these last 20 years – I am still committed to making better medicines to ensure the safety, well-being and quality of life of our patients, and there’s a long way to go.
‘What lies behind us is nothing compared to what lies within us and ahead of us...’