By Mary Gabb ([email protected])

With all of the recent news about job cuts or outsourcing in the pharmaceutical industry,  health economists maybe worried about their own employment, as the downturn in Big Pharma will have ripple effects in many other healthcare-related industries.

However, a forced job loss can also be an opportunity to pursue a new direction, to turn a “Someday it would be fun to…” idea into reality. Here are some tips for researching a new career direction, without sacrificing your hard-earned experience:

  • Go on informational interviews: If you have an idea of other work you’d like to try, set up informational interviews with those in the field. These interviews are designed only for you to gain information about the career of interest, not for job searching, and that should be made clear to the interviewee. Most people are happy to discuss their careers (how they got to their current position, their average/typical day, general satisfaction with and downsides to their career), but only if they know they won’t be hassled about potential employment opportunities. These interviews can be arranged by email or phone, introducing yourself, briefly explaining your background and why you are interested in their career, and an offer to buy the person lunch.
  • In the US, check out VocationVacations – a service that lets you test drive a career by matching you with a mentor and letting you work in your field of interest for one to three days
  • Develop a new (non-technical) skill: The new skill should be something outside of your expertise, but not something that requires a new university degree, for example, public speaking, learning a new computer program (e.g. desktop publishing, graphics, web design), taking a class in a related field to your current company’s business (e.g. a medical/nursing/pharmacy class, business etiquette, business issues in different countries). This will increase your professional network and create a unique topic for discussion during your next job interview.
  • Volunteer where your technical skills can be used. This not only serves as a networking tool, but also introduces you to potential other areas and career opportunities that can combine your education and skills with a personal passion.