Should you stay or should you go?

By Megan Brodie 2 years ago | In People
  • 2 years ago
H&S partner Tanja Ivkovic

16 March 2022

As the pharmaceutical job market emerges from the impact of closed borders and lockdowns, pharmaceutical executives and senior managers are making difficult decisions between an overseas role that will boost their careers or a local opportunity that enables them to stay in Australia, a top life sciences recruiter says.

Tanja Ivkovic, who leads the Life Sciences division of global executive recruitment firm Heidrick & Struggles, knows the pharmaceutical industry well. Having recently returned to Australia after a decade in Dubai, Ivkovic says many of her industry clients “are expecting some kind of change to happen” but believes the Great Resignation has, for Australia, indeed become the Great Reshuffle.

The island nation proved itself a safe haven throughout the pandemic, with many local and ex-pat executives now reluctant to leave Australian shores. As multinational pharma companies invariably put a three-year timeframe around overseas postings with a possible option to extend, Ivkovic says after two years of pandemic lockdowns, people are now choosing between staying in Australia or reigniting their careers overseas.

“If an expert has been brought here to develop their career and has come with a partner and kids, it’s likely they’ve ended up wanting to stay,” she says, adding this has led many executives to rethink their careers both within their company and the industry as a whole.

Ivkovic says pharma is renowned for excellence in its succession planning, giving companies a diverse pipeline of leaders coming up through the ranks. If someone overstays in a role, it creates a bottleneck and blocks talent coming through that may have benefited from the experience.

“Australia is a really great launching platform for leaders from other markets who haven’t maybe been a GM before,” she says. “They come to Australia to take on that country head role and get exposure to a new market. They spend three to four years here and, when they move on, the company might bring in somebody else for that role, or they’ll have a national overseas that they’ll bring home.”

Ivkovic said just as Covid disrupted this chain of succession resulting in many Australian executives choosing to come home.

“I wouldn’t say their career took a backseat, but it wasn’t number one,” she says. “It wasn’t just, ‘what’s next for me, how can I continue to grow my career?’ It was, ‘how do I manage my career whilst also prioritising some of the other aspects of life that we’re experiencing’.”

As the world emerges from the pandemic, Ivkovic says people on an upward trajectory will fall into two categories: those itching to restart their careers, and those who have re-evaluated their priorities and want to stay in Australia as it has been proven to be a safe environment in which to raise a family.

“Changing your job is something you can control and a quick way to speed things up if you feel like you need a change and some excitement,” she says. “At the same time, I don’t think people will jump for just anything. There is still a bit of a risk appetite to consider. It’s still a little bit unstable.

“For those wanting to go overseas, I have no doubt within the multinational pharma environment there are opportunities,” adding having international leaders in Australia may help with providing visible role models for those coming through grappling with this decision.

“International experience is definitely a value-add and something people should consider taking before they have responsibilities like children,” she said.

“For those wanting to stay in Australia, particularly if they have already done an overseas stint, unfortunately for them, a job change is inevitable if they want to continue in the industry while at the same time developing their career.”

This is the first of a three-part MedNews executive series featuring H&S partner Tanja Ivkovic. Next, find out why culture is the new ‘must have’ for people looking at a job change. 

©MedNews 2022

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