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How to use your previous job to map your next business move

By: Glenn Cochran, Regional Director at RB Australia and New Zealand

Research by McCrindle [1] shows that the average tenure within a job in Australia is 3.3 years, which is significantly less than in the 1970s when average job tenure of people aged over 45 years old was 10 years. With the same research showing that we can have up to five separate careers in a lifetime, you could be forgiven for wondering if the gig you are currently in is correct for you.

As potential employers are no longer questioning short tenures and long ‘professional experience’ lists on resumes, there is an opportunity for you to look at your current career path and consider if it is truly the one you want to continue walking. This is something I did  post my undergraduate training as a podiatrist when I decided to step-up from my role as a registered podiatrist, using my established skills to pursue a role in business.

Making the career switch

The number one inferred question when people ask me why I no longer work actively in podiatry is, ‘was that a waste of time?’ and my answer is always ‘no’. I loved the academic challenge of podiatry but I had been practicing in the clinical sense for just over a year when I realised it wasn’t for me – I wanted to work in business healthcare. A lot of the skills and knowledge I acquired as a podiatrist gave me the good foundation for healthcare and medicine that helped me understand the technical side of business. Knowing where I wanted to get to, I then took the steps to close any gaps in my capabilities.

Realising I had zero commercial skills, I completed a Masters in Business and started putting feelers out for roles. The technical and commercial combination that was my skill set gave me a solid academic foundation to excel into pharmaceuticals and commercial healthcare roles across Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and Asia Pacific.

In 2008, I became the over-the-counter APAC Regional Franchise Director at Johnson & Johnson. I improved upon my business knowledge by being truly present in this role – too often people focus on the next step and don’t soak up everything they can from their current position. I learnt on the job, asked questions and spoke directly with customers, the latter of which was something I did well as a podiatrist. As obvious as it may sound, efficient customer interaction is a core skill for all managers in business and not one that comes naturally. I’m forever grateful for my foundations in podiatry that built up this skill set, with customer-centric thinking helping to refine the end-user experience in so many business roles.

Planning your next step

If you’re considering a career switch, I suggest you sit down and map out the skills you currently have in your repertoire – from interpersonal, to professional. No matter how relevant you think they may be to your next move, mark them down so you can understand your total professional value.

Next, mark out the skills you’ll need in your next role. Make the connection between the two and identify any gaps. If you think you won’t be able to fill these gaps by learning through immersion in your new role, search for training to upskill yourself – there are great online courses easily found through a quick search.

Finally, start putting out feelers to your network. The best way to transition between roles is via an introduction from a friend of a friend, so that someone can vouch for you. However other ways include signing up to industry newsletters, searching via LinkedIn jobs or reading industry press.

While the aforementioned tips seem like a good checklist, the reality is that career changes are never as linear as this. My number one piece of advice is to maximise your learnings and immerse yourself in your current role. Focusing on the ‘now’ will give you the best passport to move on to something else when you are ready.

Building your skills across careers

I’ve had several roles since first making the move out of podiatry, each adding value to the next. At Johnson & Johnson, I learnt to distil down the incredible diversity and complexity of 14 markets into succinct and focused business strategies. Learning to focus on similarities offered universal insights, which I later transferred to my role as General Manager at Integria Healthcare. Here, I learned the power of good leadership, of being a sponsor for your staff rather than just a mentor. Giving my colleagues agency to succeed was a short-step from giving my podiatry clients the agency to live full lives on their feet – it is about building confidence within my team to better themselves and thus, the business.

One of the main skills I’ve brought from podiatry to business is my understanding of the technical aspects of healthcare products. Having a good foundation in anatomy, physiology and pharmacology allows me to truly understand very quickly what the benefit of new products are and how best we can position them. I’m sure to keep my finger on the pulse in this regard, by keeping my podiatry registration current today even though I’m not actively practicing.

In my current role as Regional Director at RB Health, I drive leadership in the consumer health care market alongside an inspiring, talented and diverse group of people. I foster growth, nurture development, and am proud to build and provide innovative brand solutions that empower consumers to put their health in their own hands, just as I did as a podiatrist at the beginning of my career.

 1Fell, A. 2019.  Job mobility in Australia. McCrindle. Retrieved 25 June 2019 from: https://mccrindle.com.au/insights/blog/job-mobility-australia/

About the author: Glenn Cochran is RB Health’s Regional Director in Australia and New Zealand and a member of the Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) board of directors. He has worked in the health care industry for over a decade. RB Health encompasses such trusted brands as Dettol, Durex, Nurofen, Gaviscon, Scholl, Veet, E45, Bonjela, Clearasil and Strepsils.

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