May 29, 2024

How to Keep Your Career on Track During Layoffs and Restructuring

I'm Melissa
I'm a Career and Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech. I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.
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The Pharma/Biotech industry is consistently changing to meet patient and market demands.

These changes often result in restructuring and layoffs that can impact you, your team, your job, and your sense of security.

This week I am sharing how you can keep your career on track and get back in control of your career even when you are not in control of your company’s decisions.

What you’ll learn:

  • What to do to feel in control of your career in any circumstance
  • How to keep your career on track even with layoffs and restructuring
  • The skill you need to navigate the Pharma/Biotech market successfully
  • The question to ask yourself when you don’t know what decision to make that will help you make the right decision


  • Get a new job, get promoted, or improve your current role inside Beyond the Ceiling – a group coaching program for women in Pharma/Biotech. Learn more
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Welcome to Your Worthy Career, a podcast for women in Pharma and Biotech with me, Melissa Lawrence. I am a certified career and leadership coach with a master’s in Organizational Psychology who has worked in talent and learning development in biotech to large pharma, from non-clinical to commercial. I help women in pharma and biotech create a career worthy of them. Whether you want to get clear on what you want, get a new job, get promoted, or be effective as a leader at any level, this is the place for you. Every week, you will get practical career strategies and mindset shifts to help you overcome the problems you experience at work so you can reach your goals feeling better than ever. Your up level begins now. 

Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. I hope you’re having a great week. This week we’re going to talk about how to keep your career on track when something you can’t control happens at work. If you work in pharma or biotech, you’re likely to be impacted by a layoff at least once. And it could be because you’re the one laid off or your colleagues are.

So what we’re going to talk about today also applies if you’re part of a restructure. So sometimes companies will do a reorg and they’ll move reporting structures around, eliminate therapy areas, bring in new leaders, and they will shake things up. So no matter how the reorg or layoff or change is impacting you, the changes in your company can leave you feeling like you have just lost control of your career. You don’t know what’s going to happen. It can make you feel very uneasy. And the last thing that you likely want to feel is like your career is just happening to you and you have no control, like you’ve lost your stability, feeling insecure, like your job is just lost and not knowing what to do if anything. I’ve been posting about this on LinkedIn and on my socials in the last couple of weeks, and I’ve gotten a lot of feedback that this topic was really helpful. So I wanted to elaborate on it in a podcast episode. So that is what this episode is all about. Let’s talk about it. I’m going to share some specific ways that you can keep your career on track and regain that feeling of control.

Even use the change to your advantage. So with what feels like the constant change, it’s just not uncommon to get in a situation where the direction of your company and your desires for what you want for your career or even your employment don’t align anymore. So the first thing that I’d offer is that this change can be an opportunity to be intentional about what you want and your next step. Now, I work with a lot of women who have made their career decisions based on what made sense for them at the time, what their company offered them, what their boss told them was a good move for them, what they saw as a logical move, what made sense for their education. But many really haven’t ever intentionally decided what career they wanted to have and then actually made a plan to go after it fearlessly. And that is something that I help them do so that they know that that move is the best and right one. And they have that feeling that they’re in the right place. They’re making the impact that they want to. They’re in the right job, right? And they’re not just going through the motions and waiting for happy hour.

So whether you haven’t been intentional with your career or if you’re just not sure what to do, if you should do anything at all, my first piece of advice would be to be intentional about what you do next. If you’re not sure that you want to stay with the company, identify what your ideal role is and pursue it. You can’t turn down a job you haven’t been offered. I say that all the time. So what that means is that going after a job doesn’t mean you’re getting it and you’re going to have to do all of the changes that come along with that. Or applying for a job doesn’t mean that you’re going to have to get an offer and then find out the culture is bad. There’s a lot of little things that happen along the way from you raising your hand and saying, Hey, I’m interested in this, to actually getting an offer. So don’t avoid raising your hand for fear of anything that could come along the way because you are in control of that. Don’t let that fear of not getting the job, not knowing if there is something better or that you’ll let your boss down or anything like that stop you from exploring your options and making an informed decision.

Now, many of my clients will have some fear come up with this, some that they didn’t even know they had when it comes to figuring out what they want and making a plan. They’ll worry that they’ll put in the work to figure it out and get excited about what they want, and then it won’t end up working out and they’ll just be really disappointed and won’t get the job or that they can never be satisfied, that they’ll always feel like they want more and so it’s not worth the effort. I used to feel that way when I worked at AstraZeneca because I felt like I had a really great job and I was able to influence and get the role modified for me. I had a new role created for me. I was able to put new programs for leadership development, career development in place in that role. And I felt like I had everything that I wanted, everything that I had worked for, but I still wasn’t happy. And so I felt like, will anything make me happy? And that kept me spinning and just trying to convince myself that what I had was good enough and that I didn’t need to make a change.

I didn’t need to figure it out for a long time. And the truth is, is that there was something better for me, and that’s my business and coaching. And had I not had that courage to really figure that out, I would still be settling for something that isn’t quite the best fit for me. So these are real fears that can come up. And it’s really awesome when you can have that insight and awareness to know that that’s happening. It’s awesome when my clients get to the point that they understand why they’ve been stuck, what’s been holding them back, that they don’t have to stay in that hamster wheel, that cycle of doing the same thing over and over again. Because when we solve for that, it changes everything. And it literally is just a problem to solve. Not knowing what you want and figuring it out is just a problem to solve. And you might not know how to solve problems, but I do. There are experts that can help you. And so I promise you’re not going to want something that is so outlandish that it’s not even in the realm of possibility for you.

Everything that you’ve done is transferable. And you’re in the driver’s seat the whole time. So as you figure out what you want, whether this move is happening by your choice or not, every step along the way, you get to make the decision on what your next best decision is. How do you want to move forward? And it’s better to know and try and learn the skill, I will say, learn the skill on the way to overcome any obstacle on your way to getting what you want than to just settle the rest of your life. Because that is something in coaching that you learn is that everything is a problem to solve. There’s nothing you just have to sit by yourself in a corner and hope and pray and cross your fingers that it works out. There’s no sitting ducks. We are figuring out what it is that you want, and then we are making a plan, and then you are taking consistent action towards that plan until you achieve it. So instead of quitting or letting some rejection hold you back, you just keep going. So if you have the opportunity, be intentional to choose something that you know you want to do that is going to make you energized to go to work, have the impact you want to make, and use your skills and talents the only way that you can.

Now, if you’re staying with a company that’s going through change or exploring staying with the company, maybe you’re not sure if you want to leave or not, you can always use figuring out what you want to make a business case to get a new role out of the restructure. So reorgs and restructuring is a perfect time to renegotiate your job. It’s one of my favorite things to help my clients do. So if you’re in a different circumstance where, say, you don’t have a choice and the change is forcing a pivot and you need to get a new job ASAP, you’re like, I don’t have time for all this exploration. I just need a job. Then you can still ask yourself, What do you want the change to look like? It is a fresh start for you to identify whatever that best role is right now and end up in an even better job and build even more meaningful relationships with the people that you care about at work. Even if that time with your colleagues is going to be ending, it doesn’t have to end completely. It’s just going to end the way that you know it right now.

But it can grow to be something so much better. My closest friends are people that I met from work. My wife is someone I met at work. Those relationships, they’re not all intended to just stay within the confines of a company. Now, something that I tell my clients a lot is that it’s way easier to put all of your effort in one direction than divide up your effort in 10 different directions. Now, what I mean by this is when you know what you want, you can take all of that action in one direction. When you just make the decision. So even if you’re like, This is what I think I want right now, and I don’t know for sure, but this is the direction I’m going to go in. Then you can build relationships strategically. You can apply to a role strategically. You will know exactly what you’re looking for, who to talk to, and you’re going to get results so much faster than applying to everything that you’re qualified for and hoping something works out. Now, the next piece of advice I’d offer is that there is a lot of emotion that comes up with change.

Allow it to be there. You don’t have to feel a certain way. If you’re ticked off or frustrated, it’s okay. If you’re happy you’re laid off and you feel like you shouldn’t be, that’s okay too. If there’s a reorg and you weren’t laid off and you’re feeling guilty, that is okay too. Your feelings are just signals to you and they’re unique to you. So it’s not helping anything. It’s not helping anyone. It’s certainly not helping yourself to shame your sofa not feeling how you think that you should feel. Because let me just break it down. Psychologically, change creates a lot of havoc in our nervous system, whether the change is good or bad or terrible. Your nervous system is not a fan. It’s like, whoa, red alert, what is happening? And it’s going to bring up all sorts of feelings, and those are coming from your relationship with change. So not to get too deep here, but if you, growing up in your life, had times that you didn’t feel in control of situations, if you had trauma, if you had change happen that you felt you didn’t have a voice, all of these different things that can happen that shape the way that we view change, just compound our experience with it.

Change inherently is going to create some reaction in our nervous system, whether it’s good or bad, because that is what our brain is designed to do. It wants to be efficient and make things easy. Change is not easy. When something happens, your brain is going to be like a red alert. Then if you’ve had some experiences and you’re like, depending on your relationship with change, that’s going to maybe amplify some of those negative or confusing or bold feelings that you might be having when something happens at work and you don’t feel in control. Those feelings are going to come up. It’s going to bring up all sorts of feelings when you go through a change. And maybe those feelings will change by the day, maybe they will change by the hour, maybe you will feel fine one day and you won’t the next. And that’s okay. Instead of smashing your feelings down and ignoring them, which is what some people try to do, or the other extreme of just blowing up with anger and frustration, just check in with yourself. Like, allow yourself to feel. And it feels a little hokey. It might be if you haven’t done this before, but just ask yourself, how are you feeling?

How are you really feeling? Can you even get in touch with the feeling? Because a lot of times we’ll just regurgitate and say all of the thoughts we have, but we aren’t actually talking about feelings. It’s like going back to kindergarten where you’re learning to name feelings. As we grow up, we suppress that and we don’t know how to really recognize feelings and process them. So ask yourself, what do you need to feel safe and secure right now. Listen to what your body is saying. Our stability and our security feels at risk when we’re going through a reorg or a layoff. And it’s a basic human need that is threatened. And so it’s totally normal to feel a certain way. Emotional intelligence isn’t about not having emotions. It’s not about keeping the workplace free of emotion. It’s about how you process your emotions and how you respond to things that happen. So allow the emotion, process it, listen to it. What do you need? Get support, make a plan, and move forward. At the end of the day, even if you don’t agree with the decision, or let’s say the decision is just stupid. Okay, that’s not a very professional thing to say.

I know you wouldn’t say that at work. I wouldn’t say that at work either, of course. But sometimes that’s just what we’re thinking. We’re like, This is dumb. This is going to ruin the business. There’s all the thoughts that can come up when we don’t agree with decisions that are impacting our livelihood, our experience with work. And it’s tough to hear, but it is just a business decision. It wasn’t your call. You can’t control it, but you can control how you respond to it and if this is something that turns out to be good for your career or if it sets you back. It’s like the saying goes, You have gotten through 100% of your bad days, and you will get through this, too. And you’ll get where you want to be so much faster if you allow yourself to feel the feels and to know where you’re going, to make a decision that’s intentional. Now, the third piece of advice I’m going to offer is a little bit blunt, and it’s that the change is happening, so make a plan for what you want to do.

Sitting and spinning about how you don’t agree with the change, how wrong the change is, that can be productive when you are feeling your feelings. There’s a difference between feeling your feelings and going over the deep end and belaboring and not letting go, not moving on. And so you can feel your feelings. But feeling your feelings is going to be asking yourself what you need. That’s feeling your feelings, processing where those feelings are coming from, not just complaining. So if you find yourself just complaining, being frustrated, gossiping, all of that can be indulgent and prevent you from getting where you want to go. It can prevent you from getting what you want, which is that feeling of control and feeling like you’re not getting your career off track and everything is still going in the right direction. So one of the worst feelings can be helplessness or that things just are not in our control. And a way to get out of that is to be intentional and to be present and to make a plan for what you want to do now that this is happening because it’s not in your control, but you can decide what to do about it.

So one of the takeaways that I want you to have is that even in uncontrollable circumstances, you have autonomy over your decisions and how you react. There is more in your control and more opportunity than you might think. Once you spend some time getting to know how you want to use this change to your advantage, what your options are and what intentional direction you want to go, then it’s time to tend to your nervous system and let yourself feel those feelings, and it’s time to sit down and make a plan. Identify your next action knowing you can take this one step at a time, and you always have permission to change your mind. We sometimes get ahead of ourselves thinking, Well, what if I make this decision? And then it’s the wrong one. And it’s like, you’re only making the decision on the next best step. You can change your mind at any time. So let’s say you decide you want a specific type of job and you apply for that job and you get an interview. That entire interview, you’re assessing whether or not that job is a good fit for you. If you get an offer, then you’re in control of how you negotiate that offer.

If you have a start time, start date, you get to negotiate when that is too. There’s so many decisions that you are in control of in the job search process. So it’s not like just applying for the job means all of these other things are going to happen. That’s a lot of assumptions that go into the job search process. But you can always change your mind. You can always decide something’s not a fit. I have clients all the time. It’s something I actually teach them to do is when they make their career protocol with me and we know what role it is that is their ideal role, they know what companies they want to work for, they know what they’re targeting, what type of manager they want to work for, all of those things, then I teach them how to interview in an empowering way that allows them to get the answers they need to know if that’s really the job that is the best fit for them or if they’re being duped in some way. And I have clients then opt out of the interview where they’re an interview or two in and they’re like, Thank you for your time.

This isn’t a good fit for me. And that is empowerment. That is being in control. So I Identify what those next steps are, knowing that it’s just one step at a time. And when the future looks uncertain, you might feel resistant to making a plan because you might feel like you don’t have all the information and you want to wait to get more information to decide what to do. Or maybe it’s a hard decision, so you just don’t want to make it. But hard decisions are still just decisions to make. Instead of letting things happen to you, you can decide how you want to move forward. One thing I like to ask myself is, if there were no wrong answers, what would I want to do? Most people I work with want to avoid making the wrong decision or fear that their career will get off track if they decide the wrong thing. So to just eliminate that and allow your brain to entertain what you really want or just what options exist. If you ask yourself, what would you do if there were no wrong answers and you knew you’d be okay no matter what?

I bet that’s going to get your brain thinking in a different way, getting closer to knowing what the next best step is for you, being open to more opportunities or possibilities that could happen with this change. Because at the end of the day, how you avoid getting your career off track is that you stay present and take intentional action. You’re in control. Your career gets off track when you make decisions for other people, when you wait and see what happens, when you let other people decide what your options are, when you spin out because you didn’t allow yourself to be human and feel the feelings that came up and then they come out all sideways. But when you practice these pieces of advice that I’m offering you today, you’ll instead be present and active in this process. And you’re going to change what your experience is through change because this is going to come up again. This is likely not the last time you’re going to be impacted by a company decision that you don’t agree with or that impacts you in some way. But when you follow the advice I’m giving you, you’re going to take the next best step for you and you’re going to be in control of your career.

You’re going to keep your career on track. And that is a skill that is going to take you so far in this industry. Because if there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that change is going to keep happening. All right, that’s all I have for this week’s episode. I hope you have an amazing week. I will talk to you soon. 

Hey, the episode is over, but I want to let you in on a secret. There are four hidden ways you can use to advance your career as a woman in Pharma or Biotech that your boss or HR doesn’t want you to know about. These are strategies that are proven to work even after you’ve been told no. Save yourself so much time and advance your career on your terms by downloading the strategies at my website, They’re completely free. Go get them now.

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No longer settles for “good enough”

Hi, I’m Melissa.

Career & Leadership Coach for Women in Pharma/Biotech

I'm a former Talent & Development leader in Pharma/Biotech turned CEO and Certified Professional Career & Life Coach. I also host the podcast, Your Worthy Career.

I've been where you are, and I help you create the career you want without working more hours or settling for good enough.

I'm leading a movement of women in the industry who are figuring out exactly what they want and shattering the glass ceiling. The very real ceiling in the industry, but also the one that we impose on ourselves. 

So long, imposter syndrome and overthinking. It's time to step into the impact and life you're worthy of having.

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