Career Guide

Dear Careernomers: Am I equipped to follow my dream?

We have experts on career management, HR and office issues who will address your questions weekly. We refer to them as careernomers – experts in career matters who will help you in your career journey. So if you have burning questions, send them to and we will get the panel to answer them.

This week, Yang Huei Yee, HR manager, Tupperware Brands and Elisa Dass Avin, head, talent assessment from Leaderonomics answer our reader’s question.

Dear Careernomers,

I was in sales for 2˝ years. I switched to quality and later regulatory affairs in the pharmaceutical industry for three years. I am a biotech degree holder although pharmacy is the preferred degree in my current job function.

I am interested in a consulting/training/marketing-related function.

My question is, will I face obstacles in getting a consultant/trainer/marketing job since I do not have the relevant background?

I have tried to apply for a transfer to a relevant department in my current company but the marketing managers told me frankly that I need to have experience in the relevant field.

I am not sure if I should just stay put in my current position, which has limited career progression, or move on to something which I am passionate about.

If I choose to follow my passion, where do I start?

Person who needs help

Dear Person who needs help,

First of all, let me commend you for taking the initiative to speak with people in the marketing field – an area of your interest. If you have not spoken to training or consulting experts, a good start is to do so.

You need to find out more information about the nature of these roles and the challenges. The three fields you have identified are very different in nature and require specific skils. Before you move into a career of your choice, you need to identify your passion. Are you interested only in training, consulting and marketing?

In most recruitment, companies would prefer to hire candidates with experience in the relevant field as the chances of setting an experienced candidate for success is higher, especially those with a proven track record.

If you do not have the relevant skills, chances are higher for a move within the organisation as part of your career development. I would suggest that you explore opportunities with your manager to expand your role to interface with your external customers in order to understand their needs and the market. This will open doors for a role in marketing.

To quote a real life example, I have seen a lab chemist progress into the role of a product manager. The chemist’s role was expanded into providing technical service to the external customers. This enabled him to understand his customer needs, and at the same time, provided him exposure to the market.

He eventually moved into a sales and marketing role within a few years. Of course he equipped himself with a post graduate diploma in marketing.

A transition into training or consulting role would be an easier route with your background and experience in quality and regulatory affairs.

A good start is to hone your training skills and to take every opportunity to conduct training in your area of expertise or interest.

If the opportunity to train is not available in your current role, you will need to create the opportunity. Be a volunteer trainer in your organisation. Start to network with people in this industry and make your name known.

If there is a local pharma quality group, be a member and participate in its activities. Assess your readiness and level of experience before you take on these roles. There is always demand for good trainers and consultants in management systems.

To answer your question if not having the relevant background is an obstacle in getting the role of your interest, I would say no, but not having the relevant experience and skills is definitely an obstacle unless you are willing to start at the management trainee level.

You need to be very clear whether training, consulting or marketing is your passion or whether there is a higher purpose of finding solutions to people’s problems.

On the question if you should continue in your current role or move into an area of your passion, I would advise you to move into an area of your talent which would allow you to serve a higher purpose.

There is so much hype and emphasis on finding the career of passion by career counsellors, career guide books and the media. It makes sense to a small group of people because they have the talent and a clear passion in that direction.

In reality, how many of us in the workforce are actually performing a job of our true calling? One cannot find sustainable motivation or passion in a job from an external source or environment but from within oneself.

Cal Newport, author and professor of Georgetown University has a career philosophy based on this simple premise: The traits that lead people to love their work are general and have little to do with a job’s specifics. These traits include a sense of autonomy and the feeling that you are good at what you do and are having an impact on the world. To quote Newport, “Passion is not something you follow. It’s something that will follow you as you put in the hard work to become valuable to the world.”

May success and passion follow you in your choice career!

Yang Huei Yee

Dear person who needs help,

We all reach a crossroad at different points of our career journey. In your situation, you have shared your discovery of three areas that interest you.

While all these areas allow you to do what you enjoy - meet, understand and help people, the roles that you described (marketing, training, consulting) are in essence very different jobs that provide different satisfaction.

In a generic marketing role, you would definitely get to meet a different level of stakeholders. In a training role, you basically help others to learn. And in consulting, you are to be the object matter expert who can analyse to provide solutions.

It will be helpful if you speak to different people in these roles to learn about which area you wish to focus on.

Speak to people who know you well and have worked with you to identify your strengths if you find it challenging to decide.

Once you have decided, you can consider one of these options to explore further and to help you transit into your new area of interest. In some cases, this may take place quickly; sometimes it may take longer.

If you wish to explore how to be a trainer, please consider the following:

> Volunteer to be an in-house trainer to the new or younger employees. That will help build confidence and discover if this is truly what you want to do. Also, when you decide to move on from your company, it will give you the credentials to apply to train or consult elsewhere.

> Get trained to be a trainer. There are many public courses as well as those from the HR department that will help you get a feel of what it means to train and at the same time, show future employers how serious you are in your desire to change fields.

> Ask for an internal transfer if there is such an opportunity.

> Speak to recruiters. Share with them your desire to switch job focus. Then wait for them to match you to the right job.

> Don’t give up. While you may not have all the desired qualifications now, work on equipping yourself and at the same time, keep applying for jobs. You may come across someone who is willing to give you an opportunity to grow.

Never think it’s too late to pursue what you are passionate about. Be certain of your passion and preservere!

All the best!

Elisa Dass Avin

The opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Leaderonomics or