What Does Career Derailment in Pharma Look Like

Pharma is one of the most dynamic and lucrative sectors in the world, offering a wide range of opportunities for professionals to advance their careers. However, like any other industry, it is not immune to career derailment, and many professionals, from entry-level to managers, have seen their careers take a sudden downturn.

Further down, we will take a closer look at the warning signs of career derailment that are unique to the pharmaceutical industry so you can recognize them early and prevent them from getting in the way of your career goals.

What Is Career Derailment?

Career derailment is described as a situation where a person’s career takes an unexpected and negative turn. It can occur at any stage of the career and due to a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Poor performance;
  • Organizational changes;
  • Personal issues;
  • Lack of skills or qualifications;
  • Ethical violations;
  • Lack of career planning or development;
  • Poor fit with the organization or job.

The consequences of career derailment can be truly devastating, often resulting in a damaged reputation, reduced self-confidence levels, stalled career growth, and even job loss. Worse, it takes a long time for derailment survivors to get back on track, and it can be quite hard even for professionals to find a job in the future.

This is exactly why it is important to recognize the warning signs of career derailment and take proactive steps to address them on the spot.

5 Common Signs of Career Derailment

So, is there a way to tell that you have turned in the wrong direction due to career derailment in pharma? And what exactly does it “look like”? Let’s cover the five most common signs that are specific to the pharmaceutical industry.

1. Failure to Meet Sales Targets

In pharmaceuticals, sales performance is a critical factor in career advancement. If you, on the other hand, consistently fail short of your sales targets or simply don’t live up to the company’s expectations, it could eventually lead to derailment, resulting in missed promotions, reduced job responsibilities, or even job loss.

2. Inability to Adapt to New Technologies

The pharmaceutical industry is constantly evolving, and new technologies are being introduced regularly, which is a good thing. The flip side of the coin is that if you find it hard to keep up with the latest developments, it can hinder your productivity and limit your job responsibilities, jeopardizing your potential career growth.

3. Lack of Regulatory Compliance

One other sign of derailment is a lack of regulatory compliance, which is essential in pharma. Not only does failure to comply with regulations may lead to serious legal and financial consequences for pharmaceutical companies, but it can also cause harm to the patient’s health. If regulatory compliance is being violated, it’ll most certainly result in job loss.

4. Poor Interpersonal Skills

Building relationships with colleagues, stakeholders, and customers is important in any industry, and the pharmaceutical industry is no exception. However, if people have poor interpersonal skills, they may find it difficult to get along with teams. They may also feel rather isolated and undervalued, which can lead to reduced job responsibilities and jeopardize their career growth.

5. Poor Reputation

Reputation in pharma is a big thing. If a person’s reputation is tarnished due to unethical behavior, such as fraud, dishonesty, or poor performance, it can lead to termination and career derailment. Not only that, but it can also be quite hard to get a good reputation back, which can make it difficult to secure future jobs.

Prevention and Remediation of Career Derailment

If you have noticed that you have any of these signs, don’t wait until it gets worse. Early detection offers the best chance to fix the problem and not let it hinder your professional growth.

Here are a few tips that can help you pivot your career in the right direction:

  • Be sure to conduct a thorough self-assessment from time to time. This may involve identifying strengths and weaknesses, reviewing performance feedback, and determining areas for improvement;
  • Focus on skill-building. Take steps to develop new skills or improve existing ones through training or additional education. You should also keep an eye on industry trends and invest time in learning new technologies that are relevant to your role;
  • Seize every chance to build a strong network. In the pharmaceutical industry, building a network of colleagues, mentors, and stakeholders can help you stay up-to-date with the latest trends and provide you with opportunities for career advancement;
  • Maintain a positive attitude. Times can be tough sometimes, but if you stay optimistic and proactive, it will help keep moving forward, even when things don’t go as planned;
  • Seek out mentors. Identify people who have built successful careers in your industry and ask them for guidance and advice. This will give you the support you need in your career and protect you from derailment;
  • Stay organized. Set clear goals for yourself, develop a plan for achieving them, and keep track of your progress to make sure you don’t deviate from the track;
  • Take ownership of your professional development. Always remember that your career is in your hands, and you can move it in any direction. Be proactive, seek out opportunities for growth, and focus on your long-term goals at all times.

If you take these steps, you can prevent or remediate career derailment and set yourself up for long-term success and fulfillment in your career in the pharmaceutical (and any other) industry.


To recap, career derailment can be a major setback for professionals in pharmaceuticals, and it is essential to be aware of the warning signs. Anything from as minor as a lack of motivation to a more noticeable decline in productivity and failure to meet sales targets is a sign that your career is in jeopardy.

The good news is, if addressed in the early days, career derailment can be prevented or even remediated. Use our tips to stay in control of your job, take proactive steps at the slightest sign of a setback, and you are sure to climb the corporate ladder.