Career & Salary Survey: Down in the Count

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The difficulties marketers face within the pharmaceutical industry—regulatory hurdles, increased public scrutiny, generic competition and ailing pipelines—have become so pervasive that they are almost considered the status quo. What has changed this year, and not without consequence, is the macroeconomic climate in the US. For the first time in recent history, MM&M's Career & Salary Survey 2008 found that salaries across the industry decreased—by 3.7%—from $133,700 in 2007, to $128,800 this year (Fig. 1).

Economic belt-tightening in 2008 has lead to interesting developments in the career choices of marketers—and the way they're recruited. “The companies I'm hiring for are taking longer in the interview process,” says Shannon Peryea, vice president, executive recruiting at Sheila Greco Associates. “Companies used to offer a candidate a job in just a couple of days. Toward the end of March [2008], they started being more selective. They're asking themselves, is [the candidate] really a necessity? Do we absolutely have to have them?” 

Top talent still commands top salaries, but the sack-of-cash incentives of years' past are becoming less prevalent. Respondents in MM&M's Career & Salary Survey 2008 said salary was the biggest motivating agent for finding a new job (33%), but that's down slightly from last year's figure (35.9%). Respondents citing a need for change as the motive for finding a new job rose to 9.3% in 2008, from 6.7% in 2007. A company's culture, benefits packages, location and opportunity for professional growth are just few of the qualities increasingly leveraged in the effort to find and retain top prospects.

Despite an 8.1% drop in manufacturer salaries—from $148,998 to $136,940, according to the MM&M Career & Salary Survey 2008—marketers employed in this sector continue to enjoy the highest salaries on average. 

Pam Saras, senior director of staffing at Millennium, The Takeda Oncology Company, says one reason she's able to offer higher salaries is due to Millennium's recent growth. “We're recruiting in a very competitive space, so it helps that we have an exciting story to tell,” she says, noting Takeda's recent acquisition of the company. 

Jodi Allen, global recruitment manager, Shire Human Genetic Therapies, says salary comes into play especially when trying to fill difficult positions, such as pharmacovigilance, biometrics and regulatory affairs. Additionally, employees in specialized fields like biotech “insist upon the opportunity for growth and for clear career ladders,” says Allen. 

Biotechs were one of two subdivisions of the manufacturing sector that enjoyed an increase in average salary, the other being managed care. Biotechs also command the highest average salaries of any sector, at $153,407 (Fig. 4), according to Career & Salary Survey results.  

“The biggest challenge is that the demand for qualified biopharmaceutical employees exceeds the supply of available candidates, especially in some of the specialized areas,” says Allen. “Both of Shire's major markets—Philadelphia and Boston—are saturated with companies competing for the same talent.”

More competition on the employer side means higher salaries, as prospects with a valuable knowledge set can jockey for higher pay. “Candidates in the biotech industry can usually find one or more positions to choose from in an active search, especially in the areas of science and technology,” adds Allen. “In general and administrative areas such as finance, legal, IT and HR, there is definitely more competition for candidates, and less availability [of] new positions.”

Seras agrees, pointing out that salaries in the medical and clinical areas tend to move up a little faster than salaries in other disciplines. 

Agency salaries fell 7.6%, to an average of $128,482 (Fig. 2). Marketers working at healthcare agencies commanded the second highest salaries in the industry, according to the Career & Salary Survey 2008. 

Michael Sanzen, executive creative director and partner at Concentric Pharma Advertising, says challenges facing agencies are a direct reflection of the economic problems manufacturers are facing. 
“On the client side, needs are coming down—they're asking for more out of less,” he says.  

One of the tell-tale signs of budget-squeezing on the manufacturing side is the reappearance of talented freelance creatives, since they're usually locked down on a job, according to Sanzen. 
“Good freelancers have suddenly become available—two or three have contacted me recently,” he says.  

Sanzen also notes that it has become harder for entry-level candidates to find a job. “It's hard with the million dollar accounts that have to be run extremely efficiently. It's not always fair to train [new] personnel on the client's dime,” says Sanzen. 

Agencies that train in-house can be advantageous, according to Dale Taylor, CEO at Abelson Taylor. With copywriters, for instance, internal training allows an agency to foster professional growth, explains Taylor. “Every time you train, salary goes up,” he says. “Our experience is that it's easier to train someone with a science background to write, than to train writers in science.”

Taylor says his philosophy on hiring and retention is that it's “always easier to keep your bucket full if it doesn't leak.” 

Thirty-six percent of MM&M Career & Salary Survey 2008 respondents said they planned to seek a new job this year—up from 26% last year. Jeff Burkel, COO at MicroMass Communications, a healthcare advertising firm specializing in relationship marketing and behavior science, says agencies have to search continuously to find the right employees for the position. For the right talent, Burkel says he's willing to pay a premium—but not before a rigorous interviewing process. 

“We use behavioral science in the screening and recruiting process,” says Burkel. “We take our eight core values and ask behavior science-related questions. [Potential employees] answer, and we score them.” For example, one core value cited by Burkel is intellectual horsepower. A corresponding question for that example might be, “Tell us about a time when you had more work than you could handle,” explains Burkel. “The process is methodical, and has served us well.”

Mid-level movers
With decreasing salaries across the board, it's no surprise that job satisfaction slipped a few percentage points in this year's Career & Salary Survey. In 2008, 28.1% of respondents said they were thoroughly satisfied with their position, down from 31.4%. In 2007, 4.2% of respondents were unsatisfied, compared with 7.4% this year. 

Additionally, perceived advancement prospects mirrored job satisfaction statistics, with 16.6% of respondents saying they are in an excellent position to advance, down from 22.4% last year.

Despite a lack of entry-level positions, mid-level candidates are having some success, says Sanzen. “The mid-level is fairly wide open if you're a talented individual, though it's a little tighter at the top end. It was much more difficult last year to bring in a mid-level person—they were all locked up,” he says. “We're trying to see what we can do for [mid-level candidates] to further professional growth.”

In the effort to entice new talent, some agencies are leveraging their culture, and opportunities for professional growth. “More and more, agencies are promoting their culture as an incentive—you want certain companies on your résumé . When you get people on that basis, they tend to stick around. The highest-bidder approach has calmed down a little bit,” says Sanzen. 

Taylor says awards are appealing to potential candidates: “One of the places awards mean a lot—[potential] clients don't really care about awards—is in recruiting. The most effective incentive is to make sure people know the facts about the business,” he says.

Saras says Millennium offers early-stage promotions. “We look at it as career growth. We listen to our employees through surveys, and have found that career development is a strong driver of engagement—not just moving up, but also out into new disciplines,” she says.

Publishing comeback?
Average salaries remain significantly lower in the publishing sector— roughly $28,000 lower than the average salary of the four other sectors—according to Career & Salary Survey 2008 findings. Of the five sectors, however, publishing showed the only rise in average salary, up 12.9% to $101,055, from $89,534 last year (Fig. 4). 

Jeff Getto, director of human resources at Elsevier, says salaries have mostly remained stable. “The business is changing so quickly, our biggest challenge is casting a wider net for smaller skill sets,” he says. 

The transition online, and the increased capabilities for providing interactive services and content, has required a greater need for candidates with specialized technical knowledge. Getto says he's looking for internal employees to develop new skill sets. However, recruiting tech skills for online publishing jobs offers potential candidates an alternative to the conventional tech magnets. “The biggest advantage we hold,” says Getto, “is that we're not Amazon, Google or Microsoft.”

According to Getto, the housing market decline and the economic situation in general has affected hiring and promotions. “We can't assume that people will uproot their entire lives to relocate,” he says, though relocation packages are occasionally offered. “We're open to consider remote locations for some employees,” adds Getto.

The gender gap
According to the MM&M Career & Salary Survey 2008, women are feeling the economic pinch to a larger degree than their male counterparts. Salaries dropped by 3.4%, to $108,001 in 2008, from $111,773 last year. Average male salaries fell to $147,171, a 1.7% slide, from $149,731 in 2007 (Fig. 3).

From a recruiter's standpoint, Peryea says she's never been told a client “must have a woman,” but pay can vary depending on the company. “Some of them are notorious for underpaying,” she says.

When asked about equal pay for men and women, Burkel says: “We make a point of it in our organization.” 

“We're 55% female to [45%] male—we keep close tabs, and there are no implied or real discrepancies in salary,” he says.

AbelsonTaylor's Taylor, echoing Burkel, says “Not here. People in comparable roles are paid equally,” adding, “It's a female-dominated environment.” Beesley agrees. “It's pretty even keel, 50/50, is my impression,” she says.

A company's location, especially during an economic crunch, can be a crucial incentive for employment. For the right talent, most companies say they are willing to offer relocation packages as well as cover moving costs.  

Nancy Beesley, EVP at HC&B Healthcare in Austin, Texas, says being the “only healthcare agency in the Southwest” has bolstered her recruiting. Also, paying $4,000 a month for a 900-square-foot apartment in New York City is an option many candidates are reconsidering. 

“It's a quality of life issue,” explains Beesley. “People want to come out here, and you can do great, high quality work without being in New York City.”

MicroMass's Burkel agrees that location can be a key factor in the hiring process, for some candidates. “With our Raleigh location, we get [applicants] that are done with the Northeast scene, and are looking to escape,” he says. That isn't always the case, however. Some locations are less appealing than others. “If you want to move people to Wichita, KS, forget about it,” says Burkel.

According to Taylor, geography can be a huge advantage if there aren't lots of agencies in the area trying to lure employees away for an extra $20,000. That said, a smaller market can bring more challenges when special needs are required. “The talent pool in Chicago is smaller than in New York,” says Taylor. “To find an account person in oncology, we have to look outside of Chicago.” 

Data for the MM&M Career & Salary Survey 2008 were collected between July 24 and August 11 using online questionnaires emailed to MM&M subscribers. Responses are unique and confidential
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