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Surviving and thriving in a changing environment

After months of complex negotiations, news finally broke in January of Johnson & Johnson’s multi-billion pound deal with Swiss biotech Actelion in what has become the biggest European pharma deal in 13 years. While mergers and acquisitions can be unsettling for those involved, they can also be a springboard for your career. Here’s our top tips for surviving, and thriving, when your working environment changes:

Don’t panic

When merger and acquisition deals are signed, things rarely change overnight. There will be a long period of adjustment and restructure, where the two companies decide how they will best work together in the future. This provides a little breathing space for employees to weigh up their options, so it’s important to stay calm and not to make any rash decisions.

Be proactive

While you are waiting to see what the lay of the land will be post-merger and how this might affect you and your work, there is no harm in being proactive and looking at what job opportunities are available. Make sure your CV and Linked IN page is up to date, contact a recruiter to enquire about the market and to see what companies are currently hiring. This will all help you feel more in control of your career and what you might do next.

Take change in your stride

Restructure, reorganisation and even redundancies can be an inevitable part of a merger or acquisition, so you are likely to enter a period of change in the weeks and months that follow.  Accept that this is part of the process and try to be open-minded about the changes around you. We are creatures of habit and change can be unsettling, but it can also be a good thing and being adaptable to change is a desirable trait for many employers.

Consider how much it will really affect you

Mergers and acquisitions happen for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps to gain greater control in a market, to get access to a new market or as a way to own intellectual property. If the company you are merging with doesn’t already do what you do, there will be no-one to compete with internally, so you may find it’s just business as normal for you. Perhaps the change will affect you in smaller ways; you may lose the small company feel you were used to, you may get a new boss or a new team to work with. Think what changes can you live with, and which ones you can’t.

Look for the positives

Far from being the end of the world, a merger or acquisition could actually be the best thing to happen to you. More budget and resources for your work, access to different research, more investment in the company. Plus there might be new opportunities altogether – before the J&J deal completes, Actelion will spin out its research and development into a new, billion-pound publicly listed Swiss company called R&D NewCo (J&J will hold a stake in this with the right to buy more).  These kinds of creative deals are increasingly common in the pharma industry so you may find that when one door closes, another one opens.

Take the money and run!

For some small biotech’s, the company’s long term objective may be to find a buyer to take them over and move their business onto the next level. Smaller companies tend to offer share options, particularly to management appointments, knowing that they are at higher risk after an acquisition or merger but will be able to leave with a good pay-out on their shares. There’s no shame in taking the money and moving on to pastures new.

If you are at a career crossroads and would like some friendly advice, get in touch with us on 0121 616 3460 or

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15th February

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