Eight months in Sweden, and now I’m onto my third job. For the past two weeks I have been working as ‘Data Collector’ for IMS.
Essentially IMS is a company that conducts medical market research on a worldwide scale. Pharmaceutical companies commissioned them to determine the prescriptions habits of doctors in various countries, as a means of better marketing their drugs. As a ‘Data Collector’, I basically sit around on the phone booking and interviewing doctors in English speaking countries. According to the company’s literature, there can be as many 100-200 data collectors working at any one time. Obviously I work in the English department, where there are only 20 of us, but there are dozens of other departments too. Walking through the offices is like going through the UN. Walk past one room where everyone is on the phone speaking Spanish, then in the next everyone is speaking Finnish.
The work can be quite interesting, and even educational. Before each assignment we’re given a run down on the diseases we’re looking into, and its various treatments. I’m also learning a little about how the pharmaceutical industry works; such as the exorbitant amounts of money such companies spend on marketing and promotion, rather then on actually developing medications. But above all it is so nice to work indoors, sleep in after 5am and be free of the physical labour.
Having said that, there are some drawbacks, which could see me back working in construction sooner then I like to admit. For one it is all short-term contract work. I’ve been given work right up until Christmas, but I’ve also been warned that work cannot be guaranteed after that. January is generally very quiet, and things can pick up in February, but it can be as late as April/May.
This not only makes for very little job security, but also creates a very competitive work environment. December is a particularly busy time and there are more workers now then normal. We are all painfully aware that when work does pick up again, not all of us will be called back. Consequently everyone is doing what they can to prove what hard diligent workers they are.
This fact alone should make the place competitive enough, but our boss Clare likes to add petrol to the flames by putting us into direct competition with one another. She keeps statistics of how many phone calls we’ve made, how many bookings we’ve taken, and how many interviews we’ve completed. Thus our work rate has a numerical measurement, which Clare isn’t afraid to make public.
On a weekly basis she’ll go over all these statistics in front of us, offering praise and criticism in front of all our work colleagues. A typically session will begin like this: “Well done Mike! You completed 65 tasks this week. Lets give him a hand everyone! Let’s all try to work as hard as Mike!” This is then followed by “Oh dear Nic, you only completed five tasks this week. I know you’ve only just started but let’s try a little harder next week shall we?” I’ll then be left to wallow in my humiliation, while Mike smugly boasts to Clare that he can work even harder and that next week he reckons he’ll even break his own record.
Throughout these sessions Clare always gives her criticisms in the collective ‘We’ even when it’s clearly being directed at one person. Before she finishes she likes to give a little speech about the importance of teamwork. Despite that fact she has openly ranked and compared us to one another like some sort of competition, and made it clear we’re all competing for limited work, it isn’t in fact a competition. We’re all a team.
It is kind of ironic that I end up working on an AWA-style contract in the same week that my country of origin decides to abolish them.