Taking Inventory: When It’s Time To Start Looking For Your Next Career Move

“Should I stay or should I go?” is not just a classic line from the band the Clash; it’s also a question that runs through every life sciences professional’s mind at some point during their career. If you find this nagging voice hamster-wheeling through your head during your Monday morning shower or while pouring your first cup of coffee, maybe it’s time to start listening.

Whether you’re just starting your biotech career or have a long tenure at your current employer, deciding when to make a career move can be extremely stressful and challenging, especially in a chaotic job market disrupted and reshaped by a global pandemic.

How do you sift through your emotions, aspirations, the daily reality of your job, and the state of the job market to arrive at an objective decision to leave for supposedly greener pastures?

There are a number of factors to consider and each set of individual circumstances will be very different—for example, an executive with a decade of service at a large corporation will face different scenarios than a lab tech two years into her career at a smaller startup.

There are myriad factors to consider when making a major career decision like changing jobs. One of the keys to making the right choice at the right time is keeping your emotions in check, remaining objective, and seeking out help from people you trust.

Jeff Caskey, the Recruiting Manager at Workforce Genetics, advises life sciences professionals to think hard before making what is ultimately a big decision. 

“The signs that it’s time to move on will emerge from many different factors. Before you even think about external factors, internal elements like personal and professional fulfillment, recognition, and the types of challenges you’re taking on should bubble to the top,” stated Caskey. 

“You need to check certain boxes. Have I approached my leaders about my development? Have I done everything I can to seek out opportunities to grow my career? If the answer is ‘yes’ to either of these questions, and you’re still dissatisfied, you should start looking for a new job in earnest,” he added.

Caskey believes there are key triggers for employees that can justify taking steps to leave a current employer to investigate different opportunities:

  • You’ve stopped learning and growing. You’ve asked for more challenges and stretch projects, but these opportunities aren’t being given to you. If your job has become a dead end, there’s no harm in exploring what’s out there and having conversations with other companies. Checking out other work cultures and opportunities is easier and can be more covert than ever before. Virtual recruiting events are a great way to explore new opportunities incognito. You can also attend an industry networking opportunity. There’s a lot going on in the BioHealth Capital Region and talent has never been harder to find. You’ll be surprised at how receptive leaders are to exploratory conversations.
  • Your work is becoming stale. This challenge requires a cold, hard, and deep look in the mirror. Every life sciences professional goes through spells where they are going through the motions. If you take personal inventory and can’t find any way to pull yourself out of it, maybe it’s time to explore new challenges within a new culture with different people. 

What’s more, employees need to also be on the lookout for signals from their employer that things are headed in the wrong direction for their career. Employees should keep an eye out for the following trends, according to Caskey:

  • Is your employer using the pandemic as an excuse to remove perks like company-paid parking? If you haven’t felt supported during the last year and a half while everyone has been battling the pandemic, things won’t get better. That’s a strong indicator it’s time to move on.
  • Are there unexplained cutbacks? Companies are always looking for ways to be more efficient with their spending, but if they’re getting rid of tools you use or implementing new policies with no explanation as to why, keep a close eye on this pattern.
  • The workplace has become toxic. If there are no channels for feedback, a general lack of empathy, no reasonable accommodation for employees during the pandemic, and no attempts to keep employees codified around a mission and communicating openly, it’s probably time to go.

“Should I stay or should I go?” is a perfectly normal question to ask every so often. It is totally normal to be dissatisfied with your work life. This feeling likely ebbs and flows. That said, if this question creeps into your mind on a weekly or monthly basis, it could be time to take action. More often than not, two obvious and often emotionally charged paths emerge: to stay and remain complacent because you fear change or to take a reactionary and wild leap into the unknown because you’re frustrated and angry. 

However, there is a third way forward: Careful, thoughtful, and patient deliberation where you let objective facts guide whatever your next career move might be. Seek advice from people you respect in your field; you can do so confidentially. Take an objective, fact-based approach to identifying what you want in your next career opportunity. Be realistic and ambitious—you can be both and find your dream job. 

Again, the key is to be honest with yourself and your current situation while building out a list of must-have and nice-to-have characteristics for your next employer. In order to find the right match, you need to know who you are, where you’re headed, what you like, what you don’t like, and what mission really drives you. Once you make these decisions you’re ready to go out and find the right employer that can offer you the best blend of opportunity, satisfaction, workplace culture, and mission.

“There’s a lot of great work being done in the BioHealth Capital Region. If I was recommending where to take your career, it would be to companies that are taking on challenges openly and being clear about who they want to come and help solve them. I feel that transparency is key in determining where the next step in your career will be,” stated Caskey.

“If a company cannot be open and honest with you during an interview, what is going to change once you are employed? Also, I think more than ever, joining an organization that’s aligned with your values and mission is critical. The key is knowing what you want and having the confidence to go out and get it,” he added. “The power dynamics have shifted and candidates are in the driver’s seat. Take advantage of that.”

In the current uber-competitive talent market, skilled life sciences professionals have never been better positioned to get what they want. And that’s good. But you can take advantage of this favorable job market if you’ve done the hard work to understand yourself, to identify what drives you, and to build an employer archetype that is the right fit for this moment in your career journey. 

The market is favorable right now and if you know what you want you can certainly get it. That’s not to say your search won’t have bumps in the road. Once you decide to take the leap and search out new career opportunities, it won’t all be smooth sailing. That’s also normal and your search will require some perseverance that will be worth it in the end.

“If your job search is making you frustrated, stop what you’re doing. There’s certainly stress: conversations that go nowhere, companies ghosting you, and the rejections. It happens to everyone. But remember, this should be a time where you’re deciding where you’re going to spend the majority of your time, so it should be a mission you believe in and a job that makes you happy,” shared Caskey.

“If you’re unemployed, talk to a mentor and reach out to former colleagues and classmates. They are your support structure and can help clarify your goals and provide you with ideas that they know will work for you. If you’re employed and getting frustrated, put the search aside for a few weeks and rely on self-care practices that work best for you. When you’re ready to pick it up again, you’ll be more intentional and that energy will translate into how you present yourself,” he added.

Do the hard self-assessment work. Be as unemotional and objective as possible about your
current situation and where you want to go. Then, get out there and go for it. Companies need your skills and professionalism and the market is only going to get hotter for job seekers in the near future.

“Right now, we’re about to see one of the largest infrastructure bills in U.S. history potentially get passed with over $50B earmarked directly for the Life Sciences. Between that and the laser focus on COVID-19 and emerging diseases, this life sciences industry in our region is going to remain absolutely flooded with the need for talented, skilled workers. Now is the time to dig in and find the role that will be your ‘career-maker,’” added Caskey.