The other day we got a call from a candidate who wanted to get on our radar for an impending career move. When we asked his time-frame, we were surprised to hear him say 2021. Often times we hear from candidates when they’re long past this pondering phase and more into the get-me-out-of-here phase. So kudos to that young man for having such foresight. 

While that extended time-line is extreme, our candidate does have the right idea to “always be looking.” While no job is ever 100% safe, that is the name of the game in the life sciences and I’m sure he knows that. In our industry, it’s important to be cognizant that things could change at the drop of a dime. That being said, you don’t need to be unnecessarily submitting job applications every day. So if everything is seemingly fine, when should you start the process of thinking about your next move? 

The new year is always a good time to take stock in your current situation. Typically this is the time of year that everyone is doing a little self-reflection and making goals, including the companies themselves. It’s also the time that hiring managers post the majority of their openings and get ready for performance reviews. 

To really make this analysis successful treat it like an exercise in data collection. Consider even assigning each piece of “data” a number value. For example, if you’re happy with your manager then maybe you assign it an 8 because that’s a crucial part of your happiness. But if the commute is horrible then maybe assign it a 2 because that’s unlikely to change. For the more data-driven, assigning numbers might offer a more objective view. 

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Write down all of the things you like about the job. Some questions to consider:
    • Are you excited about going to work each day?
    • Do you like the research/product?
    • Do you feel challenged? Supported? Appreciated? 
    • Do you enjoy your colleagues? 
    • Do you believe in senior management?
  • Write down what you dislike about the jobs. When writing these down, also note if you see a course of action for these things to change, i.e. there may be no telling if a bad manager will leave, but lack of resources might change if the company just received funding.  
  • Write down your career goals, and frame them as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goals. 
    • Given the climate of your company, how likely you are to attain these goals this year?
  • Think about your performance review. 
    • How do you think it will go? 
    • What would you say for self-evaluation and company evaluation? 
  • Review the past year of company business:
    • Most life sciences companies have a section on the website for investors and media that include financials, filings, stock information, SEC filings etc. 
    • Also, take a look at the jobs board–a robust jobs board is usually a good thing. 
    • Did senior management turnover or did they stay? 
    • Did people get promoted and did jobs get added?
  • Be sure to keep company business on your radar:
    • Know when research readouts and clinical trial results are set to be revealed.
    • Chat with employees from other departments–they might have more insight into how their team is doing.
    • If your company is a service provider, keep a close eye on your clients and how they’re doing. 
  • Take a peak at what else is out there. 
    • Review job boards.
    • Stay on top of industry news, especially in your location. Is a new company  moving in nearby and are they hiring?   
    • Keep your eyes on competitors.
    • Is there a technology making headlines that you’re interested in? 
    • Chat with colleagues at other companies.
    • Attend networking events to meet folks outside of your usual circle.
  • Talk with a trusted friend or family member. Sometimes they can give you a better read on the situation than you realize. 

As you’re collecting this data, you’ll likely start to get a sense of how you’re feeling about things.  However, it’s important to also take some time to review it altogether. This is where assigning number values can come in handy.  

If you see lots of low numbers or any of your findings gives you red flags, then it’s time to think about next steps. Begin by reaching out to a career coach or a recruiter. Sign up for job board notifications and go to networking events. 

If you complete your research feeling good about your role and the future of the company, then maybe a job change is put on the back burner. Only you can make that decision. But if any of the above topics raise small red flags, don’t ignore them. You may not want to go into a full out job search, but put the feelers out there. Maybe you don’t make the move until 2021 or maybe you end up finding the dream job you didn’t realize you wanted.