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Shall I accept this permanent position?  

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Steven Z.
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November 2, 2015 2:39 pm  

My advice to the OP is to take the permanent position. A post-doc is the PhD equivalent of a temp job. Since your current company balked at making you perm that is a pretty good indication they don't value you enough to do so and likely never will. If you suspect the new company is underpaying you you can always keep searching and when you get an even better offer take that. If it were me though I'd take the perm job.


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Dave Jensen
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November 2, 2015 5:36 pm  

On the topic of the current job market, I've found that in both my current position in a biotech hub, and my previous position in a non-hub city (both in biotech), we had and continue to have trouble finding high quality scientists to fill advertised and non-advertised positions. We aren't looking for super specific skill sets, just good candidates with interest and relevant experience. For talented scientists, the opportunities seem to be there.

I personally find that impossible to believe. The scientists I know have more trouble finding work than ex-cons and end up doing rather lousy jobs like adjunct professor, teaching community college, endless post-docs etc.
There are entire blog sites full of scientists commenting on the nightmare that is a job search in this profession.

Steven,

I totally agree with RSD and have had dozens of clients tell me this, over and over again. I'm working on a plain vanilla position now in Seattle and can't find what we're looking for, either. (Protein or peptide chemist, coming out of 4-5 years of postdoc), The client wants a productive person, of course, so a few relevant publications are important, but that's just a normal requirement. It's much harder to find scientists than you and your blogs think it is, that's for sure. This is likely because there are 300-400 niches inside just the life sciences . . . Each of those has a job market, and the level of demand varies in these tremendously.

People who have "soured" on their opportunities close doors mentally (they forget how to job search, they don't take advice -- they plop out a few CV's directed to ads and the non-response validates their position), and if they do land an opportunity, the "sourness" is detected by others in the interviewing process and their chances go south there as well. It's a vicious circle.

Dave

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PG
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November 2, 2015 6:22 pm  

The job market seem to hae improved. We are seeing lower number of applicants to advertised positions and also that candidates have an easier time finding other positions. This seem to be true especially for project leaders and people with some years of experience but it is a difference as compared to a couple of years ago.


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Steven Z.
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November 2, 2015 7:26 pm  

Ah I see 4-5 year post-doc.

That is going to be a tough sell telling a smart young student If you just endure 4-5 years undergrad, followed by 5-7 years of grad school, followed by 4-5 years post-doc you just may have a chance at a somewhat decent job maybe (or you maybe you will join the chorus of unemployed scientists on Chemjobber, In the Pipeline and elsewhere).

That was exactly why I got off at the MS level. I am not waiting until I am 40 to maybe, no real guarantee, have a chance at a job I could have gotten much simpler with any professional oriented MS in 2 years.

I'll also go out on a limb and say your clients aren't interested in any of the 100,000 or so 45+ year old scientists that pharma tossed out on the street over the past decade.

That is not a shortage. That is insane demands, a dysfunctional career, and compounded by purple squirrel.


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PG
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November 2, 2015 8:23 pm  

A postdoc isnt the same as work experience and you dont need to do a 4 year postdoc to get an entry level position. My statement was that the labour market (Northern Europe) have improved significantly as compared to a few years ago and that the improvement seem to be especially for people with for example industry experience as project leaders.

As for the interest of people from big pharma it depends on the position. For entry level laboratory positions they are usually not of interest for us for various reasons while we have recruited a number of people from pharma to positions that deal with clinical trials, regulatory affairs etc.


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Dave Jensen
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November 2, 2015 9:20 pm  

A postdoc isnt the same as work experience and you dont need to do a 4 year postdoc to get an entry level position. My statement was that the labour market (Northern Europe) have improved significantly as compared to a few years ago and that the improvement seem to be especially for people with for example industry experience as project leaders.

Agree. My client is looking for a 3-5 year veteran, Post-PhD. That means one or two postdocs, or a shorter postdoc and some work experience in a company, etc. No, certainly not required to have TWO postdocs!

Dave

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RSD
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November 3, 2015 9:14 pm  

I personally find that impossible to believe. The scientists I know have more trouble finding work than ex-cons and end up doing rather lousy jobs like adjunct professor, teaching community college, endless post-docs etc.
There are entire blog sites full of scientists commenting on the nightmare that is a job search in this profession.

Steven Z -

Perhaps its a matter of perspective. I've been turned down at various stages of the interview process for a lack of management experience, or a general lack of industry experience (they wanted 5+, I had 3), or because they wanted more of a molecular biologist than a cell biologist. Each of these companies is probably saying that they just can't find anyone with the experience they need.

On the other hand, I found opportunities with a CRO, a small biotech, and a big pharma company that were interested in me as a candidate. Maybe these companies had long lists of great candidates, but I still think that opportunity is there for good scientists, at least in the biomedical sciences.


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Dave Walker
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November 3, 2015 9:53 pm  

I know I'm weighing in late, but I would be leery of even an entry-level industry position with a postdoc-level salary (that isn't an industry postdoc, of course). Has the original poster done any research to see if the salary is fair or if it's a lowball offer? Networking is the fastest way to find this information -- contacting former employees, those who have the same position at another company, etc.

Also, titles matter. Was the original "fresh out of PhD" role something like a Research Associate? What a postdoc moving to industry should really seek is something on the "Scientist" level -- I've seen similar positions called Scientist, Research Fellow, even Senior Scientist.

Finally, I think Steven Z's comments are bordering on griping, and possibly clouded by anger. I fully sympathize with the desire to get off the postdoc treadmill and into a better life, but one wrong move can set one's career back years. Desperation in the job hunt only hurts in the long run...and most employers will balk at desperation which they can sniff from a mile away.

Don't take a bad job because you think you have no other choice. Instead, work at the job hunt to get more choices.

"The single factor that differentiates Nobel laureates from other scientists is training with another Nobel laureate." -- Sol Snyder


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Yaza
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November 4, 2015 12:02 am  

Hi Dave,

Thank you for reading this.

I checked the average salary from a website and found that the offered salary was ~ 10% below average. I have now requested an increase in the salary.

Yes, the job title in the original advs was something like Scientist 1, but they upgraded the title to Scientist 2 (one grade higher). So that is something good.

Even though they upgraded the title, I am concerned that the work in this job will be become a routine that a technician can do. But sometimes I think if this is the case, they would not have bothered to do all the paper work and upgrade the title to match my skills.

I plan the following: if they offer a salary lower than the range I asked, I will decline the offer. If the offered salary is within the range, then I might accept and give it a try. Then move somewhere else if it not a good positions. I think it will be a good to have permanent position in a CV from a well known biotech company.

Could you please share your thoughts.

Many thanks.


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Dave Walker
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November 4, 2015 3:31 pm  

Hi Yaza,

I want to be blunt with you: checking average salary on a website is not good enough. To be fair getting scientifically accurate salary information is impossible for most people outside of HR. But this is what having a network is for! What would you say if someone in your shoes made 25% more than "the average" on that website? There is no reason to limit your future earnings based on one website.

Furthermore, those websites often do not take in many factors, such as cost of living, benefits, etc. This can easily make a 10% decrease effectively a 20% decrease...or more. (My favorite example: Boston real estate prices!)

To the point of "upgrading the title", it should also come with an upgraded job description. Your fears are rightly justified: if the job description is the same, then you will on paper be doing the same type of work. But an upgraded title at least won't be a problem in the future.

Finally, your plan may be the best choice for you, that's impossible for any of us to know. However, you might be discounting how easy it will be to get a job in the future. "Working for a year and moving somewhere else" sounds pretty easy now, but who knows what happens in a year?

This is a well known behavioral state called "hyberbolic discounting" ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperbolic_discounting ). It happens all the time in the job search. Be extra, extra, extra careful, is what I'm saying!

"The single factor that differentiates Nobel laureates from other scientists is training with another Nobel laureate." -- Sol Snyder


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Steven Z.
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November 5, 2015 6:47 pm  

I'm not sure how my last comment could be considered griping but that is the way careers work. You slowly or rapidly climb to better jobs.

Right now you are in a post-doc which is a temporary position. The company balked at making you a permanent employee so either they don't value having permanent employees (many don't) or they don't value you specifically so either way I would not expect them to be offering you permanent employment in the future.

The Offer may be a bit crappy but at least it is permanent. You get out of post-doc purgatory and you are free to keep seeking a better job if they indeed are taking advantage and low-balling you.


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Dave Walker
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November 5, 2015 9:46 pm  

The Offer may be a bit crappy but at least it is permanent. You get out of post-doc purgatory and you are free to keep seeking a better job if they indeed are taking advantage and low-balling you.

Respectfully, I think this is bad advice on the face of it. Yes, a postdoc is "temporary" and yes you could, in theory, keep looking for a better career while switching to another job, but there are hidden costs here. For example, acclimating to a new work environment, getting lower pay, perhaps moving or changing lifestyle...these tend to happen when switching jobs. Versus staying at your postdoc one more year while doing a full-on job search.

Dave wrote about how taking an under-qualified job can be a Career-Limiting Move. Postdocs are probably the most susceptible to this mistake: http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/ca ... t.a1400234

"The single factor that differentiates Nobel laureates from other scientists is training with another Nobel laureate." -- Sol Snyder


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Yaza
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November 5, 2015 11:12 pm  

Thank you Steven and Dave for your advice. You both raise good points that I should consider.

They did not increase the salary to what I was expecting. Apparently they placed me in the lower end of the band.

When I contacted the hiring manager to enquire about job duties as my job title was upgraded, the manager mentioned that the job requirements will stay the same as the original advs, but I will also have reasonable independent perspective in product development.

I imagine that I will have a lot of support routine work plus the occasional independent research work.

Please let me know what you think.


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Dave Jensen
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November 5, 2015 11:35 pm  

Thank you Steven and Dave for your advice. You both raise good points that I should consider.

They did not increase the salary to what I was expecting. Apparently they placed me in the lower end of the band.

When I contacted the hiring manager to enquire about job duties as my job title was upgraded, the manager mentioned that the job requirements will stay the same as the original advs, but I will also have reasonable independent perspective in product development.

I imagine that I will have a lot of support routine work plus the occasional independent research work.

Please let me know what you think.

Yaza, I think you're at the point where this is a personal, gut-level decision, based on how you feel about all the parameters that haven't even been a part of this thread. It would be hard for Steven, or Dave or anyone else to make the decision for you. Would you consider the firm a larger, well-known company that will have some "street cred" if you later go job-shopping because of dissatisfaction?

Dave Jensen

Dave Jensen, Founder and Moderator
Bio Careers Forum


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Kevin Foley
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November 5, 2015 11:50 pm  

Yaza,

Just a few random thoughts...

I concur with Dave's advice to talk to your friends in industry before you assume that you have received a low-ball offer. If, as you say, it is a "well-known biotech", I think there is reason to expect that they have offered you a competitive salary for the title and duties in question. And although the meaning of titles can vary a lot between companies, in most cases Scientist II would not be a completely inappropriate level for a person with your experience (PhD + 7 years postdocs).

It's also worth noting that biotechs often offer a significant part of their compensation in the form of stock options. Now, in my experience, most stock options expire worthless (so you might want to discount their value), but that doesn't change the fact that the small companies considers options a way to match higher base salaries at larger companies. If you don't value options, you shouldn't work for a small company.

I would also recommend you have an honest conversation with the hiring manager about growth opportunities in the position. But remember, they are hiring you to do something specific for the next 6 months, 1 year, 2 years... In two years, it is very possible your job description will have radically changed, but you have to be happy with the job description now, and the potential for growth, or you shouldn't take the job.

And if you do take the position, don't be the kind of employee who sits back and waits to be told what to do. Industry can provide great on-the-job training and growth, but most of that goes to the "star" employees who impress their managers while doing the entry-level work. Those are the ones who get the future primo assignments that can help take their career to the next level.


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