Blonde woman in a lab coat, napping on her desk in front of a microscope. She is stuck in a rut in her life sciences career.
Image: ARLOU_ANDRE/Shutterstock

What to do when you’re stuck in a rut in life sciences

26 Sep 2018

Even in some of the most innovative industries, employees can feel their careers going stale. Hays’ Paul Strouts is here to help you climb out of that rut.

Even in the life sciences industry, which continues to be at the vanguard of innovation and transformation in the global world of work, it is possible to find yourself stuck in a rut.

You might be working in the most progressive of environments, but still find yourself gathering data day to day that feels meaningless and without direction, labouring under an organisational structure that doesn’t recognise your contribution, or bumping up against colleagues with whom the ‘chemistry’ is lacking.

All of these are perfectly good explanations for persistent feelings of restlessness, going nowhere and workplace ennui.

It could also be that the source of discontent lies within you and not your environment so, if you find yourself in this uncomfortable position, take the time to do an honest inventory of your current situation.

Whichever applies – you or your environment (or a bit of both) – there are surefire ways of shifting the block and moving on.

Identify your personal work priorities

We all need career goals to get us out of bed in the morning and give us an objective measure of work progress and satisfaction. These are determined by our values. Maybe you’re hoping to achieve a certain salary, or perhaps make a difference to the health of the nation, or in a particular disease area.

Some are seeking a certain work-life balance or freelance opportunities further down the track. There is no right or wrong here but unless you identify your work priorities, you will have no way of monitoring your career progress and will certainly remain (or likely end up) rut-bound.

Evaluate your current role

Having identified your personal work priorities, you may find your current position scores higher than you think.

For example, if you have a difficult employee on your laboratory team who makes every day feel like an obstacle course, but you have one day a week working from home, which is high on your list of satisfaction criteria, maybe it’s not so much of a rut after all. But if a harmonious lab is more important to you than your day at home, it may be time to ‘chuck the rut’ and move on to a different job.

Be sure to look first for other opportunities with the same employer to see if your criteria can be met in your current position, in another department or even another country. With a robust trend in research and development (R&D) and associated roles moving from the developed markets to Asia, there are plenty of opportunities for candidates aiming for global work experience.

Educate yourself in life sciences industry trends

Where is the industry headed? What sort of fit is this with your skills? It’s clear that big data and technology in new drug development, healthcare delivery and medical devices, along with increasing focus on automation, robotics and healthcare surveillance, are big trends in the life sciences. Candidates with backgrounds in pure science and emerging areas such as personalised medicine are also in demand.

This is just the tip of the iceberg; there are many more trends. You just need to identify one (or more) on the axis of your ‘true north’.

Update your CV and LinkedIn profile

Map out your desired place on the emerging industry landscape and see what qualifications and skills you have to offer.

If you find you have around three-quarters of what competitive candidates will bring to the table, all you will need to do is update your CV and LinkedIn profile, and start applying for jobs.

If you’re lacking some key requirements, consider accessing some new learning. There has never been a better time for online courses, webinars and continuous professional development.

Consider a mentor or career coach

It is not uncommon for candidates’ career paths to have been passively shaped by the forces around them, such as attrition of surrounding positions, changes in market forces or company restructures.

This is a recipe for becoming stuck, as it robs you of personal agency, which is vital to work motivation. If this sounds like you, deeper attention may be needed to put you at the centre of progressing your career. Finding a mentor or taking on a career coach may be just what the doctor ordered.

By Paul Strouts

Paul Strouts is the global managing director for Hays Life Sciences. Strouts looks after 27 countries within the group’s portfolio, spanning from New York in the US to Sydney in Australia.

A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.

Loading now, one moment please! Loading