Managing Career Missteps
Of the numerous career objectives assessed in the study, scientists admitted that they have had the most success with achieving autonomy, setting their own work hours, and obtaining job security. These same scientists, however, confessed to having less success in securing promotion opportunities or obtaining recognition and prestige.
Promotions are an important contributor to job satisfaction because scientists tend to view them as a reflection of their self-worth. Some key benefits of promotions may be material (i.e., a salary raise), while others are of a social nature (i.e., recognition from one’s company and increased prestige among colleagues and coworkers).
Many of today’s pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, however, no longer offer the promotion opportunities of the past. This new reality is due to the fact that companies, in order to remain competitive, have been forced to reduce costs, streamline research, and market their products more effectively. Nevertheless, scientists may find that lateral moves could provide for challenging work that will allow them to achieve some of their most important career goals.
When hiring new employees, both pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies look for a specific set of research abilities that best matches the requirements necessary to perform a particular job. In addition to these job-specific technical skills, employers also require certain professional skills. The good news is that most scientists possess these abilities to some extent. The better news is that scientists with weaknesses in these areas can improve their aptitude through training, professional development, or coaching/mentoring from someone who understands how to achieve the desired competencies.
With nearly 9,000 collective years of experience in industry, the pharmaceutical and biotechnology scientists surveyed, indicated that flexibility/adaptability is the most critical skill that young scientists should master. Scientists must learn to become flexible team players who thrive in environments requiring them to prioritize and juggle multiple, concurrent projects.
Additionally, scientists who are exceptional listeners and communicators will be in a stronger position to convey information and make themselves understood, which are prerequisites for achieving one’s career goals.
While there are many aspects of their job that help to make scientists working in the life science industry feel contented, compensation is a critical factor in the fulfillment equation. One-third of scientists surveyed indicated that attaining a higher salary and/or promotion—a goal that they have not yet accomplished to their satisfaction—would make them happier in their jobs (Figure 2).