I bought an engagement ring… and then got laid off

As recent market turns for Biotech take some of the steam out of cash-runways, there is a consistent theme in my conversations with candidates – the dreaded layoff. For half a decade biotech companies have had few layoffs due to market or cash constraints. It has been a yellow brick road era in the industry and money was flowing. But, in 2022 something changed. Recently IPO’d companies valued at hundreds of millions and fortune 500 pharma companies started trending downward. That meant many biotechs were suddenly trading at cash or lower and having to make some brutal decisions on talent strategy to continue on. Unfortunately that means we are starting to see more layoffs.

I know how a layoff feels 

It was 2009, the economy had just imploded, and I was laid off before the Holiday Season. I had just purchase my wife-to-be an engagement ring and boom I was unemployed. I was shocked, nervous and I made A LOT of mistakes in my job search.

Here’s my advice if you have been recently laid off, or if you just want to be a bit organized for that “what if” scenario:

  1. Be prepared: Companies are tightening the boot straps and deciding what programs or teams will ultimately suffer budget cuts. I always tell candidates to at least have some level of search on-going even if you are content and happy. Don’t let your employer make career decisions for you.
  2. Research the market: talk to a good recruiter, make some lists of target jobs, employers and key contacts in your network.
  3. Write down your accomplishments: We are so busy doing our jobs and working we forget to recall our “feather in the cap” type moments or major accomplishments on a project. You will thank yourself if you keep track of them. 
  4. Identify what you want: Start asking yourself questions that could help define a job search. Do you fit into smaller start-ups fast pace and rapid decision making environments? Do you like a larger organization with structure? Would you relocate? What type of work do you want to wake up each day motivated to do?
  5. Create a job-hunting schedule. Just as it is important to have a work routine. Your job hunting schedule should also be thought out. Make time to network, to apply, to research AND make time to rest. Job hunting is stressful, take some time to care for yourself each day.
  6. Find jobs that look interesting – but don’t apply right away. This was one of the biggest mistakes I made in my search in 2009. That engagement ring was burning a hole in my pocket and I sent my resume EVERYWHERE. I recommend a targeted approach to relevant jobs and network first. Apply second. Who you know matters, so do some research. Network through LinkedIn or use a solid recruiter who specializes in your area of expertise.
  7. Don’t self-eliminate: Don’t shy away from jobs that match 75% of your experience. There is always some wiggle room.
  8. Feel the feels: Getting laid off stinks. It’s ok to feel sad, scared, angry or overwhelmed. But remember your worth and the value you brought to your employer. And don’t worry about the competition. Control the controllables.

Job seeking is a full-time job. Your career is a constant evolution so you should never stop considering new opportunities – even before a layoff comes around. Own your worth and if a layoff does affect you, you will have a plan in place. You’ll be able to take it on, re-energize and harness your passions to find that next big job.

And… that ring thing? It went pretty well.

Chris Clancy is AVP, and Practice Director leading the HireMinds Life Sciences & Biotech practice.