Tis the Season…to Lose Your Job

Posted in BioJobBuzz

It is that time of year again….the layoff season.  Coincidentally, the end of the fiscal year frequently overlaps with the beginning of the holiday season.  This means that profits and losses for the past year have already been tabulated and new budgets have been crafted for the new fiscal year.  Not surprisingly, this is when management has the numbers and metrics it needs to determine upcoming staffing levels and whether or not layoffs are necessary.

To wit, yesterday Bristol Myers Squibb announced that it was laying off 75 workers in its R&D division to realign research priorities and cut costs. Also, Ariad said yesterday that it was reducing its US workforce  following its decision to temporarily suspend the marketing and commercial distribution of Iclusig® (ponatinib) in the U.S. Earlier this week, Novartis indicated that it would slash 500 jobs as it realigns its research efforts and attempts to control costs in both Europe and the US. And Shire announced that is was cutting 180 jobs in a UK facility. Finally, a little over a month ago, Merck announced that it would slash 8,500 R&D and marketing/sales positions worldwide.

Admittedly, getting laid off at the beginning or during the holiday season is a horrible thing. That said, since things are slowing down anyway, it gives persons who received pink slips sufficient time to beef up their resumes/CV and stash their year end bonuses into their IRA or checking account.

Tis the season….

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!

Valeant Pharmaceuticals to Eliminate 2850 Jobs

Posted in BioBusiness

Valeant Pharmaceuticals which recently purchased Bauch and Lomb for $8.7 billion today announced that it would eliminate approximately 2850 jobs (from its 19,000 person workforce) to save roughly $800 million over the next year and half.

According to a post on today’s Pharmalot blog:

Specifically, Valeant (VRX) will trim anywhere from 10 percent to 15 percent of its headcount, which numbers about 7,500 Valeant workers and between 11,000 and 12,000 Bausch & Lomb employees, a Valeant spokeswoman tells us. While corporate headquarters will remain in Laval, Quebec, and US headquarters and the new US eye health unit will stay in New Jersey, other facilities will be moved or closed.

While these cuts were not unexpected, it is still very difficult for those who will be losing their jobs to finally get the news.

There is likely to be more consolidation (and layoffs) in the life sciences sector as the biotech IPO craze continues to sizzle and China’s pharmaceutical industry begins to sputter.

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!

The Beat Goes On: More Layoffs at Life Science Companies

Posted in BioBusiness

Despite assurances that the economy is improving, many life sciences companies are still continuing to downsize.  According to the Pharmalot Blog New Jersey-based Mylan (a generic drug manufacturer)  is laying off nearly 120 people from its specialty offices in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, as part of a reorganization that will consolidate the specialty operation near its Pittsburgh headquarters. The cuts were disclosed in a state filing. A spokeswoman says some employees may relocate. The company is also closing a specialty pharmaceutical plant in Napa, California, later this year which will result in the lost of 270 additional jobs.

Likewise, Massachusetts-based Alkermes  plans to eliminate up to 130 jobs from a plant in Ireland  and, last week, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) revealed that roughly 300 employees will lose their jobs as part of a plan to close the San Diego headquarters occupied by Amylin Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by BMS last year.

Today, another New Jersey company Unigene that is investigating delivery of proteins and peptide-based drugs announced that it would cut up to 40%of it workforce as it reorganizes and tries to stay in business.

Finally, Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis said Tuesday it is consolidating its U.S.-based eye disease research projects in Cambridge, Mass., and closing the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research group on its Alcon Labs campus in Fort Worth. About 120 employees in Fort Worth were told Tuesday their jobs will end June 11, The employees will be allowed to apply for jobs in Cambridge as well as for other positions with Alcon. Novartis acquired Alcon, an ophthalmic drug company in 2011 and has been working for the past few years to consolidate all of Novartis’ eye research centers in one location in Fort Worth.  Alcon currently employees about 4,800 people.

While these layoffs are noteworthy, the size of these layoffs pale in comparison to the carnage that took place in the pharmaceutical industry over the past five years. According to Challenger Gray & Christmas, the recruiting and consulting firm more only 3,100 pharmaceutical employees lost their jobs this year. However, Ed Silverman, who writes the Pharmalot Blog mentioned in a post today that “there is industry speculation that Merck will undergo more job cuts.”

Although the industry is still shedding jobs, it is likely that the worst is over and that new job opportunities will emerge in the US and elsewhere over time.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!

New Report: High Job Anxiety Amongst Pharmaceutical Employees

Posted in BioEducation

A post today on the fabulous Pharmalot Blog revealed that a recent poll conducted by Pharma IQ showed that about 44 percent of all pharmaceutical employee respondents worry that they may become redundant (corporate speak for dispensable) over the next year or so. Further, 50 percent believe that staffing levels will remain the same for 2012 whereas 32 percent expect more layoffs to occur. Only 19 percent of the 535 pharma employees surveyed believe that hiring will increase this year.

Roughly 48 percent of respondents indicated that their groups/departments had not been downsized. However, 61% of respondents—who indicated that downsizing had taken place in their department— reported that their job functions were being performed by fewer numbers of employees. Twenty-five percent report that the job functions performed by layed off employees were outsourced. Of those, 10 percent said that the jobs were outsourced to emerging markets like China, India, and Brazil etc.

Interestingly, a whopping 71 percent believe that the massive layoffs that have taken place in pharma are a result of the recession. While this is what big pharma wants its layed off employees to believe, the bottom line is that the pharma industry began shedding jobs in 2001 mainly because of anticipated lost of patent expiry for many of its blockbusters and the lack of new molecular entities discovered by internal R&D programs not because of cash flow problems. To wit, a quick perusal of cash reserves indicates that most major pharmaceutical companies have roughly $5 to 35 billion in short term cash reserves. Simply put, the recession conveniently provided pharma execs with a legitimate excuse to downsize.

To be fair, big pharma companies will be losing substantial revenue streams because of loss of patent protection for blockbusters like Lipitor, Zyprexa, and Plavix etc. And, that some belt tightening may be in order to remain competitive. However, most pharma execs realized way back in the mid 2000s that they could no longer justify such large workforces in the wake of thinning pipelines and a much lower than expect ROI from internal R&D activities. Consequently, they had to layoff large numbers of R&D and sales employees to keep their stock prices stable and in some cases to retain their jobs. The fact that a majority of the current pharma employees surveyed believe that the massive pharma layoffs that have taken place over the last decade are a result of the recession suggests that these employees are still drinking the Kool-Aid freely offered by their employers.

There are a lot of other interesting statistics and tidbits in the report that may be worth a look. However, it is important to note, that it is highly unlikely that pharma will ever replace many of the US and European employees who lost their jobs. Recent moves made by most major pharmaceutical companies clearly indicate that they are betting on their growth in both R&D and sales to take place in emerging markets. Sadly, the future of the US life sciences workforce is no longer bright. In fact, it is quite dim!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!

 

Job Search Strategies for the Unemployed

Posted in BioEducation

Many people lost their jobs during the recession for reasons that were unrelated to personal skills and performance. Nevertheless, many hiring managers cling to the wrong-headed notion that long term unemployed persons are unemployed or layed off because they were less than adequate or under performers in their previous positions. Therefore, it is important for unemployed persons to pursue strategies that ensure that they remain strong job candidates for prospective new employers.

An article by Eilene Zimmerman entitled “Out of Work but Staying a Strong Candidate” offers some good advice for the unemployed. First, unemployed persons may have to reconsider the way in which they network to look for new job opportunities. To that point, people in your old network may feel guilty that they are employed and you don’t have a job. Because of this, they may feel sorry for your or see you as injured or defeated and possibly avoid interacting with you or including you at industry events. To obviate this, it is a good idea when networking with them to offer an article or blog post that may be temporal and relevant to your industry or mentioning a professional opportunity that they may not know about. Also, it is a good idea to stay abreast of important and current things happening in your industry (or an industry that you are interested in breaking into). This shows people that you are still engaged and interested in other professional opportunities that may exist. Finally, maintain your membership in professional societies (even though you may not be flush with cash) and consider volunteering on committees in these organizations. This shows other industry professionals that you are active and engaged. Also, professional association members frequently hear about or learn of unadvertised jobs or career opportunities within an industry.

There is no question that losing your job can be devastating and emotionally distressing. However, just because you are unemployed, it doesn’t mean that your standing or stature in your industry needs to be negatively impacted. To that end, keep your certifications, professional credentials and licenses up to date and participate in other activities that make use of your professional skills. Finding part-time or contract work in your industry is also a plus as is volunteering or doing unpaid work for charitable organizations.

Another popular strategy is to start your own consulting firm. While your previous employer may have layed you off to cut costs, it does not mean that they will not considering hiring you as a consultant (they don’t have to pay benefits, bonuses or contribute to a 401K and can write off your services as 1099 work). Landing one or two small gigs may be able to tide you over until you find a new fulltime position.

Most unemployed people are rightly-concerned about the employment gap that will appear on their CV or resume. Unfortunately, there is no real way to hide it! One way to manage an employment gap is to add a Summary of Qualifications or Profile section to your resume. This section can be placed at the beginning of the resume (underneath your name and contact information) and should be crafted to extol your skills and qualifications for individual jobs. This means that every time you apply for a new position, the Summary of Qualifications section must be tailored and optimized to show prospective employers why you and not the other 1,000 applicants ought to be considered for the job. Also, as suggested in Ms Zimmerman’s article, you can change the title of the section “work experience” to “experience” and describe any contract, part-time or volunteer work (which was unpaid) using the same language; which focused on your results, strategies used to get there and your contributions to the organization during your tenure.

Finally, and perhaps most important, unemployed persons must learn to deal with and come to terms about unemployment history during job interviews. Nobody likes admitting that they were fired or layed off but, as a rule of thumb, it is best to be as honest (as possible) because most industries and networks are small and job candidates who are less than truthful almost always get caught! For example, if you were part of a large layoff at your previous employer, then it is a good idea to explain the circumstances to the interviewer and also indicate that you were not layed off for performance reasons. Further, it is not a good idea to apply for or interview for any job that may be available at a particular company or organization. If you are overqualified or not the right fit for a job, many employers will not even consider you for the job because they fear that you will leave as soon as something more appropriate comes along. That said, it is important to only apply for jobs within your industry that represent a good fit with your skill sets and experience. If that fails to yield positive results, then you may want to consider a different industry; but recognize that you may need additional training to acquire the skills or experience even to be considered for entry level positions in that industry!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!

 

Everything You Need to Know About Hiring Contractors

Posted in BioEducation

While I spend most of my time as a freelancer, I sometimes will do contract work because the pay is good and the hours are reasonable. As many of you know by now, using contractors rather than hiring new employees has become the new way of controlling costs and keeping the full time headcount low. After all, paying someone an hour wage without covering insurance and other employee benefits costs can be huge savings to companies trying to maintain competitiveness and cut costs.

During my various stints as a contract employee, I learned that the rules governing the hiring of contractors vary widely from company to company and agency to agency. Consequently, there are a lot of myths, urban legends and misinformation regarding hiring contractors and the obligations of employers to them. Admittedly, I am a bit confused about the rules surrounding hiring and employing contractors despite the fact that I have been a contractor on more than three occasions. 

For those of you who may be confused as me or others who simply want to learn more about contracting, I highly recommend an article by Katherine Reynolds Lewis in the small business section of the NY Times entitled “Hiring Contractors Without Getting Into Trouble.”

The article offers a comprehensive overview of the Federal laws governing contractor hiring practices, the challenges of a contractor workforce and how to maximize the effectiveness of contract employees. Despite its obvious employer bias, it does paint a realistic view of what persons interested in contract work will likely encounter in the workplace.

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!

 

Abbott Slashes 700 Jobs From Its Medical Devices and Diagnostics Unit

Posted in BioEducation

Chicago-based Abbott Laboratories today announced that it would lay off 700 employees from its medical devices and diagnostics division as part of an ongoing restructuring effort. 

Most of the layoffs will take place in the Chicago area and affect employees that manufacture the company’s cardiovascular stents and diagnostic tests. According to a company spokesperson approximately 500 persons who work in stent manufacturing and 200 who work in diagnostics will lose their jobs.

The restructuring of Abbott’s manufacturing operations began several years ago and about this time last year the company layed off about 1,900 employees in Lake County, Illinois.

In October, Abbott surprised investors and analysts with the announcement that it would spin off its branded drug business, including Humira (psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis) it’s largest selling branded pharmaceutical product. Company executives argued that the split would allow stakeholders and investors to separately and more accurately value Abbott’s other less risky businesses which include nutritional (baby) formula, generic drugs and medical devices and diagnostics.

Despite signs of economic recovery, it appears that layoffs are still occurring at a pretty good clip at many pharma and biotech companies. It now appears that medical devices and diagnostic company employees, who were once immune to downsizing and reorganization, are now fair game.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!

 

Pharma Layoffs Decline As Biotech Layoffs Rise

Posted in BioEducation

This past holiday season, as usual, was rife with massive layoffs and downsizing at various big pharma companies. Interestingly, in 2011, most biotechnology companies were able to weather the economic downturn and layoffs were not typical. Sadly, 2012 looks to be a more challenging year for many biotechnology company employees.

In the past week or so, several relatively high profile public biotechnology companies announced layoffs. First, on January 5, XOMA, the long- struggling California-based biotechnology company issued a press release indicating its intention to reorganize to focus it financial resources on its lead product gevokizumab and the company’s unique antibody discovery and development capabilities. The reorganization will result in elimination of 84 positions (34% of its workforce) with 50 jobs being lost immediately and the remainder by the end of the first quarter of this year. The layoffs will save the company $14 million. The same day, Winnipeg-based Cangene Corp, one of Canada’s oldest and largest biotechnology company announced that it would eliminate 120 jobs or 17% of its current workforce.  Finally, today, Human Genome Sciences (HGS) announced at the annual JP Morgan conference in San Francisco announced plans to eliminate 150 jobs across multiple departments.

The HGS announcement was somewhat surprising because the company recently received approval for a pioneering systemic lupus erythematous drug called Benlysta. Apparently, poor Benlysta sales have battered the company’s stock price which resulted in the announced layoffs. HGS reported Benlysta sales of a slightly more than $25 million in the fourth quarter which were must less than analysts had originally predicted.

Although these layoffs may be troubling to some, it is important to note that each of  the three companies have been in existence for 20 years or more and are transitioning from research organizations into companies that are finally commercializing their products. Like it or not, companies with commercial products are held to higher standards and receive much greater scrutiny than start ups and early stage companies. That said, while there may be additional layoffs at some older more established biotechnology companies, it may be a good time to start a company. Word on the street suggests that there is a lot of investment capital out there for new start ups!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!

 

Preparing For and Coping With Annual Performance Reviews

Posted in Career Advice

For many corporate employees, the annual performance review process is a bane to their existence. For those of you who may not be familiar with annual reviews, most corporate employees are required to undergo a review process that includes a synopsis of their accomplishments over the past year and new goals for the upcoming one. And, as all corporate employees understand, the quality of an annual review determines the size of the bonus that they can expect to receive and whether or not a salary increase is in order for the upcoming fiscal year. In other words, you never want to get a “less than stellar” annual review because your fiscal well-being depends on it!

Not surprisingly, preparing for the annual review can be nerve-racking and dealing with the results of the review can be equally challenge (especially if the review is a negative one). Although, most of the annual reviews for 2011 have been completed, Eilene Zimmerman who writes the Career Couch for the New Times posted a helpful article that deals with preparing for the dreaded annual review and how best to respond to either a positive or negative one.

I can tell you from personal experience, the annual review is probably one of the silliest and most inane things that was ever invented for corporate employees. That said, it is part and parcel of the corporate workplace game and to excel you need to get good at!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting

 

Improving Employment Opportunities for Life Sciences Graduates

Posted in Career Advice

There are a variety of reasons why the life sciences job market has been so dismal in recent years. First and foremost, there are too many applicants for too few jobs; employers are ignoring resumes/CVs that previously commanded face-to-face interviews. Second and perhaps more pernicious, is the notion among corporate executives and hiring managers that current graduates (both undergraduate and graduate students) have been catered to and are so academically untested that they bring little or no value to today’s fast-paced and demanding workplaces. While this characterization may or may not be warranted, it is a prevailing attitude that is likely hindering employment opportunities for recent life sciences graduates.

According to an insightful article written by Robert W. Goldfarb, a management consultant, entitled “Help Graduates Find Their Footing” in the past, senior hiring managers were willing to hire applicants that thought outside of the box or were a bit unconventional to bring in new ideas and create some chaos in quiet office environments. But Goldfarb asserts, that long, painful and largely unsuccessful job searches “have sapped their daring, creativity and willingness to challenge old procedures.” Further he believes that older employees, once extremely resistant to change, are much more willing to reinvent themselves by adapting to a technically-challenging workplace and bringing mature problem solving skills to the job to protect their jobs and 401K plans. Because of this, Goldfarb contends that “managers have become far less tolerant of the missteps that once expected of any new hires” and not surprisingly older workers make mistakes. Finally, previously supportive hiring managers, criticize recent graduates for poor quality written and oral reports and the inability to recognize trends or draw conclusions from masses of data. 

So what can be done to ensure that the current generation of college graduates does not remain unemployed into perpetuity? Goldfarb suggests that mentoring and building partnerships between recent college graduates and companies that want to hire them would be an important first step toward fixing the problem. He suggests that companies should consider investing in training programs designed to shape the employees that they ultimately will need for their businesses. For example, Goldfarb suggests that:

 “high potential graduates for whom there isn’t an immediate opening could be hired, not as unpaid interns but as salaried trainees given three to six months to prove their value in a series of assignments. Those who don’t seize the opportunity can quickly be dismissed.

Also, he suggests that trainees must be mentored to help them avoid the “small missteps that can damage a career before it starts.” Interesting, back in the 70s and 80s most major corporation had training programs in place. These were largely abandoned in the 90s as a result of global competition and increasing US labor costs.

Goldfarb’s plan requires companies to think strategically, and plan for their employment needs of the future. Sadly, as many of you already know, must companies focus on the short term and are not mindful of future needs; after all they are someone else’s problems to solve). But, in response to this attitude, Goldfarb offers this dire warning:

“Employers can keep faulting overindulgent parents, ineffectual teachers, colleges without required subjects and graduates unsuited to today’s complex workplace or they can play a greater role in training and developing a generation longing to take its place in the American mainstream.”

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!