• Estimated read time: 8 mins
  • Date posted:25/03/2019
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Career change goes hand-in-hand with progression, especially in a sector as diverse as the life sciences. Your interests and goals naturally change over time, meaning that a job that once challenged and rewarded you may no longer fulfil you several years later. But how do you know when to change?

Here are the seven factors that can lead executives working in the life science to feel like they’re stuck in a career rut and in need of a change.

1. You’re not appreciated

Feeling underappreciated at work is one of several factors that can leave life science executives feeling like they’re stuck in a career rut.

Whether by an unconscious act or with intent, if you feel unappreciated in your role, then resentment will eventually consume your energy and enthusiasm. When you excel at what you do, but your efforts go unnoticed, then it is safe to say that your talents could be put to better use elsewhere.

Telltale signs that you’re not appreciated:
    • You receive excellent appraisals but see little progression in your role and no sign of a promotion.
    • You are not given the resources you need to perform at your best, forcing you to make do or compromise.
    • You find yourself complaining about how and why you feel unappreciated to anyone who will listen.
Immediate actions to take:
    • Practice what you preach. Assist your seniors and coworkers just as you’d like to be supported yourself and see what, if any, is reciprocated.
    • Ask for what you need. Whether more staff, an increased budget or even a promotion, if you don’t ask you’re unlikely to receive.  
    • Communicate effectively. Sometimes your communication style misses the mark and your inputs go unnoticed as a result.
    • Change. If the above is not reciprocated, then it goes without saying that it would be unwise to continue on this path. 

The more you feel appreciated, the higher your motivation and the better your performance. This benefits the organisation, leading to more appreciation and the positive feedback loop continues.

2. You’re not learning

Continuous learning isn’t just an insurance policy to prevent your skills and expertise going obsolete. It helps you maximise your potential, make informed decisions and collaborate effectively.  So, if you feel like you’ve optimised your deliverables and no longer feel challenged in the role, chances are your performance, no matter your work ethic, will begin to suffer as a consequence. 

Telltale signs that you’re not learning:
    • You excel with little effort and no longer feel challenged in your role.
    • Every day is monotonous and you can predict outcomes before starting.
    • There are few assignments in the pipeline, and with it, opportunities to learn.
Immediate actions to take:
    • Question your assumptions. Can you really know everything there is to know about your specialism or are you mearly bored in your role and in need of a career change?
    • Consider taking a course or qualification. If it doesn’t improve the situation at work, it will still be a great addition to your CV and boost your employment prospects. 
    • Change. Escape your career rut and look for a challenge in a new and innovative organisation where continuous learning is the backbone of company culture.

3. You’re not passionate

When you’re no longer passionate about the organisation you work for, you will find that your motivation levels drop. There may be many reasons why your enthusiasm took a dive – a shift of direction, a management reshuffle or perhaps even a change in your point of view. Whatever it’s the origin, working long hours for a cause you no longer care about will lead to a career rut. 

Telltale signs that you’re no longer passionate:
    • You have little interest in your job and you see it as a means to an end.
    • You lack motivation and feel like you are wasting your time.
    • You don’t see a future with or for the organisation.
Immediate actions to take:
    • Chance course. As a senior manager or executive, you have some sway in the organisation’s direction. Raise your concerns and try to address the root cause of your lack of faith.
    • Give yourself a time-frame for improvement. Whether it’s measured in weeks or months will depend on the severity of the situation and your ability to address it.
    • Change. If you can’t alter the course of the organisation and there is no sign of improvement, then it’s time to jump ship to a cause you believe in.

Working for an organisation that you feel passionate about will boost your motivation levels and with it, job satisfaction. By believing in the course, you will be more inclined to give it your all.

4. You’re not progressing

Progression can take many forms; benefit-related progression – promotions, pay raises, improved employee perks – and experience-related development – training, qualifications, working on new projects or acquiring new responsibilities. If you feel like you are trapped in an environment that doesn’t foster progression or reward its employees, it might be time to consider alternatives.

Telltale signs that you’re not progressing:
    • You excel with little effort and no longer feel challenged in your role.
    • You receive excellent appraisals but see little progression in your role and no sign of a promotion.
    • The value that you bring to the organisation is significantly disproportionate to your salary, bonus and benefits package. 
Immediate action to take:
    • Delayed gratification. Progression is not instantaneous; there is often a delay between achievement and reward, especially in the business world.
    • Practice what you preach. Assist your seniors and coworkers just as you’d like to be supported yourself and see what, if any, is reciprocated.
    • Ask for what you need. Whether more staff, an increased budget or even a promotion, if you don’t ask you’re unlikely to receive. 
    • Communicate effectively. Sometimes your communication style misses the mark and your inputs go unnoticed as a result.
    • Change. If you’re constantly meeting your KPI’s but see no benefit for your hard work, work for someone else. 

It’s essential that you feel you are making progress in your career, not just for your own piece of mind, but to ensure the organisation you work for keeps ahead of the curve.


RELATED: Looking for Senior Management and Executive opportunities in the life sciences?
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5. Your health is suffering

No matter how much you love your job, the organisation or your team, if it’s taking its toll on your health, something has to give. (Hint, not your health).  Headaches, high blood pressure and insomnia are just some of the warning signs of stress. Listen to your body and seek an organisation who will respect your personal life as much as your professional exploits.

Telltale signs that your health is suffering:
    • You feel constantly stressed or overwhelmed to the detriment of your productivity.
    • You are continually exhausted and don’t feel refreshed even after taking leave.
    • You have a poor work-life balance and make little time for yourself.
Immediate actions to take:
    • Take time out. If you feel rested and ready to take on the challenges of work, perhaps you just needed a holiday.
    • Get a health check. Rule out any underlying conditions that might be negatively impacting your health.
    • Qualify your feelings. Is imposter syndrome the root cause of your anxiety rather than your workplace?
    • Notify. Bring your health to the attention of your seniors and establish a time frame for improvements.
    • Change. If there has been no improvements throughout the set time frame, start job searching. 

No job, no matter the cause or salary, is worth compromising your health for. At the very least, your productivity and motivation will suffer. The worst case scenario does not bear thinking about.

6. You work in a toxic environment

A toxic work environment can destroy creativity, innovation and collaboration in the workplace. It can take many forms – prolonged absences of employees, narcissistic leadership, non-existent moral, office gossip and high employee turnover. Whatever the cause, start working on your exit strategy and prepare to enter the job market while you wait to see how events unfold.

Telltale signs that you work in a toxic environment:
    • You dread going to work.
    • You don’t trust your coworkers.
    • You feel like you cannot express yourself.
    • You have zero motivation to distinguish yourself.
Immediate actions to take:
    • Take action. As a senior manager or executive, practice what you preach. Treat your seniors and coworkers just as you’d like to be treated yourself.
    • Document everything. Emails, comments, meeting notes – anything that could assist you should you need to file a formal complaint in future.
    • Seek respite out of work. Find activities and hobbies that can help relieve stress and take your mind off things outside work hours.
    • Give yourself a time-frame for improvement. Whether it’s weeks or months will depend on the severity of the situation.
    • Prepare an exit strategy. Mentally prepare yourself for getting back out there in the executive job market.

7. You’ve outgrown your role

You may love your job and your team, but if you have outgrown your role, staying put risks compromising your career prospects. As discussed previously, continuous learning and career progression are essential to a fulfilling and prosperous career, so don’t compromise your future because of a false sense of loyalty or reluctance on your behalf to change. 

Telltale signs that you have outgrown your role:
    • You excel with little effort and no longer feel challenged in your role.
    • You receive excellent appraisals but see little progression in your role and no sign of a promotion.
    • The value that you bring to the organisation is significantly disproportionate to your salary, bonus and benefits package. 
Immediate actions to take:
    • Ask for what you need. Whether more staff, an increased budget or even a promotion, if you don’t ask you’re unlikely to receive. 
    • Change. If you’re constantly meeting your KPI’s but see no benefit for your hard work, work for someone else. 

Actionable takeaways to break free from your career rut:

Here are a few actionable pointers that will help craft your exit strategy and start your executive job search. 

  • Plan and pace yourself. You don’t want to end up in a role that you’re overqualified for or work for an organisation that’s not a good cultural fit.
  • Establish your game plan. Write down the top five things you are seeking in your new role. Be cautiously optimistic in your assessment. 
  • List, research, and approach ten organisations which align with your game plan.  It’s a waste of your time to apply to any that don’t fit your criteria.
  • Optimise your touchpoints. Once you’ve assembled a top ten list, it’s time to review and update your CV. Working with a professional CV writer can be money well spent.
  • Reach out to the market with a multi-channel approach. If you’re only applying for positions via one or two channels, you’re limiting your chances of being noticed by hiring managers.
  • Prepare for interviews. When you land an interview, you will have limited time to convince the hiring manager that you’re the best candidate for the job. Here are some great tips.
  • Listen to your gut. While you shouldn’t make a decision in a hurry, don’t misinterpret this well-versed saying to mean that you should never make a decision at all! 
  • Don’t let imposter syndrome hold you back. We are often our own worst enemies and can be guilty of underselling ourselves. Remember that you have to be in it to win it!
  • Work with an executive search firm. There are so many ways employers can advertise a position and it is a tough trying to find them all. Seek help where you can find it.

For more job search strategies for senior management, read our insight: 7 Successful Job Search Strategies For Senior Management.


For more job search advice tailored to senior managers and executives…

* Fraser Dove International is a specialist executive search firm operating exclusively in the Life Science industry. Passionate about people, we take pride in helping exceptional life science organisations source the talent they need to design, manufacture and distribute life-changing drugs, treatments and devices which transform and save patient lives.