Thursday, February 25, 2016

Quits are vaguely back to normal - is this a good thing?

Credit: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Last week, I was irritated at this comment from Business Insider:
Americans are quitting their jobs like crazy, and this is good news for wages. 
The latest monthly "Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey" (JOLTS) showed that in December, the total number of quits was 3.1 million, the highest level in a decade, while the quits rate was 2.1%, the highest since April 2008. 
This rate, which takes the number of quits divided by the number of employees who worked or were paid for work, is one of the labor-market metrics most closely watched by Fed chair Janet Yellen.
I find it highly ironic that "the highest (quits rate) since April 2008" is "quitting their jobs like crazy", as opposed to, say, "quitting their jobs like people do during vaguely normal economic times" or "quitting their jobs when they're not scared that they will be homeless and jobless otherwise."

That said, it does appear to be true that job quits are at a local maxima. Anyone have any good stories of recent job quits, and why?  

29 comments:

  1. I have a question to pose. I am currently a postdoc(6-12 months in), but would like to make the move to industry. I have a tentative offer right now, and am waiting on a firm offer. I wish I could of told my boss about the TO, but I was told not to tell anyone until I have the bird in hand. I may not be able to give two weeks notice due to the job being 12 hours away from my current position, and the start time being a little too soon(I need to look for a place to live, and then move my stuff there). I do not want to burn any bridges at my current job, but I feel that a postdoc is just a temporary job and I can't turn down this permanent offer. I have been reading the literature and seeing how people do postdoc, after postdoc, and then they want just any permanent job they can get. Like I said earlier in the post, I wish I could of told my boss about the TO, but no job is secure unless you get the firm offer. If you were my boss how would you feel if you only got a week or little over a week because of the circumstance? Thanks

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    1. Take the job. You will probably piss off your PI, but you're doing what you need to do for your career. And if we're honest here, the point of a postdoc is to help get extra training for a JOB, so it's what's technically right for your PI's career too. Like I said, he's probably gonna be miffed, but give it some time and he'll probably come around. More than likely he'll try to attract new postdocs by saying how he helped one of his former postdocs land a nice industry position.

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    2. Opening a new thread for this conversation - it'd be great if you all could reply there.

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    3. Take it or else the bird flies away! Times and compulsions are are different, so the reasoning goes.

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    4. Take the job. It's your life and your career, not his. If your PI decided that he either didn't like you or your work, then please estimate how many seconds it would take him to walk you off the site.

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  2. I would also like to add that I genuinely feel bad for not being able to give two weeks notice. I also want to add the postdoc I am in is not in an academic environment. Chances of getting hired on full time are about 10% or less.

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  3. Had a friend, in her early 50's, who resigned from a research associate position in a lab to...... unemployment. The lab was too stressful to work in (extremely difficult advisors) and she is still unemployed 9 months later, and I fear her "relatively advanced age" is not helping her find a new position. Not sure if she is much happier.

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  4. @ NMH--if you are in your fifties, you are done! That is unless you are some manager.

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    1. Agreed for all bench workers. Especially if you are a bench worker in academia, like me. Fortunately I have some money saved up.

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    2. A professional bench chemist in an academic lab as a permanent job? I think I'd rather go to prison than go back to grad school!

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    3. If you have a reasonable boss and hours it could be worth the low post-doc like pay, especially if you have had continuous employment since 2001 like me. Ive known to many people who have rocky employment histories in industry, such that I wonder if Ive earned more than them because of my low-paying yet continuous employment.

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    4. @ KT, You know I was in big pharma for 20y and was let go in that big deluge in 2007. I was able to get an academic bench chemist job that supports few programs in the cancer/neurobiology area. Chemistry I carry out is very pedestrian and answers the question that biologist ask. Salary wise, I came to academia with 20% paycut than what I earned at industry. But, I am still coming ahead of post docs and my boss is extremely nice person who treats me with respect and I feel wanted. There is lot less stress in academia and ironically am enduring and that is the tradeoff. When I see others struggle I feel better and am in good company here with NMH. These days no job is too small and I have seen people accepting post-doctoral fellowship after a stint at industry! The pharma/chemical industry has not turned corner in these turbulent times and if it means putting the food on the table academic bench chemist job is fine!

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    5. I agree that no job is too small, and that is a very important mental attitude to have. The problem I face is that others in my family disagree with me (they think I should be making a family-worthy salary at a big Pharma company), but I realize the problem here is my family has been brain-washed by current American culture, which is established by the MBA's and other money managers.

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    6. Yup, it's all the MBAs and money managers fault. These omnipotent beings have changed to culture, destroyed all the industries, and I hear are seven feet tall and eat small cars for lunch (note, not the BMs or Astons we drive). All the worse, they've done it with your money!

      THESE PEOPLE NEED TO BE STOPPED BEFORE THEY TAKE OVER THE PLANET!!!! Oh, too late.....

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    7. Sounds like you have a good boss. I had an image in my head of a super-competitive organic synthesis lab where you might be working 40 hours a week as an employee rather than a grad student, but you're taking constant verbal beatings from someone like Corey, Denmark, etc, and surrounded by kids on the verge of nervous breakdowns!

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  5. At my small/midsized pharma co we've seen about 10% of our workforce across all of pharmaceutical development move on in the past 12 months, ranging from bench associates to senior directors. It's been a broad mix of destinations; a handful heading back to school full-time, a couple leaving to follow spouses across the country, a pair who left to start their own shop, and the vast majority who left to take a better position in start-ups and other small pharma jobs.

    Fortunately after being pretty badly short-handed (more bench than management folks left) we've thankfully ramped up our hiring, and have a whole whack of new people coming in, or in the hiring process.

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  6. I have a quit story that went well... and I'm not making this up.

    I was working in industry for a family owned company that grossly overpaid someone with zero experience to be a lab manager (to the tune of 150K/yr). I don't care they had no experience, after all, everyone has to start somewhere. But this individual thought they could/did do no wrong. This was a train wreck waiting to happen. Once the organization realized things weren't right in R&D, they started questioning the decisions being made. I somehow took the blame for most of it, which being the most junior member of the team, made no sense. Save for the lab tech, I had the least amount of responsibility of anyone there! Not being one to take crap, I started documenting this individuals behavior every chance I got. When the lab tech put in his notice over this past summer, the thought occurred to me that me leaving then would really put a cramp in their style. After crunching numbers that night I realized I had enough to get through to the new year. I quit without notice on Friday that very week, while handing my documentation to HR and that individual's boss on my way out.

    Despite quitting without another job lined up, I managed to have an interview every two or three weeks. During the interview process I was brutally honest about why I left and what I was looking for in my next role. After 3 months I received an offer out-of-state, albeit only 3 hours from I was living at the time for 50% more than I was making previously. This also included a 5 figure relocation bonus up-front. Needless to say, I accepted the role and have been working there since the beginning of the winter.

    Would I do what I did again? Well, yes and no. I absolutely will walk out of a bad situation without apologizing to anyone for my decision, and would recommend anyone going through hell to do the same. On the other hand, I wouldn't let things get that bad again, and would be more proactive in looking for employment elsewhere.

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  7. I'm one of those December quits!

    The week before I was going to put in my notice, my boss called me into his office. We have a great relationship and he wanted to give me a heads up that there was a reorg coming and I was going to be reporting (again) to an incompetent boss that I only had been away from for a year. I just laughed and told him that I was going to put in my notice the next week. I had an offer in hand for a while, but I went ahead and let people draw their own conclusions about the total coincidence.

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  8. If you're making a move in December, try to start the new job before the year ends. A lot of companies calculate seniority by calendar year, so you'll be a bit closer to those extra weeks of vacation at the 5 and 10 year marks, plus you'll be a second-year employee for seniority/vacation purposes almost immediately.

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  9. I recently resigned from industry to take an academic postdoc. After getting my PhD I accepted an offer for a permanent industry job, but it turned out to be extremely dull. After about a year I decided to leave before it's too late - it would have been very hard to get back to academic world if I had stayed much longer. Now I'm a postdoc on a three-year contract, but at least I like what I do.

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  10. I resigned a few weeks ago from my government research position to take a job in the private sector. Long story short, research quality and value are subjective; therefore, one's status and thus available resources and opportunities are utterly dependent upon the cultivation of positive personal relationships with persons of influence. I have failed miserably in that department, so my options were to either find new work elsewhere or flounder here in obscurity for the remainder of my days. My start date at the new job is in a few weeks. Nearly everyone here believes I must have lost my mind; some are even willing to tell me so. After all, only a crazy person would leave behind the total safety of a government job, no matter how much their creativity had been stunted, their accomplishments had been marginalized, their ideas had been rejected, and their salary had been allowed to lag that of less productive peers. Most, though, politely tell me what an enormous loss I'll be to the organization. If any of those people had input on my performance reviews or had evaluated my promotion paperwork, I may not have felt forced to find employment where I had a chance to be valued and respected. So I'm turning the page on this place and am looking very much forward to my fresh start.

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    1. I've uttered those exact words to a number of friends over the last few weeks. It's like you were in the room, CJ. Spooky.

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    2. Just to be clear, I don't work in a government lab. ;-)

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    3. I hope you're better able to cultivate positive relationships with the right people at your new position. The romanticized idea that excellent work is self-evident and will be rewarded appropriately is fantasy. On top of doing excellent work, you have to make that work and its value known to the influencers in the organization. That's not the same as sucking up, which has nothing to do with your work itself.

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    4. Thanks, Phil. I hope so, too. I am comforted by the fact that in my new role, there will be a direct measure of my value to the organization -- billables. I can't imagine a company treating me the same way that the government did when the accountant's ledger shows that I'm one of the people keeping the lights on. Can one depend upon self-interest? I'm about to find out.

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