Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Your Wednesday must read: "The Pharma & Biotech Layoff Survival Guide", by Hornberger and Shah

I've long admired Keith Hornberger's writings on med chem, and his new work with Vega Shah "The Pharma & Biotech Layoff Survival Guide" is no different. This paragraph near the introduction is a good summary: 

I’ve been in the pharma & biotech industry for almost 22 years and am now on my fourth job. Of the three partings I’ve gone through, one was a relatively traumatic layoff and the other two were initiated by me for my own career advancement — although in both of those cases, as fate would have it, I narrowly dodged layoffs that followed within months of my departure. When I share that anecdote with people, I’m sometimes asked if I have a “Spidey Sense” about layoffs. Indeed, folks in my current workplace who hear this tale will half-jokingly ask me to give them a heads-up if I’m thinking about leaving. While I don’t believe in the Spidey Sense, I do believe that active career management is the way to go for your long term happiness — and the preparedness that goes into a planned move will also serve you well for the unfortunate unplanned moves too.

It is a great bit of advice, and I am glad that Keith and Vega wrote it. Read the whole thing. 


  1. I agree with this approach/sentiment. At 22 years of professional work, that comes out to being around 5.5 years per job. That seems a little long based on today's standards, however, this person appears to be in the mid to end of their career. These older folks seem to stay in positions longer than people who are in their 20s and early 30s, I feel.

    I'd love a new job every 3-4 years, but as a mid-career age person, that is looked at negatively. I am currently at a large biotech, and when interviewing for an internal role about 3 years into my current position, the hiring manager explicitly commented to me that they don't want someone who is job-hopping regularly. I found that a little off-putting as I've observed many people in my three years to be changing roles every 1-2 years here.

  2. As someone who's been laid off three times, it hurt the most coming from an old-school company where almost everyone was hired fresh out of undergrad or a PhD and stayed until retirement. I had a lot of coworkers who had been there for decades, never worked anywhere else, and didn't know the first thing about writing a resume or interviewing for a job.

  3. I have worked in either biotech or pharma since 1981 (still am). I have been laid off twice in that time. The first time was from DuPont (a company they divested themselves of long) after being there ~13.5 years. The did the salary for 3 months thing along with outplacement services, and I got 6 months of severance...

    My next job was a small pharma startup. I got that job about a month after i was officially laid off... I was also there for 13.5 years... The FDA wanted another phase 3 clinical trial that we could not afford ... and that was that... and that was at the bottom of the Great Recession... I got 6 months of severance but was out of work for 1.5 years... though luckily I was able to collect unemployment the whole time, and with both federal and state COBRA subsides I paid almost nothing for health insurance.

    I have now been at my current non-pharma biotech for just over 13 years... We will see if I can break the 13.5 year curse this time!

    This time if the job goes away at 13.5 years, I'll likely be calling it career .. though I hope I can keep working to least 70 to get my max SS benefit!

  4. Should write a similar book for chemist in Higher Education.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20