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April 22, 2002
Fun While It Lasted
The realization has gradually crept up on pharmaceutical chemists that the Great Hiring Wave of the last few years is over. For a while there, it was the biggest one ever. It swept in plenty of people fresh out of grad school, and probably decreased the percent of PhDs doing post-docs, since the offers were good whether you did one or not. It also allowed lots of experienced people to jump companies (and here's where I raise my hand, since that's what I did.)
Some history: there last was a noticable hiring phase in the industry in the late 1980s and early 1990s (which, fortunately, is when I was looking for my first job after my own post-doc.) It wasn't anything like what we've just finished, but my impression is that 1986-1991 or so wasn't bad, either. All this came to a screeching halt with the political fights over the Clinton health care proposals. 1993 and 1994 were absolutely terrible years to get a job in the drug industry. Everyone was pulling back and battening down the hatches. 1995 and 1996 returned to somewhat normal levels.
But around 1997, things really began to roll. Several large companies began hiring more aggressively as they expanded their facilities. There was a building boom going on across the industry, and those new labs had to get filled up. Salary offers increased for new hires, and the headhunters began to ring the phones of experienced chemists with some pretty good offers, too (which is what happened to me.) Things kept on hopping for the next two or three years.
I should go back and count ad pages in Chemical and Engineering News to prove this, but I think that last year there was a noticable slowing down. And this year, with all the worries that companies have about their R&D pipelines, there's no doubt about it. My sympathies to those organic chemists who are just finished up degress or post-doc appointments and are ready to hit the interview trail; it's going to be harder (though not impossible.) It's not like 93-94, fortunately. But it's not 1998 any more, either.
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