Relocating for a job in the Life Science market

When considering the next step in your career there are a number of factors you need to take into account to evaluate what the best option is. The development and marketing of drugs requires interaction on a global scale, and with that, comes numerous career opportunities in international locations. If relocation is required for the position in question, there are a few elements which should be considered. Whilst some of these might be relevant to any generic market, they are all present in the Life Science market.

When assessing what your career path may look like in the next 5-10 years, you need to consider where the major company headquarters are based which relate to your field of expertise (therapeutic alignment). With senior global and strategic functions now often only being executed at HQ level, relocation may be something to consider if you strive to climb as far up the career ladder as possible.

International R&D centres are often very large sites, requiring substantial grounds to house their research facilities and thousands of staff. As such, it is not uncommon to find these companies placed in isolated locations away from major cities. If job satisfaction is the only factor you are considering, then this may not be an issue, but if you want quick access to the nearest big city, this might not always be possible.

Isolation is often something that deters candidates, and can put a strain on a company being able to attract the right talent to join them. Where hiring staff is difficult though, this can open up the door to faster progression for those employees already working with the company. Getting this experience at International HQ / corporate level is truly valuable though, so relocating for this can pay dividends for your career development down the line.

If relocating to a new country, you also need to take into account the language barrier. Although English is commonly used as the first language at international level, there will undoubtedly be occasions where you will need to converse in the local language. This could be liaising with colleagues, or simply doing your weekly shopping. You need to judge how much this will impact your day to day life. With that said, relocating to a new country is a great ‘life experience’, and a rare opportunity to live and interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds on a daily basis. Employers often regard candidates that have lived and worked abroad as particularly interesting options as they are deemed to be more culturally sensitive and adaptable to new environments.

It may be that you already speak the local language of the country in question, but if your family are relocating with you, how will they adjust to the language barrier? I often speak with candidates who initially express a desire to relocate but when pressed with the finer details they take a step back. If you need to sell your house, how long will this take and at what price, and how easily can you find new accommodation? Will you be able to find suitable schools for your children? Will your spouse be able to find work as easily as you? Will you be financially better or worse off taking into account the local taxation laws and your global income as a family?

Although it is not a ‘hard and fast’ rule, generally speaking, Life Science companies are sensitive to these challenges and offer some form of relocation assistance, whether it be a small cash lump sum, offering temporary accommodation, or recommending local schools for your children. The goal of relocation assistance is to make the transition period as smooth as possible and enable the employee to hit the ground running. Similarly if you are working abroad on a Visa, you need to consider all the conditions and restrictions. If your Visa was granted on the basis of an offer of employment from a specific company, in certain cases it will only remain valid if you stay working for this company. It therefore limits your options should you decide you wish to change jobs again. If you are relocating under these circumstances it would be prudent, if possible, to have various assurances in place to make a return home a viable option.

In summary, there is little doubt that relocation is an accepted and expected part of career development for senior executives in the Life Science industry. It is difficult to reach the very senior roles without having experienced roles at global HQ of different companies or having worked in different environment and cultures.

That said, we realise that for there to be a happy professional life there needs to be a happy personal situation outside of work. As such, all of the above points need to be taken into consideration.

If you wish to discuss the pros and cons of relocating for professional purposes, or to find what options might be available to you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch for an informal discussion.

Life Science Medics is a leading boutique firm specialised in the recruitment of experienced industry physicians for Clinical Development, Medical Affairs and Drug Safety functions in the Life Science sector.