I was chatting to an old friend recently, who used to work as a research chemist for a multinational company – until she lost her job as part of a downsizing campaign. She now works for a much smaller biotech business. I knew that she had taken a while to settle down, so I asked if she’d like to go back to another global corporation.
“No way,” she said, “those companies don’t want or respect people of my age.” She’s in her mid-forties. To my mind that’s young, but she pointed out that none of her downsized colleagues of a similar age (or older) secured jobs in global companies. Yet they were snapped up by smaller businesses.
So why the apparent difference in attitude between small and big business? It seems that the smaller companies were flexible enough to make room for more experienced chemists, whereas the bigger companies, despite their greater wealth and relative security, were not. Instead, the multinationals grabbed the younger people – who were certainly highly employable, but who had lower salary expectations.
So which businesses have the right strategy? I think it might be the smaller ones. Although they’re paying more for the experienced staff than they would have done for the younger people, they expect to get a lot of bang for their bucks. If you ask me, those multinationals don’t know what they’re missing.
Andrew Mitchinson (Associate Editor, Nature)
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