Part II: How do you know it’s time to talk to an R&D recruiter?

Gulf Stream Search has had thousands of conversations with R&D and food industry professionals over the years – in our latest installment of “HOW DO YOU KNOW IT’S TIME TO TALK TO AN R&D RECRUITER?”, we dive into another dynamic that continually pops up, especially amongst R&D Technologists, Food Scientists, and Associates who started with their employer out of school and haven’t progressed as far as they’d hoped.

There’s nothing worse in life than being “pigeon-holed” – it’s no fun to be characterized or memorialized with your worst moments in your career either, especially when it’s something that happened years ago.

Well, when it comes to managers and leaders(and to be fair, all of us…), we often are negatively judgmental toward those people closest to us and who’ve been around us the longest.

Let me share a common refrain I hear from candidates looking to move on….

“They still treat me like an intern…”, “They’ve brought in more senior food scientists ahead of me and value their opinion more than others”, “I haven’t had a review in over a year”, “when I ask to go out to lunch with my boss to talk about my work, she says ‘next month'”

If you’ve found yourself “tuned out” by your boss, it’s occurred for any number of reasons….

1.  You may be under-performing or not adding value.

This might be a “YOU” problem – if you’re under-performing and haven’t taken ownership of your own weaknesses, then shame on you.  If you’ve done, asked, and participated in every skill and attitude development resource available to you, and you still don’t have the respect and support of senior management, then that’s a different story.

Just showing up, doing a job, and getting promoted with a raise are not things anyone is entitled to – in today’s world, whether you like it or not, you have to over-achieve and seek out additional responsibilities, whether it be customer interaction as an R&D professional, or supplier audits as a QA professional; even if it’s outside your discipline, you just can’t say no; if however, you’ve done these things(and done them well) and still haven’t gained any traction, then it may be time to talk.

2.  You may be perceived as “dead weight”; your manager thinks: time spent with you = time wasted – they’ve moved on, but have made arrangements not to fire / demote / re-assign you.

This is the worst, and it goes on more often than you can imagine.  Non R&D Executives are often thrilled when someone in R&D leaves, because it reduces overhead, or what they perceive as overhead.   Sometimes the biggest obstacle for a candidate leaving is their own fear of the blow to their ego that “I won’t be missed if I leave”.

That isn’t always because the employee is a weak one – with long product development cycles, there are cases where the value a product development scientist brings is wasted in a company where the pipeline is purposefully stagnating.  In Part I, we talked about this dynamic.

If it’s blatantly obvious that you’re being ignored, work previously lauded is met with indifference, or you find that your own bosses’ enthusiasm for your development has wained, don’t take it personally – just accept the fact that your best efforts may be wasted in this company moving forward and nothing can change that.

3.  You’re not considered promotable by your boss or  his/her boss – you’re the “kid we hired as an intern” and shall forever be that person.

No employee can expect to get ahead because of what they did last year or last week, but no employer or leader should judge their staff by the past either.

If you’ve been passed over for key projects or promotions while others from the outside have been moved into more senior roles, it’s likely you’ve been pigeon-holed.  Behind closed doors, the decision NOT to appoint you in this role starts and ends with “she’s great…but….” – it happens all the time.

Many searches we conduct are the result of this discussion – the manager probably sat down with staff before the interviews started and let them know they’re being passed over and we’re “looking outside”.  Right or wrong, you’ve already been labeled as “not good enough” – whatever the reasoning, the facts are you’ve been labeled.  If you don’t know the path to moving up, and if it’s not clear if/when/where/how you can advance, then you may never know.

4. Your boss can’t help you, because they can’t help themselves or their department get what’s needed.

If your manager is incapable of the following:

1. defending the R&D budget

2. communicating to non-R&D execs the ROI of R&D

3. communicating the value each staff member brings

then you may be part of a “losing” team; your best efforts never get publicized or viewed at appropriately by senior management.  Worst yet, your manager takes the rewards for your work and blast your team for the short falls.

Regardless, a manager who champions you and your work is invaluable and unfortunately uncommon.

Even if you’re working for a top-notch R&D team, but the sales force continually goes out in the market and fails to land new business, you’ve got the same challenge.  No sales – no projects – no work for you!


The longer you wallow in this state of “blah”, the more your skills diminish…the more your attitude flags….and the more your marketability dips.

The longer you put up with letting your skills go stagnant, the less likely you’re perceived to be an A-player to outsiders.

The longer you allow yourself to be “under-appreciated”, the more your self esteem takes a hit…and you start to believe that you don’t deserve better.

So…..don’t just think about it….do something about it… someone like myself and talk it out and put together a plan of attack.

Stay tuned for more on this topic…and if a non-compete agreement is weighing you down….read up on a recent post about just that subject… Non-Compete Agreements * BE NOT AFRAID!


Bob Pudlock
Gulf Stream Search


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